I’ve been lucky enough to play golf all over the world in my gig as a travel writer, but I reckon it’s hard to top the courses in Queensland. After playing around the state for 20 years or more, I’ve come up with this list of my 10 favourite places to tee off.
1. Paradise Palms, Palm Cove
This course contains the only green I ever five-putted at anywhere on Earth. Paradise Palms is north Queensland’s trickiest course, though the stunning scenery (the McAlister Ranges flank the course) distracts you from its toughness. There’s also 94 bunkers, so if the lakes and creeks don’t sink you, the sand definitely will. But it’s stunning – it’s the prettiest course in Tropical North Queensland for me.
2. Palmer Coolum Resort
Once part of the Hyatt chain, now madcap billionaire Clive Palmer owns it and has put his own touches on the place. The home of the Australian PGA (well, up until now), this course drilled me the minute I teed off – putting two balls into a huge lake by your left side on the first. But it’s a stunning course – one of Australia’s best. Just bring a lot of balls.
3. Glades Golf Club, Robina
Greg Norman designed this and he’s a notorious sadist. There are 98 bunkers on these 18 holes, but it’s not as watery as some resort courses in Queensland. If you’re hitting straight it’s a fair course – I had my best round in Queensland here, so I love it most of all! Look out for the nine hectares of wetland area on the course though, that can bring you undone.
4. Brookwater Golf and Country Club
The critics love this place! It’s stunning, the fairways are the best in Queensland, but gee, they’re tight. And some holes are long, like the 550-metre par 5 13th – with two shots in the bush it took my nine to get home. Located 30 minutes from Brisbane’s CBD, Brookwater is Queensland’s top rated course. You can blame designer Greg Norman for its toughness.
5. Magnetic Island Country Club
While this short nine-hole course will never rate in Golf Digest’s greatest Aussie courses, it’s as quintessentially Queensland as XXXX Gold and saltwater crocs. Grab an esky of cold beer and negotiate your way past Maggie’s huge sandstone boulders and rugged bush to golfing glory, then go swimming.
6. Palmer Sea Reef, Port Douglas
Clive Palmer bought this up last year and it’ll be interesting to see what he does with it (a dinosaur on the first tee, perhaps?). Designed as a Scottish-style links course but built in tropical paradise, this is what St Andrews might look like after a century of climate change. The dogleg on the first tee-off was enough for me, but it’s okay if you know it’s a dogleg and don’t hit straight!
7. Bribie Island Golf Club
This is definitely what a golfing pirate might call a hidden treasure. An hour north of Brisbane, Bribie is right off the tourist radar, but this course is worth the drive. Built on one of the world’s biggest sand islands you can guess what it is that’s set to bring you undone. There’s more sand here than Saudi Arabia should you miss the fairways.
8. Links Hope Island
Poorly named, I’d call this place No Hope Island. It’s a tricky bugger of a course, but it’s so stunning you feel like clapping just staring at each hole. It’s a traditional links-style course in a region dominated by resort courses. There’s a lot of water here to sink golf dreams and the 200-metre plus par 3 17th is surely one of the world’s toughest holes when it’s windy, or at least I made it seem that way.
9. Cooktown Golf Links
While it’s only nine holes long, this course has to rate a mention because of its natural beauty (its framed by the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range) and the fact it’s the most northern course on the east coast of Australia. Located 5 minutes south of Cooktown, there’s nothing around ya but kangaroos.
10. Townsville Golf Club
Although just 10 minutes drive from Townsville’s CBD, you’ll love the feeling you’re lost out on this course. Built along the banks of the Ross River, these 27 holes meander through Aussie bush – when it floods around here there’s been numerous sightings of crocodiles, but I’ve yet to see one. But you will see a lot of magpie geese, curlews and black cockatoos. Get there on Mondays for a $15 round – complete with a XXXX Gold!
Which course would you add to the list?