Next year marks the 30th anniversary of a Gold Coast golfing icon – Links Hope Island.
I count myself among the hundreds of thousands of golfers who have visited the Queensland holiday haven during the past three decades and had one must-play course underlined on their itinerary. It is testament to the ongoing quality of the layout that our love affair with the Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge-designed links has rarely waned.
The reason we keep returning is the combination of different factors. It is a challenging, strategic course where a wide range of shots and playing lines come into the mix. In recent years, the course’s presentation has rarely dipped below first class and then there is the friendly service and outstanding facilities.
‘Five-star’ is the benchmark across the board and that is something every visiting golfer who returns to Hope Island knows they will experience. For mine, a round at Hope Island is like going home to your Mum’s place for dinner – you know it’s going to taste really good because it always does, you will be welcomed with open arms and, when it’s time to go home, you will be making plans to come back as soon as possible.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been a few hurdles along the way.
When Hope Island opened for play in 1993 it was a unique addition to the Australian golfing landscape. We had not experienced links-style golf in a warm climate before and, as a result, Hope Island achieved instant popularity.
But within a decade, problems with conditioning saw its star tarnished for a brief period. These problems were addressed with the replacement of its original Bentgrass greens with the more-climate-suited Bermuda 328 grass. The layout then quickly re-established itself as a must-play Gold Coast course.
Adding to Hope Island’s popularity is that it is challenging and fair to players of all standards, which is the hallmark of all high-quality courses. Thomson and Wolveridge were able to achieve this delicate balance between difficulty and fairness by presenting wide fairways that offer a series of routes and playing options on each hole. While the mid- or high-handicapper can enjoy the freedom (and lack of lost balls) offered by the wide avenues between tee and green, the better player must play precisely to the edges of the fairways to leave the best approach into greens that are generally protected by trimmed mounds, swales, hollows and pot bunkers.
The bunkering is one of Hope Island’s standout features and for good reason. Thomson once wrote: “Bunkers, of course, are as important to a course as greens and tees and we never neglect their inclusion.”
While the bunkering is plentiful in number, it is not overdone and their placement has a major role in determining the playing strategy. Working out the right playing line, in the conditions of the day, on each hole is part of the enjoyment of a round here. This is especially true on some of the short par-4s, where the length of the hole doesn’t really matter. What does matter at Hope Island, more than at many other courses, is making the correct club selection on the tee, selecting the right line, and then executing the shot accordingly.
And as if the game of golf weren’t tough enough, Thomson has schemed to add further uncertainty into the minds of golfers on the tee. Like MacKenzie, he has made clever use of the fairway bunkering, leaving you sometimes confused when judging their distance and size. It’s quite a deception: some bunkers you’d swear you couldn’t reach with your best shot, yet you’ll find a mere average blow will put you in it. The opposite also applies.
The first example of this comes early in the round at the 501-metre par-5 2nd hole where a lone pot bunker on the left edge of the fairway dictates a playing line to the right. This is a hole where only the longest of hitters can reach the green in two shots so finding a suitable lay-up position is important. The closer you hit toward the green with your second shot the smaller the landing area – between five pot bunkers – becomes. Play well short of these sandy hazards to leave a full wedge or short iron into a slightly raised green.
If you haven’t played Hope Island in the past nine months, you will notice a significant change to the course as you wind your way back to the clubhouse. The 368-metre par-4 9th hole is no longer, having been replaced by a devilish par-3 played over a lake.
The change has seen the club’s short driving range, where you would hit floating balls onto the lake, moved to the site of the old 9th hole and the intimidating one-shotter brought into play. The 156-metre par-3, known as ‘Gallery’, was the last hole designed by the late Mike Wolveridge alongside Ross Perrett and Warren Duncan and opened for play in July last year as part of a $2.3 million renovation.
It is a visually stunning hole set against the backdrop of the iconic Mediterranean-style clubhouse. It demands an all-or-nothing tee shot over the lake to a green on a slightly elevated peninsula. Two deep bunkers lie between the water’s edge and the front fringe of the putting surface, while the golfer erring on the side of caution with their club selection can bring a back bunker into play.
It is understood the design team also submitted a plan to convert the current par-3 3rd hole into a short par-4, which will return Hope Island back to a par-72.
For mine, Hope Island’s best hole is the 369-metre par-4 13th, known as ‘Wetlands’. A dogleg left around a lake to a green that features a ridge running through the middle of it. The real features of this hole, though, are the fairway bunkers, the round, crater-like pits that became synonymous over the years with Thomson, Wolveridge and (later) Perrett, designs. Position your drive as close to the water as you dare to provide the shortest, most forgiving route to the flag over three more deep greenside pot bunkers.
The finish at Hope Island is also a ripper.
The ‘big brother’ to the new 9th hole – the par-3 17th, which plays a tough 224 metres from the tips – has ruined plenty of scorecards in its time. While the hole plays significantly shorter from the blue, white and red tees, it is no less challenging as you play over the edge of a lake to wide green with three pot bunkers separating the green from the water.
Standing on the 18th tee, all the potential trouble you might find over the next half a kilometre to the clubhouse is laid out before you. There’s water all down the left and 13 pot bunkers scattered across the 511-metres from tee-to-green. The best approach into the smallish green – no matter whether it’s your second, third or fourth – is from the left half of the fairway … nearest to where all the major trouble lurks.
I always enjoy a round at Hope Island. The closely-shaved green surrounds allow you to let the short game creative juices flow and you are asked questions of your skill and strategy on every shot. If it has been a while since you trod Hope Island’s fairways and greens, get back there. It continues to be an enjoyable and memorable experience, just like dinner at your Mum’s.
LOCATION: Springfield Dve, Hope Island, Qld, 4212
CONTACT: (07) 5530 9000 (clubhouse); (07) 5530 9048
DESIGNERS: Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge (1993).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Danny Foote.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: David Thomas, Garrett Skinner.
PLAYING SURFACES: Wintergreen couch (fairways), Bermuda 328 (greens).
GREEN FEES: $140 (Mon-Thurs); $150 (Fri-Sun).
MEMBERSHIP: Seven- and five-day memberships, as well as Twilight memberships, are currently available. Check the website for detailed inclusions and fees.
ACCOLADES: Ranked at No.55 in Golf Australia magazine’s Top-100 Courses for 2022.