‘An instant links was born’. Michael Wolveridge
Following their subtropical manufactured links at Twin Waters came Hope Island on the Gold Coast and the opportunity for Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge to repeat the dose, this time for a prominent Japanese client with an enormous budget. The client, Mr. Isutani, had purchased a dairy farm near Sanctuary Cove, which was flat and devoid of natural feature and located over marine clays. As Wolveridge explains he ‘naturally wanted the best course in Australia and though we indicated the land was poor, he replied the budget was good and suggested we do a links course like Twin Waters. We jumped at the chance to do another ‘manufactured links’’.
Hope Island was an enormous project with the entire 50-hectare site raised at least two metres to protect the course from flooding. When a good clay deposit was found alongside the 18th fairway, some 1.2 million cubic metres was mined to build the links, leaving an enormous lake more than 20 metres deep. The clay was then overlaid with sand dredged from the nearby Coomera River. The arduous task of laying these foundations was vital to the concepts eventual success with the designers then able to build fairways with hard, running undulation without the fear of sodden grasses. They were also able to shape the landscape with an unlimited imagination, and to encourage a natural links appearance on a very unnatural site.
The result is quite pleasing, a traditional looking course in a sub-tropical setting with enough good holes to keep most players entertained. An abundance of water may disturb staunch aficionados but the thick tussocks of rough, penal pot bunkering, large moderate greens and carefully crafted humps and hollows throughout the wide fairways help to create that British feel. The traditional style works well on the opening holes where there are few interruptions from a bustling outside world. An integrated residential resort built around parts of the back nine, whilst unobtrusive, can be slightly distracting.
Among the highlights are the par five’s, each tackling the wind from a different angle. The first two are especially memorable with the 2nd bending around a lake but otherwise an authentic links hole with wonderfully positioned pot bunkers and a raised green of immense proportions. The 8th is another fine five where the mighty can get home in two but along the way must avoid a series of devilishly tough bunkers that were inspired by the Principal’s Nose at St. Andrews.
On the back nine, the huge hazard down the left side of the long 18th dominates the finish to the round although keeping dry is not your only concern with more than eleven pot bunkers waiting to catch anything too ambitious. Other decent holes include the wetlands hole at 13 and the bump and run par four 15th. The long water carry par three 17th, which takes you from St. Andrews to Sawgrass, is a throw back to the sort of resort golf you’ll find elsewhere on the Gold Coast.
Hope Island is living proof of the fickleness of public perception having ridden a roller coaster of critical acclaim and analysis since opening back in 1993. Initially hailed as the nation’s greatest resort course, the industry seemed to turn cold when the resort struggled to cope with maintenance issues born out of its humid environment. A change of ownership in 2000 brought a renewed resolve to restore the standard of course conditioning, with particular focus on the greens. All eighteen were re-surfaced with a more robust 328 Bermuda grass and the new fast and true surfaces are again among the best on the Coast.
Despite a number of subsequent projects on much better land, the 'Links' at Hope Island remains one of the best courses in the Thomson, Wolveridge and Perrett portfolio. It still doesn't really make sense to build a links style course in such a hot and humid location, but for a break from the standard resort fare available elsewhere on the Gold Coast this is a good option.
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