A course on great golfing land isn’t always guaranteed to offer golf to match the quality of its location. Located among a string of seaside courses on some of the best golfing land in Sydney, The Coast provides a golfing experience the equal of its impressive address.
Returning to a course you have seen many times before, and witnessed minor and major changes to, is always an interesting and often exciting experience. The Coast Golf Club is a course I hadn’t visited for a number of years and certainly falls into both categories.
The Coast lies across some of the best golfing land in New South Wales, with the highly- ranked St. Michael’s and New South Wales Golf Clubs to the south, and the quirky Randwick Golf Club to the north.
Back in the late 80s, rumours spread like wildfire that Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer, and then World No.1 golfer, Greg Norman, were planning to purchase all three layouts to the north of famed New South Wales and turn the area into a golfing nirvana. However, with such a concept seemingly impossible, each course has evolved and continues to develop its own identity.
The Coast perhaps struggled with its own identity more than any of its neighbours in the past. However, a large, willing membership and strong leadership has seen the club embrace its points of difference, while enhancing the playing surfaces, its playability for all golfers, as well as change some of the holes that let the rest of the course down.
Chief amongst the evolution of The Coast in recent years has been an irrigation project that began in 2017 and was completed recently.
Although some areas are certainly still adjusting to a completely new irrigation system, the benefits of the project throughout the entire course are clear. There is greater grass coverage across the entire property, which has seen the playing surfaces from tee-to-green improve significantly and hardpan bare patches eradicated.
The fairways have never been better than what I saw during my recent journey around The Coast. As to be expected of a seaside course, the ground is firm and an absolute pleasure to pinch irons and wedges from. The green surrounds, too, are more receptive to a greater variety of approach shots to the putting surfaces.
The greens themselves were also as good as I have experienced, with a terrific coverage of bentgrass and Poa Annua grasses, which rolled true and are scarily a little fast when putting downhill and towards the ocean.
Beyond the improved condition of the course – reflected in its higher rank of No.50 in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses for 2021 – design changes to holes for varied reasons have been a major improvement, with playability for all golfers of chief concern.
Among the most noticeable improvements are to the 7th, 11th and 16th holes where landing areas have been softened and widened in most places and the difference is significant. No longer at the 7th hole, the hardest on the course, is a well-placed tee shot at risk of a lost ball, so too at the modified 11th and the blind par-4 16th.
The concept of playability will continue to be a focus as the irrigation system delivers its benefits, with plans for widened mowing lines and the ongoing removal of clumps of Parramatta grass being undertaken by the club’s army of volunteer members, known as ‘The Locusts’. New tee boxes have also been built on numerous holes to remove blind tee shots and allow for greater course setup options.
Although these changes are an attempt to adjust to some previous weaknesses of the course, the number of holes which could be classed as quirky will remain and are an important part of the club’s growing reputation as a fun, yet challenging, layout.
This comes as no surprise when considering course superintendent Jordan Roach has been at the club for 15 years and General Manger Kieran Semple has just ticked past 10 years of service at The Coast.
Both have an intimate knowledge of the property and have embraced the history of seaside courses with golf holes that hold their own identity, while there is also a number of holes at The Coast that are simply good golf holes, like the trio starting from the par-5 3rd.
The 3rd hole runs from south to north, offering an undulating journey to a green perched on a cliff edge just above Little Bay Beach. It is so close to the edge that it almost looks as if an overcooked approach could land on a beachgoer’s towel.
Immediately following is the most picturesque hole on the layout. The par-3 4th requires a tee shot hit across the rocky cliffs from one sliver of grass to another, while the ever-present wind provides plenty of reasons to consider your club choice and line carefully.
The trio concludes with a two-shotter stretching 393 metres from the plates along the coast and requires full commitment from the tee with hazards left and right. A long second shot awaits to a narrow green, protected by one large bunker right and three smaller traps wedged between the putting surface and the rocky shoreline to the left. Like so many greens at The Coast, there are a wide variety of short game options to save your par if you fail to find the putting surface with your approach.
The back nine weaves across more undulating terrain, covered in parts by dense scrub and includes more carries over rocky gullies and water. The closing six holes offer some really fun moments as well as some stern tests of your game.
The par-4 13th is a 398-metre, slightly uphill excursion with out-of-bounds lining the left edge of the hole. The green is wedged between the out-of-bounds posts and the edge of a cliff to the right. Finding one of the two bunkers guarding the front of the putting surface might be considered a good miss.
From this point of the layout, the holes turn for home and the 392-metre (from the tips) par-4 14th is the most memorable of them all. Recently named among the 100 Best Long Par-4s in the country by Golf Australia magazine, the 14th calls for a solid drive across a gorge to reach the fairway, with the cliff top following the left edge of the fairway all the way to the green. That said, the left half of the fairway is the best side to approach the small green from. Club selection for the approach is also vitally important as trouble at the bottom of the cliffs can be found through the back of the putting surface.
First timers to The Coast will be greeted with an interesting, one-of-a-kind challenge that often takes a few loops around before knowing how to tackle the course. Return visitors, like myself, will be happy they have done so as The Coast is in a better place in every regard than I have ever seen it.
And the future looks even brighter as the club continues to establish itself as more than just the little brother to its southern neighbours on some of the best land to play the game in the country’s most populated city.
LOCATION: 1 Coast Hospital Rd, Little Bay, NSW, 2036
CONTACT: (02) 9311 7422
DESIGNER: Jim Ferrier (late 1930s) and James Wilcher (2007-ongoing).
PLAYING SURFACES: Kikuyu and couch fairways; Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens.
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Jordan Roach.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Greg Green (head professional); Sebastian Howell (assistant professional).
GREEN FEES: $60 (weekend peak); $50 (weekend off peak); $40 (weekend twilight); $45 (midweek peak); $40 (midweek off peak); $35 (midweek twilight).
MEMBERSHIP: Limited memberships available. Seven-day (Restricted) $2,100 joining fee and $1,880 annual subscription, plus $22 competition fee for members per comp round.