Every course designer confronted with creating a layout from scratch faces the conundrum of having to challenge better players without alienating beginner golfers.
Acclaimed course architect Ross Watson walks this fine line better than most and his creation at Pacific Harbour, on Queensland’s Bribie Island, is a fine example where golfers of all standards are catered for.
Watson’s island links course, about 45 minutes’ drive north of Brisbane Airport, really issues the challenge to better players, who are no doubt the same players able to hit a ball of some decent length. Long hitters can blast away with their driver at will as the fairways are, for the most part, generously wide. But the further you hit your drive on some holes, the more complicated your approach is made because of Watson’s simple rolling fairway design, which brings shorter more accurate players back into the frame.
This feature of Watson’s design makes for some strong par-4s but one suspects Pacific Harbour’s par-3s are really what most golfers will remember from their first visit.
All four one-shotters are very different to each other, which is an integral ingredient of any memorable golf course. The 4th measures 185 metres from the tips but a wide entrance to the putting surface allows you to land your tee shot short and watch it run on.
The 140-metre 7th pays homage to the famous island green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in the United States – the home of the PGA Tour’s Players Championship. Watson’s version is only a semi-island putting surface but you could swear it is totally surrounded by water as you survey your water carry tee shot from the back tee. There is nothing but water hazard between you and the fringe of the green, which is perched nearly two metres above the water line.
Watson has always been very keen to minimise any impact on any surrounding natural environs and his par-3 13th hole, known as Kakadu, is a great example. The 155-metre hole skirts the edge of some beautiful wetlands and was laid to be played into the prevailing breeze to challenge your club selection skills.
But the most talked about of Pacific Harbour’s holes is certainly the 205-metre 17th. The hole features the longest bunker in the southern hemisphere (just on 200 metres), which forms a beach barrier between the fairway/green and a huge lake that runs the entire length of the right side of the hole. The hole is appropriately called The Beach.
From the back tee, it is a mighty blow into the middle of the slightly elevated green. From the forward markers, the task is less exacting but a tee shot of at least 150 metres is needed to clear the edge of the sand and run up onto the front edge of the putting surface. This is one hole golfers will either love for its beauty and challenge or they will hate because they can’t hit the ball far enough to clear the sand and must lay-up on a par-3.
When Pacific Harbour opened for play in 2006, Troon Golf oversaw the management of the course and under the company’s guidance it became a ‘must play’ golf experience. The club recently rejoined Troon Golf’s portfolio of courses worldwide, which brings with it an expectation of luxury golf and terrific playing surfaces and five star guest service.
ADDRESS: Avon Ave, Banksia Beach, Bribie Island, Queensland 4507.
CONTACT: (07) 3410 4001; www.pacificharbourgolf.com.au
DESIGNER: Ross Watson (2006).
GREEN FEES: $59 (weekdays); $79 (weekends). Carts: $40 (18 holes)
GOLF AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE TOP-100 COURSES HISTORY: No.58 (2012); No.66 (2014); No.77 (2016).
RANKING JUDGE’S COMMENTS:
“Given the lie of the land that existed here, the rolling intricacies of each fairway give it’s a genuine and natural links feel and ensure no two shots from the fairway are the same, which makes for interesting golf.” – Brendan James (2016).
“Have always enjoyed playing Pacific Harbour but I can see some players would curse its thick rough, which can be unforgiving in parts. Think it would be better if short grass surrounded the bunkering everywhere, rather than longer grass.” – Lucas Andrews (2014).