One of the best courses to be found on the golf rich Gold Coast has had recent refurbishments validated with an improved national ranking. Here’s why The Glades’ popularity is growing.
The Australian golf course building boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s gave rise to some wonderful new layouts here and overseas.
Many of these new courses transformed land our golfing forefathers would have simply shaken their head in disbelief at the prospect of golf ever being played there. Modern construction methods and budgets, combined with imaginative designers, to add highly-rated courses to the golfing landscape.
One of the leading design contributors during this growth period in Australia was the duo of Greg Norman and Bob Harrison, who must have felt they could create a cracking golf course just about anywhere.
At Sanctuary Lakes, west of Melbourne, they turned an almost lifeless, flat salt plain into a Top-100 ranked layout bounded by a massive real estate development. Likewise, at Pelican Waters on the Sunshine Coast, flood prone wetland was less than an ideal canvas but today – some 20 years after opening – the layout is among Queensland’s finest.
As is The Glades, a must-play Gold Coast course since late 2000.
The Glades covers land that was once a flat, featureless dairy farming flood plain. Today, it is ranked No.24 in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses for 2021.
“We raised that course out of the floodplain and turned the land into something special,” Bob Harrison proudly told Golf Australia after the opening.
“It was a hard course to design because there really wasn’t anything there to work with from day one. But when you look at it today, it’s hard to imagine what it was like before we started construction.
“Before we could get started in the building we had to come up with a design the local council would approve of because we were planning to develop a floodplain so we had to show the course had the same capacity for storing floodwater as was there previously.”
Norman and Harrison were backed by a huge budget and, as such, were able to move heaven and earth to achieve the layout they wanted to ‘extract’ from the blank canvas.
Huge lakes and vast tracts of wetlands were excavated and the fill from them was used to shape the course and build up areas for the proposed residential areas. When Norman and Harrison viewed the finished product there were nine hectares of wetlands scattered across the course site. The Glades is a fine example of how golf courses can actually be good for the environment as the layout today has become the home of dozens of species of birdlife and waterfowl.
Two decades on from the opening and it still amazes how everything you see on course at The Glades is man-made. It has matured into a wonderful layout and is one of the Gold Coast’s most popular courses based on the challenging design and its impeccable conditioning.
The routing through the wetlands is memorable, while the undulating fairways require you to produce all manner of shots during the course of a round as you are faced with uphill, downhill and sidehill lies. The bunkering is visually striking and plays an important role in dictating your strategy on most holes.
There are more than 90 bunkers spread across the 18 holes but there are none bigger than the sea of sand beside the 173-metre par-3 5th hole. From each of the three teeing grounds, this 90-metre long waste bunker runs along the left edge of the fairway and green, separating the playing line from wetlands. A lone bunker has been placed short and right of the putting surface to catch the overly cautious player trying to avoid the water and sand left. Closely trimmed slopes around the edges of the target also feed less than perfect tee shots away from the green.
The green complexes at The Glades have been specifically designed to help them survive the severest of flood events. They’re all raised, to varying degrees, and the side slopes are all well-manicured and trimmed to provide a myriad of recovery shot options.
During my most recent round at The Glades, I used (sometimes successfully) eight different clubs – 3-hybrid, 7-, 8- and 9-iron, pitching, sand and lob wedges as well as putter – around the greens, which is a far more enjoyable golfing experience than taking a lob wedge for every chip and pitch shot.
The greens are a unique experience when playing on the Gold Coast. The Glades is the only course in Queensland where the greens are smooth rolling Creeping bentgrass, which is widely regarded as a superior putting surface to the various types of Bermuda grass found on most courses in warm climates. In addition, the greens are generally presented firm and fast, which is more like what you find on a Melbourne Sandbelt course.
The hardness of the greens brings all the surrounds – the steep drop-offs, the swales and hollows and deep bunkers – into play. A short-sided approach, whether finding sand or grass, offers a greater level of recovery test when the raised greens are firm under foot.
The most memorable holes at The Glades have the wetlands lying alongside the ideal playing lines from tee to green.
There are a number of fine examples, but two of the best come late in the round at the 16th and 18th holes. The 16th (306 metres from the black tees) is the last of The Glades’ fine collection of short par-4s, with a fairway that turns left from the moment you walk off the front of the tee and follows the edge of a large lake before reaching the green. The best line into the green is from as close to the water as you dare as deep bunkers line the right fringe and cut into the front right of the putting surface. The longest hitters can be aggressive and take aim at the green as they can carry the water with the assistance of a tailwind. However, while it might yield a birdie it is just as likely to inflict a double bogey or worse.
The Glades’ closing hole is a longer, more penal, version of the 16th hole. Again, the fairway turns gradually around an expansive lake to the left and most players hitting well right of the water will be left with a very long approach. Even if they can reach with a fairway metal, the green is a tough one to hold. Conversely, the player who plays aggressively and skirts the edge of the water with their drive is duly awarded with a shorter, easier approach.
LOCATION: Glades Dve, Robina, Queensland, 4226.
CONTACT: (07) 5569 1900.
DESIGNERS: Greg Norman & Bob Harrison (2000).
PLAYING SURFACES: Couch (fairways and tees); Creeping A4 Bentgrass (greens).
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Glenn Gibson-Smith.
GREEN FEES: $89 with shared cart (18 holes, seven days).
MEMBERSHIP: The Glades offers a limited number of annual five- and seven-day memberships for men and women. Benefits of membership include no green fees, 18 holes daily including shared golf cart, access to exclusive ‘members only’ tee times and a world handicap.
GOLF FACILITIES: The Glades Driving Range is open to the public seven days a week and boasts one of the Gold Coast’s best grass hitting ranges. The facility also includes all-weather undercover hitting bays, and a separate short game area.
ACCOLADES: No.24 Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses, 2021.