Featuring six par threes, six par fours and six par fives, the course at Mirage Country Club in Port Douglas is a resort-style layout designed by Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge, with a couple of fairways on the front nine routed alongside Four Mile Beach.
Christopher Skase had a chequered career as a business tycoon, but he certainly left his mark on the sleepy fishing village at Port Douglas. He transformed it to the swish international tropical getaway it is today
The centrepiece of his plan was the Mirage Country Club with the luxury resort set right on the magnificent Four Mile Beach. The accompanying Mirage Marina soon filled up with luxury yachts.
And the golf course was a regular on our TV screens back in the day with the annual skins event being telecast around the world.
The course was designed by Thomson & Wolveridge and opened for play in 1987. Mike Wolveridge lived the latter part of his life in Port Douglas, and also designed the nearby Palmer Sea Reef course
Some years ago Wolveridge was brought out of retirement by the new Chinese owners to give the course a much needed facelift. He continued to advise Mirage until his untimely death in March 2020.
His starting point was the greens, which were looking a little tired. At the time of his passing he had redesigned and overseen the construction of new greens at hole 1 & 5, and two permanent additional greens.
These add-ons enabled longer holes to be played as two short holes- thus enabling the club to take other holes out of play while they were being refurbished. The new greens are a distinct improvement- I was particularly impressed with the new 18th green.
Mike Wolveridge also left plans before his death for a new 5th green which is under construction at the time of writing..
Mirage Country Club is a tale of two nines The front nine is on the beach side of the highway surrounding the resort accommodation. The back nine is on the clubhouse side of the road in the mangroves. Overall the course features 6 par 3's, 6 par 4's and 6 par 5's.
Their is very little elevation change throughout the property, but it matters little On the front nine the course winds through some magnificent tropical rainforest with a couple of holes right on the beach. The huge ancient trees frame the holes majestically. You need to be straight as some of the holes are very tight in places.
In the back nine the fairways are wider with water hazards and palm trees determining the lines of play
Unfortunately Christopher Skase ran out of money after construction of the first nine and declined to bring in the sand base needed- so the back nine is clay based in the mangroves- not perfect for turf maintenance in a tropical climate.
Nevertheless the back nine has it's own charm and uses the water hazards and bunkering to keep players on their toes.
Throughout the course the greens are raised and require deft iron play. I preferred the front nine, which I thought had real character.
Even though a number of holes run right along the beach, I would label the front nine more like a parkland course. But I really loved those big old trees!
Port Douglas is one of my favourite destinations in the world. Beautiful beaches and climate, fabulous restaurants and world class activities combine very nicely with a couple of games of golf at Mirage and Palmer Sea Reef. Recommended!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
The Mirage gave me a real "I'm on holiday" felling when I tee'd it up here even if the weather didn't. I had heard fairly good thing about the course but everyone was talking 4 or 5 years ago so I was a little worried, I didn't need to be though. I enjoyed my round a lot, it was 1 of the relaxing rounds I have had in a long time and a lot has to do with the surrounds and the design. I smiled a lot here.
The booking process was easy and the staff were all very welcoming and made sure that I understood that water isn't the only hazard on the course as Crocodiles also call this course home and I did see a couple. 1 on an island in a lake and another in the estuary that snakes through the back 9's edges. The course also has a feature I had never actually played before which is 6 par 3's, 4's and 5's which I thought I wouldn't like but I was wrong, it opened up more opportunities.
The weather was all sorts of strange on the front 9 with sun as you would expect in FNQ but then also torrential rain, before the rain came gales of wind and in between all of this, pristine stillness. That stillness was the majority of my back 9.
The front 9 is what you would consider a resort style course with the various hotels scattered on the fringes of the fairways. This 9 is also very "Green" with an abundance of trees, gardens and some small water hazards. I scored better on the back 9 but I loved the look of the front. The 7th hole is a shortish par 5 that runs along the beach to the left and resort to the right, this hole for me was the standout on the course and also has a large tree standing guard of the green about 50 meters in front. The green is smallish so a lofted wedge would be needed.
The back 9 is more open with more large lakes (this is where I saw the Crocs) and has a much different feeling, more like an ocean links but I can't put my finger on it exactly. The Estuary mentioned earlier flanks much of this 9 from hole 13 onward's. The last 3 holes are called the "Croc Trap" with the par 4 17 and par 3 18 again the standouts.
The fairways were in great condition when I played, even with the rain they stayed very true. The greens were lush and were rather slow. I don't believe the rain had much to do with that but more the nature of the course as I spoke to a few locals who said that was the norm. This took a couple of holes to get used to but they do stay at 1 pace all course round so you do adapt. The bunkers were 50/50, some were good others not so. I don't think this was weather related either, just the way they are.
At $85 with a cart I honestly believe this is fairly decent value and I really did enjoy my round. The design of the course is actually very fun and while not overtly long you do need to think your ball placement through. Located on the drive into Port Douglas from Cairns and only 2 or 3 minutes from Port Douglas's town centre its also well located.
I played at Sea Reef as well a couple of days later, I would play here again instead of there. I rated both courses same but I just enjoyed the surrounds and the course more. Just a personal preference.