Palmer Coolum Resort

The 18th at Coolum – ‘most daunting drive in Australia’, Brendan James

Resort courses are sometimes labelled, perhaps unfairly, as all being similar to one another: wide fairways, big undulating greens, large bunker schemes, the obligatory drinks cart.

Some might even say a round of golf on a resort course is less about the quality of the journey and more about making the journey as comfortable as possible. Such a critique most certainly does not apply to a round at Coolum, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Such is the quality of the journey and the depth of the challenge on this resort that it has become the long-term home of the Australian PGA Championship.

The par-72 layout, winding through more than 50 hectares of lakes, bushland and subtropical forest, is one of only five Robert Trent Jones Jnr designs in Australia. Jones Jnr recently oversaw the completion of a huge redesign at Coolum, with six new holes built to replace holes taken out of play on the beach side of the layout. Its design and its character make it not merely a sensational tournament venue but a wonderful arena for amateurs. You can choose the tee option that best suits your game – meaning, on many holes, that you can hit confidently and safely over the water.

That’s one way to play Coolum. Another way is to grit your teeth and pit your game against the course in all its brutish glory. As well as water, Coolum has plenty of sand, some choking rough and a design that involves most greens being raised above fairway level.

Miss a green here and it’s a tough up-and-down. Coolum’s new 1st hole throws down the challenge from the opening tee shot. A 518-metre par-five, water runs all the way down the left edge of the fairway, while a meandering creek feeding into the lake cuts across the fairway in front of the green.

For long hitters toying with the idea of reaching the green in two monstrous blows, a lone fairway bunker on the right edge narrows the driving zone considerably. ‘The 1st is a pretty tough opener, it’s a wake-up hole,’ said Jones Jnr at the launch of the new holes. ‘I like to say the 1st hole at Coolum is tougher than Beethoven’s Fifth.’

Tackling the 481-metre 3rd, the second of three par-fives on the front nine, is another exercise in being cautious – but not too cautious – about your shot choices. Once again, there’s water left and sand right of the fairway as you follow its snaking progress towards the green, which is tucked behind the edge of a lake.

Any newcomer to Coolum might find the back nine looks familiar, as the scene of considerable drama in various big tournaments over the years. Coolum’s 16th and 17th are meaty par-fours. Really, though, they are the entree before the main course: the 18th, where the drive is arguably the most daunting in Australian golf.

This 385-metre par-four is a gentle dogleg left around a lake that stretches all the way to the green. The fairway is narrow, with trench-like bunkers sitting off to the right, poised to catch any conservatively struck balls that attempt to steer clear of the water.

The player who skirts the edge of the lake will be left with a much shorter approach into the green. This is handy, because the green has water lapping at its front edge, and it also slopes dramatically from right to left and back to front.

When the flag is tucked behind the water, take aim at the right half of the green and let the contour of the putting surface feed your ball around to the flag. To play at Coolum you must stay in-house at the resort. Tee times are set aside once a week for members of other Golf Australia-affiliated clubs to play on the club’s open day.

Memorable holes

1st, 3rd, 11th, 13th, 16th and 18th

Where to go

1 Warran Rd, Yaroomba, Queensland 4573

Book a round

(07) 5446 1234

Where to stay

The Palmer Coolum Resort has more than 320 luxury suites and villas, plus an acclaimed day spa, private beach, nine pools and seven dining options.

Before/after your round

If you fancy yourself in the kitchen, the Spirit House Thai restaurant in nearby Yandina has fun, daily cooking classes that will help you develop new culinary skills.

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