Never heard of the Golf Coast? It’s a 40-kilometre stretch of West Australian coastline south of Perth that has established a reputation as one of this country’s ideal golf holiday destinations. Here’s what you have been missing.
Drive south out of Perth via the Kwinana Freeway and it won’t be long before you see the results of a population explosion that has seen the corridor between the West Australian capital and Mandurah become one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation.
The region is also home to the ‘Golf Coast’, which is regarded as one of Australia’s best golf holiday destinations due to the quality of the courses you will find there. There are six courses that lie between Port Kennedy in the north and Dawesville to the south, with four of them – The Links Kennedy Bay, Secret Harbour Links, Meadow Springs and The Cut – all ranked last month in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses in the nation for 2019.
The Links Kennedy Bay should be the first course added to your Golf Coast itinerary. Ranked at No.8 in the aforementioned ranking, making it Western Australia’s best public access course, Kennedy Bay was designed by Michael Coate and the late Roger Mackay in collaboration with 1991 Open Champion Ian Baker-Finch.
Despite its considerable overall length, the short holes at Kennedy Bay are one of its most impressive attributes.
Baker-Finch believes the par-3s are a real feature at Kennedy Bay, with each running to a separate point on the compass. The 6th is one of his favourites and at 179 metres will test even the low markers. A narrow entrance to the green and a false front, which spits back shots landing short, make correct club selection imperative. Add in three deep pot bunkers to the right of the green and a big swale to the left and you have a test for even the best iron players.
“It’s a simple proposition really,” laughs IBF. “Pick the right club and then hit it dead straight.”
Another favourite par-3 of the former British Open champ is the 125-metre 16th, which was inspired by the Postage Stamp hole at Royal Troon in Scotland.
“It is one of my favourite holes on the course,” says Baker-Finch. “It’s a beautiful hole to look at from the tee and the wind really dictates what you must do. Into the wind it can be a 5-iron but sometimes downwind it can be tough to hold the green with a sand-iron. It offers great variety.”
“The region is also home to the ‘Golf Coast’, which is regarded as one of Australia’s best golf holiday destinations due to the quality of the courses you will find there.”
At least one demanding short par-4 has been included on each nine with the 278-metre 7th being the shortest, and best, of them. After the challenges of the long par-4 5th and the par-3 6th there appears to be a reprieve at the 7th. That is, if you only look at the scorecard. But take this hole lightly at your own peril.
“It’s definitely a birdie hole but you have to play it right,” IBF says. “A lot of longer hitters can reach the green but just blazing away isn’t necessarily the best idea.
“There is a penalty for missing the green and being too close because it’s a difficult pitch in. There’s a deep pot bunker front left and the green slopes away from that so it can be hard to hold the ball on the surface. A long iron and a wedge is often the best way to attack this one.”
With three days to tour the coast, which for most of us equates to three rounds, picking where to play can present a bit of a conundrum. We decided to tackle Meadow Springs Golf and Country Club and then round out the trip with another links experience at The Cut.
Meadow Springs is the creation of esteemed course designer Robert Trent Jones Jnr, whose reputation for working with the natural beauty of a site is renowned.
Crafted from 72 hectares of beautiful rolling landscape, Meadow Springs’ generous fairways meander between towering Tuart trees and four blue lakes.
Jones Jnr has designed hundreds of courses across the globe and all bear his trademark bunkering. He is certainly not afraid to intimidate the golfer with a sea of sand or make a player second-guess their shot with a strategically placed pot bunker. At Meadow Springs there are more than 65 bunkers spread throughout the course. No two are the same in size, shape or depth.
One of the biggest bunkers at Meadow Springs is beside the 5th fairway and stretches nearly 70 metres to the green, complicating what would normally be a straightforward hole. At 329-metres, this tight, dogleg right par-4 offers little confrontation from the tee except for a lone bunker lying through the end of the fairway. The majority of golfers will hit to the far side of the dogleg, which immediately brings the ‘super-bunker’ into play. The green sits diagonally to your approach but that is not of concern with so much sand lying between you and the flag.
It is said variety is the spice of life and Jones Jr. must be a believer. This shines through in his par-3 designs at Meadow Springs. Each of them offers a dual challenge. If it isn’t sand and water, it’s sand and rough, or sand and mounds, or water and swales.
Arguably the best of them comes early in the round at the 175-metre 4th – the windmill hole. Plenty of club is needed to hit this green, which sits diagonally to your approach from the tee. All tee shots falling short will leave a difficult recovery, while long and left of the putting surface is not better as a huge bunker lies in wait.
The design aside, the everlasting Meadow Springs memory you will take home with you is the quality of the playing surfaces. Greg Simmons, who retired as the course superintendent late last year, did a brilliant job overseeing the manicuring of the greens, fairways and tees since the layout opened in 1993. Over that time, it has gained the reputation as one of the best conditioned courses to be found in Western Australia.
Mandurah is the ideal place to base yourself during a golf trip to the Golf Coast, with plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets and a wide variety of excellent restaurants.
It is a leisurely 15-minute drive south from Mandurah to Dawesville and The Cut Golf Course – a spectacular James Wilcher design laid on and around sand dunes beside the Indian Ocean.
Wilcher had two contrasting landscapes to work with. The opening hole leads straight from the clubhouse to the ocean and the following three holes run parallel to the beach across gently undulating land.
The 2nd and 3rd holes are terrific short par-4s where a narrow strip of dense native scrub to the left is all that separates the fairway from the beach. The views are worth every cent of a million dollars and can be distracting.
The 508-metre par-5 5th is the first of five holes that wind between sections of a huge residential estate. The round then starts heading for some unbelievable heights.
Heading to the 10th tee, past the $5 million clubhouse, first timers should feel the excitement building with the knowledge they are about to tackle one of the best nine-hole stretches in Australia.
The back nine at The Cut is more undulating than the front nine with each hole bordered by native shrubs while high dunes play a major role on some holes. A combination of rough, natural bunkering and manicured bunkers punctuate strategic points en route between tee and green on every hole.
“It is easy to see how Wilcher might have been inspired by some of the gems at NSW Golf Club or The National’s Old Course when doing the routing for the back nine.”
It is easy to see how Wilcher might have been inspired by some of the gems at NSW Golf Club or The National’s Old Course when doing the routing for the back nine.
The inward nine opens with a 419-metre par-4 (from the back markers), which offers a blind tee shot down into a valley enclosed by Peppermint trees. A well-struck tee shot should find the valley floor and leave a long iron to a slightly elevated green guarded by two huge bunkers short and right.
Without doubt the highlight of the back nine is the 400-metre par-4 12th. The tee is perched high above the beach, offering panoramic ocean vistas and a view of the green, perched on another high dune off in the distance. The fairway drops quickly from the tee, cutting through some rugged sand dunes before reaching the corner of the dogleg and the flat driving zone. The fairway turns right and heads uphill, past sandy wasteland and mounding to the right, to the putting surface. This hole offers bucket loads of the “wow” factor and is worth the price of the green fee alone.
Wilcher has a flair for designing challenging and interesting short par-4s and the 293-metre 17th is up with one of the best he has created. Leave the driver in the bag here and play for the middle of the fairway ‘saddle’ about 180 metres from the tee. Any drive long of the saddle risks flying into a deep ravine of one of the large bunkers lying through the end of the dogleg right fairway.