Located on the New South Wales mid-north coast, the Horizons Golf Resort is situated within a rugged area of tea-tree laden swamp only minutes from the popular seaside town of Port Stephens.
The golf course site takes in a series of topography changes with holes shaped through tall Eucalypts, around natural wetlands, Melaleuca swamps and pristine man made lakes. The contrasting waterways are the most significant feature of the land with the designer’s intent to incorporate these natural features as much as possible into the routing.
Holes not built around the water hazards instead weave through the Australian bush and are among the most enjoyable on the course, particularly towards the end of the round. Aside from the 10th and 18th, the back nine is set in a secluded and picturesque forest of tall natives and tea-tree, while the front nine loops around the wetlands and two major lakes.
Course designer Ross Watson describes the experience of golf at Horizons as ‘full of surprises with most holes separate and well camouflaged from the others by the remnant tea-tree.’ He adds that the holes are ‘individual by design and therefore very memorable but the overlying memory is the need to be in control of one's game due to the nature and proximity of the tea-tree and the ocean breezes which cool the course daily’.
One of the better holes at Horizons is the 8th, a delightfully indigenous short hole measuring just 153 metres. Thick marshland surrounds the green and runs along the right side of the hole while head high weedy waste lies between tee and green. Short therefore is not an option and three menacing pot bunkers to the left of the green wait to catch those playing too far away from the marsh.
The back nine begins with a nice long par four played over water to a peninsula fairway bending left around the courses main lake. The drive played close to the water will leave a fairly straightforward approach into a long green, which abuts the 16th green. In true resort style the final hole runs alongside a voracious water hazard which eats into the right side of the green. Measuring a little over 300 metres and with resort guests and fellow golfers enjoying views out over the green, the potential for great theatre at this concluding hole is evident from the tee. Despite the presence of water the attacking option is extremely enticing as an aggressive and straight drive sets up a realistic birdie chance.
In many regards this finale reflects the very nature of the Horizons course itself. A genuine test of your game, the hazards are conspicuous and the best plan of attack apparent, making the challenge fair to golfers of all abilities. Most refreshingly the course does not go to great pains to ensure that the battle for each birdie is to the death.