G‚??day all. After a fleeting stopover at Coffs Harbour I was back in the Honda and negotiating the road works along the Pacific Highway (which for some reasons is only one lane through chunks of the Northern NSW coast which is almost typical of Kiwi roads).
I still made it to the Emerald Downs Golf Course with plenty of time and met my hosts for the day Ashley and Brendon Roods. ¬†This father son duo are the directors of Emerald Downs which is a privately held golf course and property development situated on the outskirts of Port Macquarie.
The Emerald Downs development was a project created by Ashley‚??s father when he was 65. Not a golfer, or one to quietly retire, this chap saw a couple of ridgelines and had the vision for a golf course developmnt.¬† A few (109) local shareholders later and the first houses were built around 1991.¬† Now the development features 650 properties with a couple more stages to follow.
Ashley and Brendon had arranged a fourth bloke to join us called Peter Besseling. Peter is the member of State Parliament for Port Macquarie, and so it was that I was joined by some illustrious company. Peter also used to be (and I dare say still is) a fine rugby player having played for the Waratahs and a brief stint with the Brumbies. You can guess as much when you meet him as he is a mountain of a man.¬†
The four of us played a two-man ambrose for the first 9 holes. I think Brendon and I probably pipped the other two but in all honesty we were too busy talking to take much notice of the score. The golf course is best described in two nines. The first tracks around a wetlands forest area and also features a huge lake on the second hole.¬† The greens on the front nine are a mixture of bent and couch grass, with a few holes shortly to be converted to the more easily maintainable couch.¬† This is a good step as it will give the course a consistent feel.¬† I‚??d suggest there wasn‚??t the original investment into the golf course itself to make it a top track so the current conversion, along with some remodeling of the greens and surrounds is necessary on the front nine.¬†
The natural environment of the property is home to plenty of wildlife including a number of koala‚??s nestled in the trees.¬† On top of the wildlife, there are some amazing vistas across the rolling hills and towards the bush. I can see why many people would love to have this outlook as their backyard!
The conversation with Peter, invariably, headed towards politics and he had quite a refreshingly honest way about him ‚?? helped by being an independent member of the State parliament. He, quite rightly, thought that the system here meant Australia was over-governed ‚?? something I couldn‚??t agree more with, particularly when I heard that even the State parliament has an upper and lower house. Remarkable. I also heard about a local building here that is some kind of function centre, but the cost of construction for it blew out from $7m to $54m! By my reckoning that is about 750% of budget. So it didn‚??t surprise me to hear that all of the councillors have been sacked and the council is now being run by an administrator. Supposedly this building polarizes the community, but I had a look at it in town and wasn‚??t too impressed. Nor would I be impressed if I was a ratepayer here and my rates went up. I digress ‚?? to the back nine!
The back nine meanders in a U shape between a yet undeveloped ridge and the bush.¬† The photographs below give a pretty good indication of the backdrop to many holes.
This nine is very short at around 2500m and is par 34. Most of the par fours are drivable with the exception of the 17th. But the defense of the back nine is definitely the greens which, unlike the front nine, are contoured and require precision.¬† The par threes are probably the gems, and the 12th hole (below) is a cracker with the elevated and shallow green nestled in an amphitheatre amongst the trees.¬† In my view the nine has some real potential but could probably be improved by joining a couple of the holes together to give them some length, making the 18th a par four, and finding room (amongst the large property) for another hole.¬† The 18th¬†(also below) mind you is a superb hole as it is a long par three played across the water to a green which has been shaped to perfection with a grass bank short and the green sloping down towards the water.
All that said, the course is good value at around $25 a round and I‚??d encourage any visitors to check it out.¬† Taking into account the two-man ambrose today on the front nine, my score ended up as a 72. It is a course that a wide array of¬† golfers can enjoy.
After golf I went to the Roods family house (adjoining the par five 5th hole) to hear more stories about the course, the development and life in Port Macquarie (colloquially known as Port).¬† Pauline and Ashley have brought up a terrific family and it was good to enjoy a meal and couple of beers with them. ¬†Thanks to them for inviting me to their neck of the woods and making day 122 one to remember.
All that said, the story of the day for me was the entrepreneurial spirit of Mr Roods senior, who started Emerald Downs GC in the twilight of his life and has kept his shareholders happy through persistence dedication and a down to earth atmosphere that you don‚??t see from other golfing developments.¬† Interestingly, this is also probably one of few golf developments where the developers haven‚??t cashed in and buggered off. These guys are here to stay.
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