Location: Hamilton Island, QLD
Architect: Peter Thomson & Ross Perrett
Date Played: 11th December 2014
Hamilton Island golf course would have to be described as a great club located in paradise. Located off the Northern Queensland coast, the weather is tropical with high humidity, but ideal to get outside for a game, then hit the bar at the pool. This is the ideal location to get away and relax. You can bring the wife, as I did, who went and enjoyed the day spa whilst I had my game.
There are two main forms of transport on the island, the free public bus constantly doing loops between the town centre and hotels, or by golf cart, although the later is quite expensive. The island is owned by Robert Oatley, renowned for his involvement in the wine industry and also love of sailing, being a constant winner in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
The island has a lot of activities and restaurants to explore, so this is not all about golf, unless you are travelling over just for the day from the mainland.
Having to be one of the most isolated golf courses I have been too, you can only arrive by boat or air, although I am not sure if the later is really an option. From the marina in Hamilton Island you meet the ferry which will take you across to Dent Island, home of the golf club. Golfers and tourists alike travel out for the magnificent views found on the back 9 as well as the great food in the clubhouse.
Leaving Hamilton Island marina
Once you board the ferry and head out of the marina, it will take 5-10 minute to arrive at the other side, depending on the weather. This give you some views of Hamilton Island and the various restaurants, as well as potentially having some jets flying over as they arrive or depart the island.
Clubhouse at Hamilton Island Golf Club
The clubhouse offers great views back to Hamilton Island as well as the 18th hole. Even more impressive is the food on offer, with some non golfers coming across to get a different perspective.
Map of Hamilton Island Golf Course
Not long after arriving, the local pro will call you and your group, if you have one, into the proshop. This is to explain a little about the course, settle green fees and ensure you have enough supplies for the game. I thought this to be a very professional service which I had not encountered anywhere else, but also then allowed groups to have a small degree of separation before teeing off. From here it is a little bit of a drive to the first tee.
Scorecard for Hamilton Island Golf Club
Play for the day was from the Pandanus tees, not too hard but not too easy either.
Hole 1 – 344 meter par 4
Right from the start you face some challenges off the tee, having to carry a small valley to the fairway. This all slopes to the right, so aiming left will allow the ball to run a little bit further and still stay on the fairway.
Approach to the 1st green
From the fairway you can have some unusual lies due to the slopes and mounds. The first green is built into the hill and protected by two traps on the right. The green also slopes predominantly to the left. There is plenty of trouble either side of this hole, but with fairly wide fairways I think this is a good opening hole.
Hole 2 – 332 meter par 4
From the elevated tee you face a narrowing fairway as it gets closer to the hole, as well as a bunker to the right for good measure. There is plenty of room to lay up to the right, however this could leave yourself with a difficult shot to the green. An accurate long shot should carry the hill and will leave a simple pitch to the green.
The second green
This green slopes from back to the front, however a slope away at the rear can leave a tricky shot back, especially if the pin is tight. On my visit the greens were slightly firm at an above average speed, although softened on the second day due to heavy rain.
Hole 3 – 285 meter par 4
Although not overly long in distance, this hole plays a little trickier than it appears on paper, with its index being easiest hole on the course. From the tee you have to carry a small amount of scrub to the fairway. The hole curves slightly to the right, but it is very tight down this side, which you don’t see from the tee. Playing a left to right shot landing slightly to the left of the fairway will give maximum distance. It also has much more room to land on this side.
View back over the 3rd hole
Dependent upon the pin position, will determine which side is best to come play from. A bunker protects the centre of the green, however you are playing to an extremely elevated green which requires some thought with the approach. Anything short will repel down the hill leaving a long pitch. This green also slopes from back to front and slightly from right to left.
Hole 4 – 161 meter par 3
The first par 3 on the course also has the first water views, with the Coral sea and other islands as the backdrop to the green. Playing downhill, this hole is carry three quarters of the way and is exposed to the elements. Both days I played here the wind had some affect. It was also the place I finished my game on the first day due to electrical storms. I had teed off and left the ball just under the hole. As tempting as it was to go and putt the ball in, I didn’t fancy becoming a living example of the priest in Caddyshack.
The narrow 4th green is exposed to the elements
The green slopes away on three sides, but does allow the ball to run in from the left. Do not over club on this hole as it might mean teeing off again. The green has some significant slopes, mostly back to front. Slightly intimidating hole which is great to walk off with a par.
Hole 5 – 425 meter par 5
With the fifth and sixth holes we have two par 5 in a row. The 5th plays a lot easier due to the distance being much shorter and an elevated tee. From here you can see almost all the way to the green. Two fairway traps cover the middle of the fairway, but there is plenty of room to the left of them. This does leave a blind shot through to the green, which is located to the left of the second set of bunkers and behind the trees. Playing just over these bunkers or to the right leaves a short iron approach to a green which is fairly flat and slightly elevated.
Hole 6 – 474 meter par 5
The sixth plays significantly harder than the fifth. From the tee it is a blind shot over the hill. Playing up the middle is the best line to take. Anything too far right will catch a step slope and run down the hill. In fact this occurs much of the length of the hole.
Looking back over the 6th (taken between 10th green and 11th tee)
From the second shot there is ample room to lay up but it is better being to the left of the fairway, due to the elevation of the green on this side and the green side bunker. The putting surface is also much wider to the left, so be cautious attacking on pins on the right side of the green.
Hole 7 – 132 meter par 3
This short par 3 hole ranks as one of the easiest on the course. From the tee there is the option to lay up on the left, as the right has a large trap, and slopes down into bush land beyond this. Long is also not an option due to the slopes away from the green.
Large boulder comes into play on the left side of the green
The only danger on the left is the large boulder which emerges from the ground. Hitting this and you never know where the ball will end up. There is lots of room however to run the ball onto the green with relative ease if you miss this side.
Hole 8 – 300 meter par 4
The 8th plays short but is considerably tighter on fairway width than some of the previous holes. From the tee you cannot see how much room is available on the right side. This hole plays slightly down hill from the tee, which helps to prevent the view. The tee shot should be aimed slightly left allowing for the slope of the fairway to run the ball back to the middle.
Approach to the 8th green
Playing the approach to the green is slightly uphill to a green with a small false front. Chances are you could have awkward feet positioning if on the right of the fairway as there is more slope found this side. The trees narrow in near the front of the green, giving the illusion of a tighter shot than what you really have.
Hole 9 – 335 meter par 4
The ninth hole is the hardest on the front and also second hardest on the course. From the tee you have to make a wise club selection as water comes into play across the fairway. For longer hitters it is very possible to reach. A long iron is the safest option aimed at the center of the fairway.
Approach to the 9th green
Too far left brings a tree into play when approaching the green, as does being too far right. A sand trap protects the front and right of the green, although this may save you getting into more trouble. The green is quite long and there is ample room to lay up left of the green. Sloping is from right to left and slightly back to front.
Hole 10 – 304 meter par 4
The tenth plays longer than its distance on the card as it is all uphill. Again this has a narrow fairway but opens up after you pass the danger aspects. There are trees on the right of the fairway which gives you a line of a step slope dropping off from the fairway, so the safest layup option being the left side. However you can get a better line to the green by being centre to right of the fairway.
Looking back along the 10th hole – last view of this side of the island until the 18th
The approach to the 10th is up a steeper incline than that of the tee shot. Anything to the right of the green is trouble, but on the left there are two bunkers in play. Carry these and the ball may roll slightly to the green centre as a gentle slope is found from the left edge.
Hole 11 – 513 meter par 5
So we reach the hardest hole on the course which also measures the longest by quite a bit. From the tee there is scrub to carry across a small valley to the fairway. The first part runs up hill with a large trap on the left. For long hitters it is best to aim right of the bunker to allow some run out on the downslope of the hill, otherwise you may go through the fairway. The hole gently turns to the left for the second shot.
View from the 11th fairway
I would say this is a genuine 3 shot hole, which then leaves the player with a decision on where to lay up for the approach to the green. The fairway narrows as we get closer to the green and slopes a bit from left to right. The ideal line will be left hand side of the fairway. This potentially takes the green side bunkers out of play and leaves plenty of room to hit the green, as it is not overly deep. Par on this hole is well deserved.
Hole 12 – 304 meter par 4
Another hole playing longer than the distance on the card, being all up hill. From the tee the hole curves to the left with most sloping on the fairway running to this side also, which leaves some traps to capture your ball. There is ample room to leave the tee shot out to the right, making the hole slight longer. Play is to a green built into the hill and protected on the left by another bunker. A step slope at the front of the green will say anything slightly short roll away. A nicely designed hole which rates 15 on the index.
Hole 13 – 359 meter par 4
Here we have a blind tee shot over a hill, so luckily this hole runs fairly straight. Once you are over there are a few humps and hollows on the way to the green. The second half of the fairway slopes left to right. The green is protected by a lone bunker at the front, but all other areas will see the ball run away from the green. Probably my least favourite hole on the course, even with its water views behind the green.
Hole 14 – 143 meter par 3
One of those tricky holes where it is easy not to take enough club. From the tee the 14th is all down hill with a fair carry over scrub. The tee has great views over the next two holes and is well worth savouring. From the tee there are two traps to avoid on the right side. There is a bit of room to play with if you are short, a little deceiving when viewing from the tee.
The 14th green has a great backdrop of the Coral Sea
This green has a few gentle turns and runs slightly away from the front. This area of the course is totally exposed so if the wind is up can make play a little tricky. Again enjoy the view on this little gem.
Hole 15 – 347 meter par 4
Not sure if this is the signature hole of the course, but it is certainly one of the most photographed and used in lots of advertising. This hole looks spectacular from the tee, playing down hill all the way to the green. Another hole totally exposed to the elements you must be wary of the fairway bunkers and any cross winds. The fairway has some width but this will become very narrow in a gustily breeze.
Approach to the 15th green
From the fairway the slope is not as significant but a gentle decline to the green. The landing area is a lot narrower as we get near the green, with the best line coming in from the left side of the fairway. Two large bunkers protect the right side of the green but may save your ball from running to far down the slope. This is a great scenic hole which is slightly challenging. Certainly make you think on every shot here.
Hole 16 – 149 meter par 3
Getting towards the end of our round we are faced with a postcard shot on the 16th. With the water and township showing in the background it is easy to get distracted on this hole. I have since looked at the hole rating and can’t believe this is index 17. It is far more intimidating when playing. From the tee it is all down hill. Safety is found on the left, although the grass is quite long so no guarantee the ball will run off the hill.
Me teeing off to the 16th
To the right is water, water and more water. There is also a slopes leading away from the green, especially the front which is quite large, and a sand trap. A path, which I learnt can hinder you progress, basically making the ball bounce right out into the water is something to avoid. Hitting the green and two putting here would leave a lot of satisfaction. Unfortunately I can’t get no satisfaction with the way I played the hole, but it is a spectacular view.
Hole 17 – 361 meter par 4 (shot taken from 16th green)
In what I would describe as the toughest tee shot on the course, the 17th prevents a very narrow landing area. I am rarely undecided from a tee shot, but this had me second guessing all the way. There is a carry over scrub to reach the fairway which runs uphill and narrows into a neck the further you hit the ball. Dense scrub is left and right of the fairway so avoid this at all costs. The hole gently turns to the right, but avoid this side. This is very deceiving as a lot of thick grass is found just beyond where the fairway narrows, but is unseen from the tee.
Play downhill to the 17th green
Playing to the green is slightly to the right and downhill. It is a medium size target, but trouble surrounds three sides to the green. There is a good view of Hamilton Island town centre from here. This completes play for this side of the island and once complete it is a long drive to the last tee.
Hole 18 – 390 meter par 4
One of the best views overlooking at least four holes of the course, the clubhouse and Hamilton Island, this is one hell of an elevated tee. It is hard to get an idea of distance due to the elevation, but also makes the fairway a smaller target than what it actually is. Safest option is to aim for the center and ensure you don’t land in the two fairway bunkers to the left.
Approach to the 18th green.
The main danger playing to the last green is a bunker to the left. There is plenty of room to miss around this hole which has a large putting surface. Enjoy the view to the last green, before heading off for a well earned beverage.
I found the course to be in fairly good condition, considering the rain fall which was around at my time of playing. The course is well designed with a great variety in the lengths and shaping of the holes. I did find at times it got quite narrow and overall was extremely penal if you missed the fairway. With this being said I wouldn’t hesitate to play here again.
Hamilton Island golf course is open to the public 7 days a week. You must contact the clubhouse to make a booking due to the logistics of getting to the course, ferry being the only transport available. This is a must play and a very unique course in Australia, being the only championship course located on an island. Now I just have to convince the wife we need another relaxing holiday to go back.