Queensland’s Gold Coast boasts more attractions and venues than any other destination in the southern hemisphere and it’s also easy to adopt the laid-back local lifestyle with more than 70 kilometres of beaches and 100,000 hectares of world heritage-listed rainforest never far away.
For golfers, the Gold Coast offers a smorgasbord of choice. All you have to do is find the courses that suit your game and your budget. To help, we showcase here the 19 best places to play, how much it will cost you to play, where to stay and the best Tour operators who will ensure your next golfing getaway to the ‘Goldie’ is hassle free and all about playing golf.
SANCTUARY COVE G&CC
Blessed with two superb golf courses, Sanctuary Cove Golf & Country Club gives golfers multiple reasons to stay and play. While the Pines course remains the exclusive domain of members, their guests and resort guests, the revamped Palms course accepts public play. The Palms has become a must-see golf destination ever since the $8.8 million Ross Watson redesign reopened eight years ago. Utilising much of the same land the original Fred Bolton design sat on, the modern version of the Palms features more challenges, eye-catching holes and heart-stopping shots than the original incarnation.
“Blessed with two superb golf courses, Sanctuary Cove Golf & Country Club gives golfers multiple reasons to stay and play.”
The par-70 layout tops out at 5,890 metres but feels and plays a lot longer. Several driving zones are set on upslopes that rob tee shots of precious roll and extra distance, leaving longer, sometimes awkward, approach shots than the scorecard suggests. Then there are the numerous Watson bunkers and many water hazards to conquer. Holes to look out for include the downhill par-4 15th, where water flanks the entire right side. Two fairway bunkers have been filled-in in recent times, but the challenge remains. The difficulty of the test depends on the wind direction and tee marker of choice, which can turn this 340-metre hole into a brute.
The back nine also features two water-side par-3s – the 13th and 16th holes. While not overly long from the tips, both demand water carries to large putting surfaces, which have been designed with a steep tier running through the middle. These ridges demand accuracy from the tee to find the correct section of the green.
The neighbouring Pines Course remains Sanctuary Cove’s crowning glory. Its designer was Arnold Palmer, who may well have been inspired by Augusta National, where he won the Masters four times. The Pines features stand after stand of Augusta-like tall pine trees.
Having opened in 1988, The Pines remains long by modern standards and rewards great ball-striking at every turn.
Water is a feature of the Pines’ most memorable holes – the 10th, 13th and 18th. The 428-metre 10th is as tough a par-4 as you will ever find. Water up the entire right side forces every golfer’s eyes left, but on that side are pine trees, rough and a playing line that adds length to the hole. Any par made here should be saluted. The par-3 13th is downright lethal from the back markers and regardless of the tee locations you need to carry water to find the green. The closing hole turns left around a huge lake in front of the impressive clubhouse and requires either a solid right-to-left drive or a long, brave carry over the corner to leave an easier approach into the wide green.
Green fees: Palms Course, $150 (18 holes, including cart); Pines Course is restricted to members, members’ guests and guests of the Intercontinental resort.
LINKS HOPE ISLAND
Just a short drive from the Sanctuary Cove clubhouse, Links Hope Island is another destination that needs to be one first courses pencilled in to your Gold Coast golf itinerary.
When Links Hope Island opened for play in 1993 it was a bit of a shock entry onto the Australian golfing landscape. At that stage a links-style course had never been, seemingly, pulled from its Scottish roots and transplanted to the warmer climes of Queensland.
Australian golfers had seen nothing like it and, while we have seen a few links-style courses added since, Hope Island was the first and, perhaps, it’s for that reason why it has become one of the Gold Coast’s most popular layouts.
Designed by Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge, Hope Island delivers a links experience in a resort atmosphere, with many holes paying homage to the great British links Thomson mastered during his storied career. Holes like the par-5 8th feature the same Principal’s Nose pot bunkers found on the 16th hole of the Old Course at St Andrews, mixed in with a brutal hole like the par-3 17th, which demands a tee shot to carry water from as far back as 224 metres.
RIGHT: Links Hope Island. PHOTO: Brendan James.
In the space of 18 holes, Thomson and Wolveridge managed to combine ancient and modern golf characteristics. Today, 26 years on, their little piece of British links on the Gold Coast – complete with close mown swales, mounds, natural rough and pot bunkers – has matured into the No.20 ranked Public Access Course in Australia.
The designers created a strategist’s course at Hope Island, presenting a series of playing lines on each hole. However, to reap the most reward, precise angles of attack are required into the greens. Consequently, the length of a hole doesn’t really matter. What does matter, more than at many other courses, is making the correct club selection on the tee, selecting the right line, and executing the shots accordingly.
A feature of the Links Hope Island layout is the series of raised greens that make sound iron play a prerequisite to scoring well and a bump-and-run shot an arrow to put in the quiver. The tightly trimmed edges of the greens slope down into surrounding bunkers and hollows, which ultimately leads to a follow up shot requiring imagination and quality execution to save par.
“A feature of the Links Hope Island layout is the series of raised greens that make sound iron play a prerequisite to scoring well …”
The 369-metre par-4 13th is one such hole. The fairway doglegs left around a lake to a green that features a ridge running through it. There is a bunch of sandy hazards en route, the deep, crater-like bunkers that have become synonymous with Thomson designs. The ideal drive is to skirt the edge of the lake to provide the shortest and most forgiving line into the flag.
Green fees: $140 (18 holes, including cart, Monday to Thursday); $150 (Friday to Sunday). $79 (twilight rate after 2pm, 3pm Saturdays).
Jack Nicklaus’ first signature design in Australia, Lakelands Golf Club, continues to stand up as one of the Gold Coast’s superior layouts.
Listed No.31 in Golf Australia’s most recent Top-100 Public Access Courses ranking, the
par-72 is a stern test at 6,489 metres from the back pegs. However, multiple tee options allow the course to be enjoyed by all players.
Renowned for its consistent high quality of conditioning, Lakelands’ fairways offer fantastic surfaces to play from, while the Bermuda TifDwarf greens roll perfectly year round.
Asking for your best golf from start to finish, Lakelands opens with its second hardest hole, a par-4 measuring nearly 400 metres, and closes with the hardest hole on the course in the form of a 414-metre par-4 with water down the entire right side.
“Lakelands’ fairways offer fantastic surfaces to play from, while the Bermuda TifDwarf greens roll perfectly year round.”
Water mixes with Nicklaus’ large bunkers to form the majority of the strategic challenge at Lakelands. Players must decide how much of the hazards to challenge from many of the tees, with successful execution resulting in improved lines into the sloping greens, while the movement of the fairways rarely results in a flat lie.
Varying in distance and requiring four different clubs on most days, Nicklaus’ four par-3s at Lakelands are among its more memorable holes. Expansive bunkering guards the two one shotters on the front nine, while water comes into play on the 14th and 17th.
The 14th is touted as the club’s signature hole, and for good reason. Measuring 130-metres from the back tee, a precise short-iron is needed to find the putting surface fronted by water that also protects the left side. Stands of trees surrounding both the tee and green make judging the wind difficult, meaning players will take their par and run to the 15th tee.
Long hitters won’t find themselves with too many long clubs in hand when approaching Lakelands’ par-4s, but that is certainly not the case at the penultimate hole.
Playing to a long green angled away from the tee, the 17th stretches out to 210-metres from the tips and is one of the better long par-3s in the region.
Although it is hard to fault any of Lakeland’s two-shot holes, the pick of the par-4s opens the back nine.
The 384-metre 10th is the most visually intimidating challenge you will face during a round at Lakelands. Water runs down the entire left side, while trees and scrub to the right of the fairway will make finding the green in two difficult for players who take an overly defensive line from the tee and big numbers are always a possibility.
Green Fees: $125 (including cart).