Hamilton Island Golf Club

Hamilton Island, par-three 16th – ‘destroyer of good scores’, Brendan James

When Hamilton Island was being built in the 1980s it was a playground of the rich and famous. The island’s owner and developer, Keith Williams, knew a golf course would add to the tourism value of his island resort. But the logistics, cost and politics involved in constructing one kept the idea on the backburner for years.

Talk of a golf course started up again in 2003 when the island was bought by wine export pioneer and renowned yachtsman Bob Oatley. Having sold his Rosemount winery to Southcorp for $1 billion, Oatley bought Hamilton Island for $200 million, and in the seven years since he has poured another $300 million into upgrading it. Part of that included the construction of Hamilton Island Golf Club. After the submission of dozens of environmental management plans, and having overcome the logistical nightmare of getting construction equipment on to the island, the course opened for play in September 2009. Designed by Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett, the course is not actually on Hamilton Island. Rather, it can be found on Dent Island, a tropical tree-and-scrubcovered monolith that rises steeply – to about 105 metres at its highest point – from the aquamarine waters of the Coral Sea. The course can only be reached by ferry from Hamilton Island marina. And as you cross the short passage of water there is little to suggest a golf course sits on the ridges and cliff-tops high above.

A few holes into your round, you start to appreciate what an incredible feat of engineering, design and construction it was to create a layout across such rugged and dramatic terrain. The heavy machinery had to be brought to the island on a barge (and unloaded only at high tide). Hundreds of tons of rock were carved from the landscape to facilitate the positioning of tees, greens and fairways. This rock was crushed on site to make sand, which was then crafted and shaped into the course foundation on which the bermuda and couch playing surfaces would grow.

The opening trio of holes eases you into things. The real challenge begins on the tee of the par-three 4th. From the back, it is 175 metres across a scrub-filled valley to a large, undulating green. Of all the front nine holes, this one is exposed to the wind more than any other. The putting surface lies on a ridge – and anything hit long or short left is gone for good. Set against the backdrop of distant Long Island and the mainland, and beautifully framed by rocky outcrops, this is a fantastic hole. In saying that, all four of the par-threes here are outstanding. Each demands different shots, clubs and strategies to make par, and poor shots are punished mercilessly.

The 160-metre 16th is developing a reputation already as a destroyer of good scores. The tees and green have been cut out the side of an escarpment, with the tee elevated high above the putting surface, making the hole play much shorter than the scorecard suggests. It’s the most spectacular hole on the course – and, perhaps, the most treacherous. Even the deep bunker cut into the front right edge of the green looks good while you’re standing on the tee. But the only bail-out area is just short of the putting surface; miss the green right or long and you can drop another ball. Any tee shot drifting left, meanwhile, will leave you facing a tough chip out of long grass.

The playing surfaces are already first class and will get even better with time. Given the long hours of sunshine and the ever-present breeze, the firmness of the large bermuda tifeagle greens is no surprise. What is surprising is their speed – faster than any greens you might expect, or find, at a course in the tropics.

Memorable holes

3rd, 4th, 9th, 14th, 15th and 16th

Where to go

Hamilton Island, Queensland 4803

Book a round

(07) 4948 9760  


Where to stay

Numerous accommodation possibilities exist on Hamilton Island. The recently refurbished 16-storey Reef View Hotel has views over the Coral Sea from most rooms and suites.

Before/after your round

In the heart of the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island is perfect for Great Barrier Reef-hopping and deepwater sailing. A day cruise to Whitehaven Beach – voted one of the world’s best beaches – comes highly recommended.

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