Genesis Great Golf Road Trip: Sunshine Coast, QLD
If you’re searching for a destination that’s got everything, it’s hard to go past Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
The stretch of beaches and hinterland that officially runs from Pelican Waters in the south to Tewantin in the north boasts some of Australia’s most beautiful natural landscapes, beaches – and of course, some outstanding golf.
From the Glass House Mountains and Eumindi markets to beaches that stretch unbroken for as much as 17km, this part of Australia has something for everyone, and is a perfect destination for our next Genesis Great Golf Road Trip.
The obvious place to start is where the Sunshine Coast officially begins, Pelican Waters and the Greg Norman designed course that shares the same name.
The Shark is almost as well known in golf circles for his course design work as his impressive playing career and his relationship with Pelican Waters is a unique one.
Yes, the course boasts all the hallmarks of what makes Norman courses so much fun to play (dazzling bunkering, width and the ability to play the ground game) but he also has a family connection.
Norman’s parents, Merv and Toini, live on the course, his mother still an active golfer well into her 80’s.
It was Toini that first introduced Greg to the game at Brisbane’s Virginia Golf Club and she is a handy single figure player in her own right whose name appears on the Pelican Waters honour boards more than once.
Her most recent great feat came last year when she achieved her fourth hole in one at the course - on New Year’s Eve.
Inside Tip: Pelican Waters is a favourite with Sunshine Coast golfers as it offers the perfect blend of challenge and fun, and was once ranked as high as the 36th best course in Australia.
Like all good tests of the game, the course asks the player to use more than just his or her clubs on the journey, the golfer who best matches the mental game to the physical almost always coming out on top here.
The short par-4 second is a perfect example of strategic golf, tempting the player to bite off a little more than they can chew then punishing those who don’t recognise the challenge.
Playing just 271 metres from the gold tee but still only 311 metres from the very tips, the green is in range for longer hitters and even those of moderate distance can leave themselves just a short pitch.
But it’s not as straightforward as just bashing a ball in the general direction of the putting surface.
Water hugs the right side but the green is angled such that an approach from this side is preferred.
A small fairway bunker sits 70 metres short of the green – in the ideal driving area for most – and even a touring professional would find the shot from this hazard daunting.
The kidney shaped green offers little relief with a large tier in the middle dictating the difficulty of putts on the surface and any shot which goes over the green faces an awkward pitch.
Always regarded as one of the best holes on the Sunshine Coast, Pelican Waters’ second is a must play – and the 17 that surround it are fantastic as well.
Our first picturesque attraction will be the spectacular Glass House Mountains to the west and slightly south of Caloundra.
Boasting accommodation options to suit every budget and taste, this is where we’ll spend the night and do some exploring of one of the most popular tourist areas in Australia.
The Glass House Mountains themselves are not just visually spectacular but also offer several interesting walks and lookouts, and if you are taking children this is a great opportunity to let them stretch their legs.
Day two will start at the famed Australia Zoo, a facility known as the ‘Home of the Crocodile Hunter’, it was one of the main drawcards for international and top class Australian players teeing up at the nearby Palmer Coolum Resort in the Australian PGA.
Such was Steve Irwin’s popularity around the world that more than one major winner was convinced by a child to make the trip just so the family could attend the famous zoo.
Unusually for a Genesis Great Golf Road Trip this will be a golf free day as there is so much to see and do at Australia Zoo that to cut a visit short would be a travesty.
However, some pleasant driving awaits at day’s end as we make our way to our second destination, Twin Waters Golf Club near Maroochydore.
After a day of no golf an early tee time is an excellent way to start day three of our trip and there is no better place for the endeavour than the excellent Twin Waters course.
Wildlife abounds at this Thomson/Wolveridge designed layout, considered by many to be one of their best, and kangaroos and an array of bird life will be your companions for the journey.
Pay particular attention to the course’s sixth hole, a short par-4 that has taken a bit out of more than one overly confident golfer.
A wide fairway looks innocuous enough and most unfamiliar with the hole’s perils will immediately pull the driver.
Unless you’re as good as Greg Norman in his prime, though, this is generally a mistake.
Water flanks the left side of the fairway but it is the approach to the green where the difficulty starts.
‘Deceptive’ is the word used by most and avoiding the front left bunker at all costs, and getting the distance and line correct, is critical to have a chance at birdie or par.
If you make a four here rejoice. If you make a three, consider a professional career. Or quitting.
Inside Tip: Another course to play in the area is Maroochy River, a recent development which houses the former Horton Park Golf Club after their land was bought by Maroochy Council to be part of a new town centre. Boasting a much more open landscape than any of its neighbours, the Graham marsh designed layout has met with approval from Horton Park members and local golfers alike and is well worth a visit.
Leaving Twin Waters we head north again as we make our way to Sunshine Coast’s most famed centre, Noosa.
Following David Low Way through Coolum and Peregian Beach, the stretch of seaside road at Marcus Beach is stunning.
Noosa and its surrounds are home to some excellent golf from the resort layout at Noosa Springs to the members’ club at Tewantin Noosa.
Just 15 minutes south you will also find the Palmer Coolum resort, home to the Australian PGA for more than a decade, as well as the laid back members course at Mt Coolum Golf Club.
Inside Tip: Noosa has long been a focal point for families, budget travellers and retirees looking to take a long weekend away, and as such, the town is always extremely crowded during the end of year holiday period and school holidays. If you can, travel outside of these times – there will be more beach to spread out on, and less traffic on the golf course.