The Grand Golf Club

The 1st hole at The Grand, Brendan James

Think of the Gold Coast and flashing images spring to mind: beaches, theme parks, high-rise apartments, hordes of tourists. The Gold Coast hinterland has none of these, and could be thousands of miles away. The national parks and reserves of the hinterland present the ideal backdrop and environment for a quiet, slower lifestyle. This was part of the reason behind the formation of The Grand, which lies in seclusion, a half-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.

Originally known as Gilston Golf Club, the course was the first project of Greg Norman – the world’s No. 1 player at the time – and his design chief Bob Harrison. It was all ready to go in 1990 when the Japanese owners walked out on their $30 million investment. The course opened for one day, but with no money to continue operating, the gates were shut at the end of that day. Seven years went by before at last a shot was played on the layout. A consortium of Gold Coast businessmen, all keen golfers, bought the golf course site in February 1996. It had become overgrown. Once contracts were signed and the deal done, Norman and Harrison were rehired to oversee the reconstruction and upgrade of their original creation. Tons of weeds and subtropical foliage were stripped away from the fairways, greens and tees that lay beneath. Norman and Harrison reshaped greens. They remodelled bunkers and added a handful more, taking the total to more than 90 bunkers. Eighteen months was all it took to return the course to normal, this time with even better conditioning. Norman cut the opening-day ribbon in October 1997 and within months The Grand was being hailed as one of Queensland’s finest courses. Its reputation as a challenging and beautifully presented layout was confirmed when it hosted the 2001 Australian Open, won by Stuart Appleby. Staging Australia’s national championship at The Grand was a controversial decision but, despite the complaints of some, the layout was considered a worthy winner. Since that heady week, the course has returned to the peace and isolation its founding members longed for.

The Grand is not a long journey, measuring 6114 metres from the back markers. The examination of a player’s skill centres instead on their ability to find the safety of the green with their approach shot and to avoid having to make a recovery from an awkward greenside lie. A fine example is the 160-metre, par-three 6th. The tee shot is played slightly downhill, over the Nerang River, to a green set against a beautiful rainforest backdrop. There are no bunkers to contend with, but the slightest mishit will be repelled away from the putting surface by its steep sloping edges.

All of The Grand’s short holes are first class. The shortest par-four on the card offers your last genuine birdie chance on the stretch of holes heading back to the clubhouse. That said, the 295-metre 15th is just as capable of inflicting bogeys as surrendering birdies. From the elevated tee, it is hard not to spot the lake to the left of the fairway and the scheme of four bunkers surrounded by tall native grass to the right. This, though, won’t deter big hitters from launching a drive at the green, which is ringed by sand. It makes for a wonderful, short, risk-and-reward hole, one that would not have the same impact if it were played earlier in the round.

The Grand is the most exclusive of all the courses appearing in this book. The only way you shall get to experience its pristine fairways and greens is to be invited by a member of the club.

Memorable holes

1st, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 15th

Where to go

364 Gilston Rd, Gilston, Queensland 4211

Book a round

(07) 5596 0400

Where to stay

Radisson Resort Gold Coast, at Merrimac, is central to all the best courses in the area.

Before/after your round

The Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk is an elevated steel walkway through beautiful rainforest canopies. Along the way, take a rest at the Cantilever – which soars 30 metres above a valley, offering spectacular views.

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