Nth Queensland Golf
Far north Queensland has always been a favourite destination for golfers and the winter months of freezing cold in the southern states makes any of us think about heading to the sun, but what golf course is the best to visit and where should you stay?
There are several answers to these questions, but after visiting north Queensland for the past 20 years, I can honestly say that Port Douglas is still the place to stay and play. The reason is, the options. The accommodation in the Port Douglas area ranges from the very inexpensive, all the way to the lavish and ridiculous. This suits everybody! Backpackers and caravan parks are plentiful in the area and most are close to town so there is no need to hire a car to get around. The more expensive resorts are also right close to the main street so again, no car needed. The bars, shops and restaurants are also only dotted along the main street so no car needed.
But, the golf courses are not in town so I will need a car to play. Not true! The shuttle service in and around Port Douglas is incredible. You can catch the one that just runs along the street and for $2 you can get just about anywhere you want. If you make a call to the custom services though, $5 will get you door to door service at both of the Port Douglas golf courses. Yes, there are 2 courses outside that area and if you want to play them, you should hire a car, but just for a day and that can cost you as little as $50.
So, where should you be playing? Let's start with the courses outside of Port. The first is Paradise Palms. This is the premier golf course in the Cairns/Port Douglas area. It is different to the other golf courses in the area because it was purpose built to be a stand alone resort course. Grand in it's plans, it has never really lived up to the initial hype and apparently, it is up for sale again, but it still has the best and most difficult golf course attached to it. The mixture of length, jungle, water hazards and small tight greens make this course a brutal challenge from the back tees. If you don't enjoy hitting long irons to greens I suggest you play from the white tees instead of the blues. Some of the par 3's off the blues are close to 200 meters and across some very interesting ravine style rocky outcrops. The dense and thick jungle along the sides of some fairways are not worth going into to look for balls. Do yourself a favour, just give up on it and hit another. The movement in the jungle will make the bravest of us think twice about going any further. If you manage to break 80 around this course, you have had a good day out.
Going north of Port Douglas, you will find the easiest and the cheapest option for golfers, Mossman GC. There are plenty of locals that will tell you that playing Mossman is a waste of time, but I would never say that. Mossman golf club is a great little challenge and although the front nine holes will make you yawn a little, you need to make your score here because the back nine will bite you. The back is the more interesting challenge and some of the holes go though some very tall tree lined rainforest style terrain that will swallow a wayward drive in an instant. The lack of elevation in some of the greens make it hard to choose a club and most will find they come up short often. The greens are also very small so you will need to be accurate to score well. A very cheap green fee rate will make you smile as well. Worth the trip there.
That brings us to the 2 premier golf courses in Port Douglas. The first is the Palmer Sea Reef course. This used to be the Peppers resort course, but was taken over by Clive Palmer. If you ask me, the course has gone backwards since. It's more of an open style links course on the front nine and a little tree lined on the back, but nothing really difficult. It's probably one of the easier golf courses in the area because you can hit it wild from the tee and just about always find your ball. Other than the water hazards of course, where you would be stupid to go poking around the crocodiles. You would have to hit it pretty badly to end up them though. From the long tees it's only 6135m and if you can navigate the reasonably flat greens, you can take this place apart. It is still worth the trip to go and play there, but some of the finishing touches have really gone downhill. The cart I took out had a smashed sand bottle that had seen better days, the icebox on the side of the cart was gone and replaced by a zipper cooler bag that all zips were broken on and was tied on with string. The signage around the course is now faded and cracking in the hot Queensland sun as well. Don't get me wrong, the golf course is in great condition, but it lacks the polish that it once had. Must be something to do with the lack of polish of its owner these days. Just a thought.
The other course close to town is the Mirage Country Club. This Christopher Skase built monstrosity has seen better days. The resort looks tired in spots and the half way house/shopping district within the resort is now just empty shops. The cart paths have cracks all around them and the empty houses along the course sometimes make you feel a little sad, but the course itself will do its best to make you feel better. I played the course some years ago last and the back nine was almost dead and buried. I'm happy to say that the golf course has made a miraculous recovery. The resort may be falling down around it, but the Country Club part of it is pulling it's weight. They have lowered their fees and even lowered their membership for the locals as well. This has caused plenty that were members at Palmer's course to jump ship and join Mirage. The influx of cash has been spent on the course and it is once again the best course in Port Douglas. I was actually dreading the back nine when I started my round, but it ended up being the best part of the course. The 10th, 11th and 12th were a little boring, but after that the course was spectacular and I am told that if you go out from the 1st after 9am, you have a great chance of seeing a croc or 2 on the back nine sunning themselves in the water hazards.
Mirage Country Club - A Must play 4 stars
Paradise Palms - Worth the car hire price 4 stars
Palmer Sea Reef - An option for a change of pace 3 stars
Mossman - Great budget course 3 stars
To sum up, Port Douglas is the best place to stay if you just want to relax. Stress free, great food, many things to do close by, amazing beach, plenty of attractions out on the reef. The 2 golf courses in town are both worth playing and if you stay a week, play Mirage twice and Sea Reef once. If you want a day out, hire a car and get to Paradise Palms. you can't really go wrong with any of them and the sunshine will remind you why you are there in the first place. Thaw out for winter and take your clubs. Play all 4 if you have time, they don't disappoint. Happy holidays.