Part of the Sands Torquay Golf Club and residential development lies on the site of the old Torquay Tip and the reclamation of this wasteland resulted in the construction of the 18-hole Sands course in 2004.
As its name might suggest, the Sands Torquay course isn’t short of bunkers though the 138 that were originally in play when the layout opened have since been reduced in number to enhance the playability of the course and encourage more of a ground game around the greens.
The front nine holes are certainly enjoyable but it’s the back nine that really get golfers excited here and the four holes between the 477-yard 11th (the longest two-shotter on the card) and the par four 15th are easily the best on the property.
The Sands Torquay is a private members club but access on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays is available for golfers staying at the Peppers Resort, members of ten reciprocal clubs, interstate and overseas visitors.
The following article was written by golf industry insider Fiona Langford and is an edited extract from Volume Three of Golf The Sands Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective. Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected]
Originally owned by a Malaysian consortium, Paddy and Helen Handbury of Geelong bought the land in July 2000 – a farm until that time – which The Sands, Torquay now occupies. The new owners manage extensive farmland throughout Victoria and South Australia, and the Handbury’s made a decision to develop the 79 hectares that run directly along the coast into a residential and golf course lifestyle estate.
The Sands is a distinctive, links-style course that gently winds its way throughout the environmentally sensitive residential and golf club precincts. Care has been taken to ensure that the precious seaside location is preserved and maintained. Lake systems feed wetlands that had dried through continuous drought, while sensitive plantings serve to maintain the property’s coastal feel.
A landscaped storm water catchment has been created at the entrance to the estate that feeds water into the massive lakelands located throughout the Torquay development. Although decorative, these lakelands also serve to irrigate the course; with access to local recycled water, the course is maintained in peak condition throughout the year.
The course has been complemented by creative and environmentally sensitive coastal landscaping. Santa Ana couch grass has been used for tees and fairway, fescues edge the tees and have been used for the rough, while bentgrass has been utilised for the greens. Eye-catching bunkering is a feature of the course. Bunkers hold locally imported sand (and) smooth-lipped bunker edges protect greens, while there is no shortage of sandy hazards waiting to snare unwary golfers on the fairways.
Each green has been carefully shaped, and this allows for a variety of pin placements to cater for all golfing competitions and conditions. The greens are perfectly groomed and are generous in size: the 9th being one of the largest at almost 900 square metres. The average size of the greens at The Sands is around 650 square metres – big enough to hold a good-sized house and its garden.
Although winding through the main portion of the residential areas within the development, the architects have ensured the outward nine at Torquay Sands lays down a strategic challenge. Having completed the outward nine, a change in terrain will be noted by golfers when tackling the inward half. These holes wind through the massive sand dunes, preserved Moonah woodlands, native grasses and dunes vegetation.
Stuart Appleby’s first design project has been a great success, he is justifiably proud and says: “I really enjoyed working with IMG on this piece of land. The Sands has truly become one of my off-course passions. We wanted to create a golf course that proved a challenge to the short handicappers but also a course that was enjoyable for the longer markers. With multiple tees and landing areas, we are happy in the knowledge that everyone who plays The Sands will have an exceptional experience”.
This course felt like part resort and part more exclusive members course, with the design based on a links layout and with a sand base. As there were undulations, an over-abundance of bunkers, and the sounds of the ocean nearby, it's close to the real thing. The design strategy is interesting with the bunkers and other hazards shaping the risk on each shot and some holes feature elevation changes and forced carries. This was a course that kept me engaged in the round. Unfortunately the houses tend to follow most fairways but aren't in play. Back nine certainly more interesting than front.
Well worth a game if in the area, although don't miss the Beach course at 13th Beach back toward Geelong: it's an absolute gem.