The original Palms course at Sanctuary Cove was designed as a typical resort layout by American Fred Bolton in the late 1980s. Twenty years after it first opened for play, Ross Watson was given the brief to toughen up the challenge on the layout and the 6,490-yard Palms course is now the perfect foil to the longer Arnold Palmer-designed Pines course at Sanctuary Cove.
Green complexes received a lot of attention during the course upgrade and renovated putting surfaces are now more contoured with jagged edged greenside bunkers adding considerably to the challenge.
The five par threes on the card (at holes 3, 5, 8, 12 and 16) are all rather impressive and many believe the best of these short holes is kept until last at the 16th, where the green juts out into a lake.
Both nines begin with strong, water-protected par fives and the remaining three-shotter on the Palms course at the 14th also requires golfers to circumnavigate water as its fairway turns first to the right then to the left towards a green that’s guarded by half a dozen bunkers.
Ross Watson, course architect, kindly provided us with the following article:
The new Palms course is in effect a brand new course built over the top of the original. The bulk of the new course sits atop the old course but there was some land swapping to accommodate more golf frontage real estate.
The new layout begins near the new clubhouse which services the Pines course. Holes 1 and 2 track in a northerly direction over previously vacant land, hole 3 is the old par three 11th played backwards. The next six (holes 4 to9) are north of the main entry road and track much the same as the previous holes 12 to 17.
From here we again cross the entry road with the new 10th and the tee is located close to the previous 18th tee, but the old 18th fairway has been realigned to accommodate new housing lots on either side. The balance of the new layout (11 to 18) is a complete rehash of the original front nine.
The rebuild involved the following: 200,000 cubic metres of earthworks and shaping, new greens, tees and bunkers, the installation of a new irrigation system, complete re-grassing of greens with Tifeagle and fairways with Wintergreen couch grass, extensive tropical landscaping and construction of concrete cartpaths.
The new course is quite short at 5,900 m and a par of 70 but is proving to be a good challenge for all standards. It is often referred to as a thinking man's course and fun to play. Special features include large greens with interesting undulations, rustic, natural-looking bunkers, strategic design based on risk/reward.
This parkland style resort course is the 'public access' course of the two 18's at Sanctuary Cove and features, not surprisingly, palm trees on most holes as well as plenty of bunkers and water hazards. The course isn't unique and will quickly blend in with other Gold Coast courses in my memories; it really is just another (admittedly, decent quality) resort course with lakes surrounded by large, expensive homes. Green surfaces were high quality and water hazards along the line of play were the predominant creator of risk, I'll remember that much. Oh, and the par 70 just reaffirmed that it was the housing which took the priority over the golf course. On the positive side, the round did seem to flow well enough so the design team did as well as could be expected with the parcel of land allocated to them, even if they did have to incorporate some long cart drives between holes.
The onsite hotel was very pleasant and offered the opportunity to play the normally 'members only' Pines course, unfortunately at double the price and whilst it was a slightly better course, I think The Palms was the better value.
The rain stayed away long enough at Sanctuary Cove Palms, another peach of a course from Ross Watson. The beautiful Gold Coast has plenty of world class golf courses and this is another, The Palms at Sanctuary Cove Resort.
The Palms course gives a wonderful tropical landscape feel to it with all the palm trees about and beautiful paperback trees. Some good holes and fun here in the middle of the round!