Arnold Palmer has designed more than 300 courses around the world but so far he has only one Australian signature course to his name and it happens to be the Pines course here at Sanctuary Cove Golf and Country Club, debuting in 1989.
There are two 18-hole tracks at Sanctuary Cove – the public Palms and the private Pines – and for those who like their golf challenging then the Pines is the course of choice as it offers much more than a normal, run-of-the-mill resort layout.
With fairways hewn through a pine forest and fourteen of the holes routed around six lakes, there are plenty of trees and water hazards to contend with on the Pines course so concentration will be required all the way round.
The 386-yard 2nd is a tough par four that doglegs sharply left to a two-tiered putting surface so conservative play from the tee is recommended so early in a round. On the inward half, the 203-yard 13th plays across a lake to a green that sits above a walled bank – anything short is bound to end up wet.
Final word to Arnie, who speaks fondly of the place: “The Pines at Sanctuary Cove is very special to me because it is my first course design in Australia. The pine forest setting combined with elements of water and abundant natural wildlife, provided a wonderful canvas for us to create a very special golfing environment.”
First up - truth in advertising: there are a lot of pine trees around this course. It would appear to have been carved, by the numbers, through them: each nine has a par 5 early; par 3's at the fourth and seventh hole you come to; and then a late par 5. Most of the par 3's played to the same length (the 7th a little shorter), maybe because of the breeze when I played. (actually, I wanted to check this and from Google Maps it looks like all four par 3s play in four completely different directions - a design feature to be celebrated), but interesting I found them a little similar in terms of the shot they called for. Lakes used regularly, probably because the landform is flat and they have to drain the fairways and adjacent housing somehow.
That might be a little pessimistic opening, but maybe I was just expecting a little too much based on the high ranking of The Pines. I suspect it's maybe a case of a little too much hype based on the designers name rather than the actual spectacular nature of the course. Sure, it was in very good condition and the putting surfaces were pure, but by mid-round I just couldn't really remember any standout holes and when I look at its contemporaries in the top ten in Qld, I think I'd rather play all the others ahead of this one. Maybe I just don't 'get' the whole pine straw off the fairways thing!
Anyway, I did enjoy the hero tee shots called for at the 9th, 17th and 18th, as well as the theatre of the all carry par 3 13th (with pin front right bringing the water and a bunker into play).
The Sanctuary Cove hotel (an Intercontinental when I stayed) was very nice, especially the sand beach at the main pool and the comprehensive breakfasts and it was through staying there that I was able to play the Pines course as a visitor. I also played the public access resort course Palms 18 on site and although it is a lesser course, it's probably better value for the respective green fees.
Good, not great.
Fair to stay I really enjoyed Sanctuary Cove Pines! Especially after an inspiring chip in for birdie on the second hole in front of wife Lisa - Lisa queen of Carts as she likes to be referred to as!
The Pines course is the only Arnold Palmer designed course in Australia and you can see why with this attractive course, sublime bunkering and the quality of sand is pure, water comes in to play on many holes and to great effect visually and strategically.
Great Pro shop, great clubhouse, great paths and half way house!