Jon Underwood goes in search of great greens and top tees on Australia's Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, attracting millions of visitors every year. And it’s easy to see why, with 70 kilometres of sandy beaches, 100,000 hectares of World Heritage rainforest, theme parks, wineries, boutique shopping and health retreats.
With more than 40 championship standard courses, the Gold Coast could also be re-named the “Golf” Coast. Some of the world’s best course designers have left their mark on the region and the result is a great selection of courses for all standards.
There have been a number of recent developments in the area with Australian billionaire Clive Palmer taking ownership of two of the premier courses. The Palmer Colonial is considered to be among the best in the region and is just a 10-minute drive from central Broadbeach. This superbly conditioned layout curves its way through towering gums and picturesque lakes and features meandering waterways with ornate bridges.
The Palmer Gold Coast was formerly known as Robina Woods and although the name has changed the course still delivers a unique Australian golfing experience. Carved out of 65 hectares of woodlands, the holes are flanked by gum trees and the course features lakes, ponds, creeks and native flora. It is also home to more than 100 species of native birds.
Links Hope Island was designed by five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson and his partner Michael Wolveridge. Central to both the Gold Coast and Brisbane, it is a traditional links-style course with first-class clubhouse and dining facilities. Although it is a private club, visitors and groups are welcome to play outside of member allocated tee times.
Just down the road from Links Hope Island are the twin courses of Sanctuary Cove. The Pines has a special place in Australian golfing history as it is the only signature Arnold Palmer course in the country. The Palms has just undergone a major renovation at the hands of Australian Ross Watson and features gently undulating fairways and strategically placed bunkers.
While Palmer left his imprint on The Pines, it was the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, who designed Lakelands, his first signature course in Australia. It is just 10 minutes’ drive from the heart of Broadbeach and offers multiple tee positions, making it user-friendly yet challenging. It’s well worth a visit, especially for an after game meal at Signatures restaurant in the clubhouse, which offers scenic views of the Gold Coast skyline.
The RACV Royal Pines has been a major force in Australian golf for more than a decade, hosting the Ladies Masters and many other prestigious tournaments. Three distinct course layouts offer three unique experiences and promise to challenge and inspire golfers in equal measure.
You can’t say you have played in Australia until you have tackled a course designed by the Shark, Greg Norman. Fortunately, The Glades is one of his best, typical of his aggressive layouts that reward attacking shot-making, and featuring a massive 98 bunkers. There are also nine hectares of natural wetland within the course that provides a wildlife sanctuary.
Enjoying an ideal year round climate and an amazing variety of natural landscapes, the region has been attracting visitors since Australia was first settled. But perhaps the biggest entertainment drawcard is the large selection of theme parks.
After two decades in operation, Dreamworld is still Australia’s favourite theme park with 13 different worlds to explore. Tiger Island, Wiggles World and FlowRider are just some of the highlights, along with thrill rides and interactive shows.
Just along the road is Warner Bros. Movie World, where the Superman Escape rollercoaster travels 100km/h in just two seconds. There’s also the new BATWING Spaceshot, a rapid vertical launch up a 60-metre tower followed by a breathtaking drop.
For something a little less hectic, Sea World offers visitors the chance to see dolphins, seals and polar bears. Highlights include Shark Bay, the world’s largest man-made lagoon system for sharks, housing some of the most awe-inspiring of the species in an innovative exhibit.
Water also plays a large part of the fun at Wet ‘n’ Wild, who have just opened Kamikaze, a multi-million dollar ride that’s the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Riders plunge down an 11-metre drop at an angle of 70 degrees, reaching speeds of up to 50km/h.
If you’re looking for an authentic experience, the Australian Outback Spectacular is the place to go. Here, visitors can learn all about the heroes of the Australian Light Horse. This unique attraction captures the grandeur of the Australian outback, bringing it to life with spectacular audio and visual effects never before seen in a live show.
But you can’t come to Australia and not get up close and person with some of the country’s unique animals. The Currumbin Sanctuary has the largest collection of native Australian animals in the world with visitors able to see colourful lorikeets, kangaroos and koalas. You’ll also see wombats, Tasmanian devils, wallabies and fresh water crocodiles.
But it’s not all about the theme parks. The Gold Coast offers jet boating on the Broadwater, whale watching, food and wine tours of the hinterland or a four-wheel drive expedition on an eco-tour.
Away from the theme parks and attractions, the Gold Coast is also a magnet for those seeking a little retail therapy. Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach are hugely popular for shopping, wine and food and both areas have benefitted from recent developments. Louis Vuitton, Prada and Guess all have shops here while experienced and talented chefs from Sydney and Melbourne have helped set up amazing restaurants like Absynthe, Lauxes, Room 81, East and Moo Moo’s.
The Gold Coast also hosts an impressive list of major events, so if you time your visit right you could be on hand to watch the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, Gold Coast 600, Magic Millions Carnival or the Tastes of Gold Coast Festival.
But whatever time you come, you’re guaranteed to find plenty to keep you occupied. At night, the countless city lights make for a spectacular setting. Hundreds of restaurants, bars and cafes open late into the night when visitors can enjoy a mix of local and international food, fun and music. Famous for fresh seafood, tropical fruits and the best locally grown vegetables, the region is able to offer world-class cuisine.
Premier tour company Go Golfing have a fantastic seven night package that can put you on the best courses on the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast Golf Week package includes 18 holes at The Glades, Lakelands, Links Hope Island, RACV Royal Pines and The Palms at Sanctuary Cove, all with motorised cart. Return transfers from your accommodation at Breakers Broadbeach in a one bedroom apartment are also included. The package is priced from $1,485 per person, twin share.
Go Golfing also have the Gold Coast Premium Short Escape package which features five nights at the five-star Hyatt Sanctuary Cove. The package includes 18 holes on The Palms and Pines course, plus a round at Links Hope Island, all with cart. The package starts at $925 per person, twin share.
For details, visit www.gogolfing.net.au or call +61 7 5562 5307.