I have arrived on the Gold Coast. Courtesy of a great chap from Christchurch, NZ called Tony Dowell I‚??m all set up in a great wee pad just north of Surfers Paradise. The next few days show much promise.
The Gold Coast is a popular place for kiwi‚??s to come and escape the cold, enjoy the sun, the surf and increasingly some quality golf.¬† This week on the agenda is the Links Hope Island, Lakelands, The Glades and Sanctuary Cove so I have the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.
First up was the Links Hope Island with playing partner and golfing media guru, Bruce Young.¬† Bruce is from these parts and has kindly helped arrange a few games of golf. Bruce is probably best described on his website but is often seen, heard and his work read through various golfing media channels. He is the chief writer at iseekgolf¬†which is a successful golfing website that is definitely worth a look!
Jamie and I had first met Bruce down at the New Zealand Open at The Hills. What I didn‚??t pick up then was that Bruce is actually a Kiwi! And a South Islander from Dunedin ‚?? his stocks continue to rise. ¬†His life in the golfing industry began as a 17 year old when he wrote to John Lister - a prominent kiwi professional - and asked if he could caddy for him. From there he caddied on and off for a few years carrying the bag for a few winners along the way. He was in the unique situation where he caddied for two kiwis, in consecutive weeks on the European Tour, who both won ‚?? Bob Charles and Simon Owen.
The Links Hope Island is currently in the process of becoming a private members course with 990 equity shares currently up for sale. Half have been sold to date.¬† After the round I had the opportunity to sit and enjoy a beer and hear about the golf club (and have some banter) with John the Executive Chairperson whose company owns the resort, Alan the CEO and Luisa the Marketing Manager.¬†
They were some of the finest hosts I have met on the journey to date and I could spend a few evenings in the clubhouse enjoying some more of their hospitality!¬† The club is developing a strong culture amongst the members and this was evident as I was introduced to a few of the locals who reside on the course.¬† But to the course -
Set in a 360 ha residential resort community, the par 72 course measure approximately 6,500 metres off the championship tees. Designed by five times British Open winner Peter Thomson and design partner Mike Wolveridge, the course was initially carved out of a dairy farm, with the layout following the natural contours of the land.
The immediate feature was the GPS in the carts. This gave precise numbers to reach all hazards and to the pin.¬† A number of the holes had very generous landing areas so if you knew how far to carry the bunker you could just hit the appropriate club off the tee to leave you the widest landing area.¬†¬†
So, GPS in tow, the front nine was very user friendly: large landing zones, generous greens that were pretty flat and bunkers being the main hazards to steer clear of.¬† That said, the par five 8th had quite a number of bunkers, and also scrub around the fairway that was very much in play. I managed to lose my ball in the scrub, but made birdie with my second ball for a bogey 6.¬† Bruce‚??s golf was pretty handy considering he hadn‚??t had a hit for a few months. Thru nine holes there was probably only a hole or two in it.¬† However over the course of the front nine the old caddy started giving me tips on how to read these couch greens and these tips started to pay dividends...
Couch greens have grain in them. This is something I am not used to. And it is definitely the reason behind my poor putting of the last week or so. I have not been able to judge the pace of the greens, whether putting or chipping onto them, and the issue was the grain. Bruce gave me the pretty simple advice to walk around the hole and work out where the grass was darker ‚?? when you could see the dark grass you were looking into the grain. Obviously the ball will try and go with the grain, so putting down-grain you need to be particularly careful (especially on pure, fast greens such as the beauties at Hope Island).
That lesson learnt, the back nine was there for the taking! I called an under par nine but a two chip, two putt bogey on the last put an end to that.¬† The course builds to a crescendo on the back nine eventually leaving you well and truly satisfied and keen to return. The 13th is probably the first hole to raise the tone, a dog-leg par four to the left around a lake and probably one of the toughest par fours on the course.¬†¬†
From here, some excitement kicks in on the 16th which is a drivable par four at around 300m. From the blue tees it was very reachable, but neither Bruce or I managed to make birdie. I enjoyed the hole as it was generous enough to reward a well hit tee shot, but subtle to punish a miss in the wrong spot on the left or to the short side of the pin.¬† Pitching out of the curly rough is difficult to finesse.
The signature holes are definitely the last couple. 17 is a long par three played over water, and often into the prevailing wind.¬† The word goes that the biggest defense of this course is often the wind, and in this respect it reminded me part of my home course Clearwater. But today it was very still, and 17 was manageable with a 5 iron which I hit to about 15 feet and almost, but not quite, read the grain of the green for birdie.
And finally the 18th, played towards the clubhouse and around the lake (which had some rather tasteful houses perches on the other side of it, and houses that were far enough out of the way to not impact on the golfing experience).¬† 18, like the par five 11 encourages you to get as tight to the trouble on the left as possible to make the hole reachable in two. This line obviously has its associated perils, but if you play out right you have virtually no show of getting the green in two.
So the match finished with another victory 4&3, and I was relatively happy with my +4, 76.¬† The golf is finally getting better! After a few snaps with the owners I left the course very impressed and in great spirits ‚?? a great day on all fronts!
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