Whilst Pelican Waters is situated a few kilometres inland at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, it definitely is not lacking in the beauty that the coastal region is renowned for. Designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison, in what must surely rank up there with the best of this duo’s collaborative efforts, it is one of the most challenging (but still enjoyable) courses on the Sunshine Coast. Opened in 2000, the course design integrates the natural landscape and cleverly constructed wetlands.
Whilst the course features a number of challenging long holes, Pelican Waters’ real specialties are its short par 4s. The 2nd hole has water running across the tee and up the right side and may tempt the gutsier golfer to take a bit of a risk. The longer the club, the more the fairway pinches in with penal bunkering, water and scrubland. If successful, a far easier pitch is achieved to an angled green, with its series of left side bunkers impeding only those who chose the safer, shorter tee shot.
The other notable par 4 is the 12th hole, which Harrison reportedly rates as one of the premium short 4s the team has ever constructed. With plenty of width off the tee, and a slightly hidden, sharply contoured green, you’ll find yourself in trouble if you approached from the wrong side of the fairway. Back hole placements are especially difficult to get near unless the tee shot can hug the left-side fairway traps, which are particularly penal. Like the 2nd, if you take a gutsy approach with your drive, you will be rewarded with the perfect approach shot and a chance at birdie.
The final 4 holes of the round are played back through dense bushland. This stretch begins with an intimidating dead straight par 4 with a generous fairway framed by scrubland hazards on each side., you end up on a narrow, but deep green superbly enclosed by bunkering and bushland. The par 5 16th twists and turns through tall gums and a narrowing fairway, and although it’s the shortest of the par 5s, it is probably the most difficult green to approach. The 17th dogleg par 4 is quite long, and if you think you’ll catch a break on the 18th, be prepared to be met with one of the toughest closing holes in Queensland. A long dogleg left with strategic left side fairway bunkering, the second shot always plays longer than it appears to a contoured and challenging putting surface. A par 4 here would be a satisfying conclusion!
Designed by well-known golf course architect, Graham Papworth, Noosa Springs (opened in 1999) is a challenging and inspiring test of golf, a few short kilometres from the popular Queensland beach town of Noosa. The course is crafted out of native rainforest and woodlands and rests partially next to tranquil Lake Weyba. Each hole exudes its own style, is immaculately maintained and surrounded by abundant wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas and swans.
The 6,180-metre par 72 course has 4 sets of tees per hole and 69 bunkers and, would you believe, 10 freshwater lakes, with water in play on 12 of the 18 holes. The course also features a full-length driving range, and an excellent putting green and chipping area to ensure you are fully tuned up before hitting the shots that count!
The course has a championship parkland type feel to it, but is still playable for the higher handicapper. The fairway and green-side bunkering is excellent both in design and playability with adequate space off the tee to open the shoulders up. The generous green complexes are undulating with enough roll out occurring to make for low and high scoring prospects.
Both 9s are similar, but with more water on the front 9 to test your game early. The standout hole on this side is the strong Par 4 7th. At 415 metres, doglegging gently from right to left, you best have your tee ball working in this shape as water looms menacingly down the entire right side. On the back-side, hole No 17 – a 340 metre par 4 – features water, water, everywhere! Initially a well struck tee shot with a fairway wood is ideal as you potentially can run out of fairway. In reality though, the landing areas are generous in size at both the fairway and green complex. It’s just the intimidation factor of the bodies of water nearby that play mind games. That said – you should be used to that theme at this late stage of proceedings!
The Palmer Coolum Resort (formerly Hyatt Regency Resort) on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast was the long-time home to the season ending Australian PGA Championship. With its famous “cut parties”, where those not good enough to complete 72 holes ran amok, this was easily the most popular resort course in Australia. Robert Trent Jones Jnr worked his magic initially in 1988 and oversaw a re-design in 2008 that sadly came about as a result of the beachside holes No’s 4-8 being claimed for residential land sale. The course was then acquired by Clive Palmer, and sadly experienced a decline in quality (and the strange presence of large-scale dinosaurs – an unusual fascination of the new owner).
Thankfully the stunning 72 par, 6,137 metre course has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts in very recent times with the Golf Digest panel seeing fit to restore the course to Top 100 status. It has returned to must-play status as part of a Sunshine Coast golf trip.
During its heyday, the fine layout was graced by the game’s best, including major winners Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day, Y.E. Yang, Greg Norman and Darren Clarke. Perhaps the finest stretch of golf ever played at Coolum belongs to one of our purest ever ball strikers in Peter Lonard who fashioned 76 consecutive bogey-less holes in the 2006 Australian PGA Championship only to lose to a dramatic holed bunker shot by eventual victor Nick O’Hern at the treacherous par 4 18th on the 4th hole of sudden death. Play the course and you’ll be astounded at this mind-bending accomplishment!
Coolum has contrasting landscapes, from lakeside holes to manicured fairways that weave their way through native bushland. It dishes up the usual resort golf thrills and challenges, with plenty of water, lush tropical foliage and a focus on eye-catching features and design.
As far as signature holes go, Coolum has 2. The downhill par 3 11th which plays alongside a lake to a bean-shaped green, hugging the water on the right with accompanying bail out swales to the left that make it fairly simple to ease a chip shot into the abyss you sought to avoid from the tee. The other is the aforementioned par 4 18th. Very similar to the Players Championship TPC Sawgrass finishing hole, it heads left around a lake for its entire length and punishes those who flinch too far from the water with their tee shot.
With rampant Japanese investment in golf developments all the rage in the late 80’s, Twin Waters became one of the original championship courses to grace this stunning region. Preceded by the nearby Hyatt Coolum Resort (now the Palmer Coolum Resort), Twin Waters was instrumental in wooing proper golfers in the quest for meaningful golf in this slice of coastal heaven. Hyatt Coolum was always the tougher course, but when it comes to presentation and grooming of the playing surfaces, Twin Waters sets the benchmark on the Sunshine Coast day in day out.
The course is a clear example of the unmistakable style of design partners Michael Wolveridge and Peter Thomson. With inspiration garnered from the renowned UK links courses, the Twin Waters design seamlessly embraces our dramatic coastal landscape.
Running approach play is encouraged through the course layout, and for most golfers this should be the modus operandi given the putting surfaces are usually firm and fast and not that receptive to a less than perfectly struck iron. Surrounded by a beautiful native landscape, there is a distinctly Aussie slant on the game of golf – highlighted by a local audience of (hopefully not-too-critical!) kangaroos.
Links golf characteristics abound at Twin Waters, with strategically placed pot bunkering coupled with clutches of substantial rough leading the way to generous, true putting surfaces. The feature holes on the front 9 are the 165-metre 2nd, which requires some serious iron play prowess early in the round. With a lake looming large to the right, and a bail out left, you are left with an awkward up and down prospect, to say the least. Ahead to No 8, a 379-metre par 4 over water initially, and to the right with typically punishing fairway bunkers catching those shaping too much left-to-right. A raised large green with a deceptively fast putting surface collaborates to give you understanding of why this hole is stroke index No 1. On the backside, No 16 mirrors the challenge of No 8 and is ranked the most difficult hole on the back 9. At 377 metres from the tips, the player needs to decide how much of the dogleg on the right can be cleared to afford a much shorter approach to a tiered, complex putting assignment. The course finishes with a short but straight par 5 that most certainly is a birdie prospect, provided the tee shot finds the short stuff. Easier said than done, with pot bunkers and tussocks left and right to negotiate.
Without a doubt, one of the top 2 courses on the Sunshine Coast and a must play proposition.
Graham Marsh, a professional golfer renowned for his many wins on the Japan Golf Tour back in his touring days, parlayed that successful playing career into an equally impressive course design portfolio. One of his most recent projects eventuated when Horton Park Golf Club in Maroochydore was made to relocate to Bli Bli, close to the Sunshine Coast Airport, on a flat piece of flood prone land.
Given the flood-prone nature of the property, the land profile was raised considerably during construction and provided a blank canvas for Marsh to create a layout which has matured in a short space of time to appeal as a challenge for players of all standards. The generous expanse of land allowed Marsh to offer four tees options. With broad avenues of play on each hole complimenting heavily protected, raised green locations, water hazards and penal long championship tee sites, the course has a definite links feel. These qualities ensure this newcomer to the Sunshine Coast scene has something for everyone.
There are some attractive bunker complexes that are visually intimidating enough to have you consider alternative playing lines and club selection. The par 4 10th is a fine example – from the tips, the slight dogleg right hole stretches to 390 metres, but the hero route to the green is to take on the first of three bunkers framing the right edge of the fairway. Long ball wielders can carry the first bunker, but they are dicing with danger in the form of the two smaller concealed traps beyond. The safe playing line, being wide to the left of the sand, leaves a longer shot and far harder approach where a bunker short left of the green is particularly challenging.
The only hole devoid of bunkers is the 399-metre 18th hole, which ranks as the hardest hole at Maroochy River courtesy of its length and the only forced water carry on the course. It is a testing closer that seems to have been inspired by similar holes that regularly feature on the PGA Tour. With water all down the left side of the hole – and separated from the slight dogleg left fairway by a wide cut of rough – few players will willingly drive to the left half of the fairway. Shorter hitters will need to lay-up short of the water hazard, cutting the fairway off from the green that lies beyond, and rely on their wedge and putter to score.