One of the best conditioned public access courses in the country, Pacific Harbour Golf and Country Club arrived on the Australian golf scene in 2006, two years after architect Ross Watson and his construction team first started work on the 18-hole layout. Watson, incidentally, was the designer behind the acclaimed Magenta Shores course which debuted the same year.
The course sits within a multi-million dollar residential estate at the northern edge of Moreton Bay on Bribie Island – the only island on the Queensland coast connected to the mainland by bridge – and although the wide fairways may appear generous, even low handicappers will appreciate the variety of playing lines on offer.
The signature hole at Pacific Harbour is the long par three 17th, stretching all of 225 yards from the championship tees. What’s so striking about the penultimate hole on the scorecard is the waste area or “beach barrier” that runs along the entire right side of the hole between the fairway and an adjoining lake – some think it’s the longest bunker in the southern hemisphere.
Ross Watson course architect kindly contributed the following article:
We were first contacted by Brisbane developer QM Properties around 1997 to provide input into the initial planning and feasibility phase for an integrated golf and residential community on Bribie Island. By early 2000 there was commitment to the establishment of the Pacific Harbour golf course, followed by several years of negotiations with local authorities to gain the necessary permits.
Construction commenced in early 2004 with heavy earthmoving equipment shifting a total of 650,000m3 of sand. In essence the total site had to be earth-worked in order to create useable landforms both for golf and adjacent home-sites. Some areas of native vegetation were able to be kept and integrated into the final landscape plan.
For the most part however the golf course is man-made, the land has been cut and filled and then shaped by machinery to resemble the natural undulations found on Scottish links courses. The natural sand-based heathland vegetation has since re-established and today only five years after opening the course appears to have been in existence for an eternity.
As a designer the most pleasing feedback I have received is that “I was fortunate to have such a wonderful piece of natural golfing terrain in the first place”.
In terms of playability the course is definitely no pushover as on most days wind to varying degrees and from different directions comes into play. From the back tees the course stretches to a little over 6,400 metres with a par of 72 and in tough conditions can be very testing. However, multiple tees on each hole provide the flexibility to set the course up for pleasurable golf to suit the occasion.
We are often asked which is the "signature" hole at Pacific Harbour and I say in my view all 18 are. This is not to brag but simply to point out our design approach to create 18 uniquely different and memorable stand-alone golf holes on an otherwise flat featureless site. Nevertheless, when pushed on the subject I invariably come back to the four par 3's as a package. Each play in a completely different direction, with variable wind effect. Their distances vary and the setting and challenge on each is distinctive and truly memorable.
As Pacific Harbour continues to mature, we are most
gratified to hear the good reports from the golfing fraternity.
A resort style course and housing development on Bribie Is. Although parkland in character, many of the holes are flanked by native shrubs rather than trees, so some holes can appear less open than they really are. Significant use of water on many holes makes it a demanding round if not playing well and is the inevitable consequence of needing to shape the fairways using adjacent sandy soil: all those contours and humps around the course came from the ponds and lakes that seem to border many of the fairways. It also must be said that the routing of the layout was clearly beholden to the housing, but I think it has been done sensibly and they're not overly intrusive. I preferred the front nine, probably due to presence of a couple of short par 4s that could be played a number of different ways and the challenging, all-carry, par 3 7th.
The course was heavy from significant rainfall before I played but still enjoyable for the design and aesthetics. Surprisingly, seeing as it is built on a sandy base, the water didn't drain away particularly rapidly, but maybe I was lucky to be playing at all. Nice course, but lacked the real special elements of very best courses and was compromised by the needs to housing development. However, it has been well designed with what was on offer and is recommended for a day out.
As a side note, there's another course on Bribie Island: Bribie Island Golf Club which is an older, more parkland style course, but also on a lovely sandy base. Played there with some members and enjoyed it. Not as challenging as Pacific Harbour, but a solid, regional, members course.
Pacific Harbour GC is 'links like' in presentation with firm undulating fairways and greens making life interesting for the golfer. Watson has carved the course out of thick sub tropical vegetation and marshland, and most holes feature water hazards, some prominently. And the course does have a number of island greens. The bunkering is also a feature; clusters of sandbelt style bunkers draw the eye, and define the lines of play.
In my view the course is almost too penal for the everyday golfer- and as a resort course the expected market would include a lot of everyday golfers! The fairways are generous enough in places, but pinched strategically by the impressive bunkering.
Framing the fairways on either side are water and scrub, a missed fairway often means a lost ball, perhaps too often.
Water crosses the playing lines on a number of occasions, and is not always visible from the fairway – certainly this is a trap for the unwary. Additionally many of the greens are raised, demanding a reasonably well-flighted approach.
The better player will very much enjoy the beauty and challenge of Pacific Harbour – decisions will need to be made on whether to take on hazards or lay up. I must say I do like a course that asks a player to make decisions. A round here will never be boring or bland!
In my mind Pacific Harbour GC is a championship course. My only concern is whether the course is just a tad too demanding for the less proficient golfer?
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
This course ticked off the 82nd played from the Australian Golf Digest magazine listing from 2014! Beautiful flora and fauna greet the golfer here. The course features two nine hole loops, both are a tough challenge for the pro and mere mortal like myself.
Island greens are a feature here at this wonderful Ross Watson design and the bunkering all around keeps the player focussed on correct shot selection.
The 17th hole holds the record of the longest bunker in the southern hemisphere running from tee to green as you will see in the pictures attached!
I had a great time playing the course and will defiantly be back, staff were fantastic as well.