Terrey Hills Golf & Country Club
(Private) 116 Booralie Road, Terrey Hills; 011-612-9450-0155. Yardage: 7,085. Par: 72. Rating: 75. Architect: Graham Marsh. Green Fees: $77-$91.
T&L GOLF Rating: ****
The Hills are alive and in excellent condition. The front nine plays through vibrant eucalyptus groves, while the links-style back side is as tough as the old brick quarry it's built on. Koalas resting in the trees have been spotted in between the nines, but don't expect to nap through this ball-gobbling track. Seventeen, for instance, is a real scorcher; a layup off the tee to avoid a lake will leave two-hundred yards or more to a well-bunkered green. Oh, one more thing: Save your biggest Bertha for the course's deadly brown snakes.
The resort-strewn circus comprising Queensland's Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast (a.k.a. Golf Coast) offers some standout courses, but few that are distinctly Australian. That's why it's worth heading north to use Cairns as a base of operations. There you'll discover some unusual, first-rate links, wild rain forests and the greatest reef on earth.
Turtle Point, Laguna Quays Resort
Kunapipi Springs Road, Midge Point, The Whitsundays; 011-617-4947-7777. Yardage: 7,003. Par: 72. Rating: 73. Architects: David Graham and Gary Panks. Green Fees: $28-$34.
T&L GOLF Rating: *****
Drive the seven hours from Cairns or hop a short flight to get to what many pros consider to be Australia's finest resort course. Turtle Point's magic unfolds slowly, with a few easy opening tee shots, but then it begins to reward risks. U.S. Open winner David Graham made each hole a unique experience, with stretches running through rain forest, across open bushland, over water and up and down hills. Keep an eye out for the odd albatross flying by overhead. The resort itself is on the mainland right by the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands, which have some of the best sailing, snorkeling and fishing in all of Australia.
Paradise Palms Golf Course
Paradise Palms Drive, Clifton Beach, Cairns; 011-617-4059-1166. Yardage: 7,251. Par: 72. Rating: 76. Architects: Graham Marsh and Ross Watson. Green Fee: $57.
T&L GOLF Rating: ****
Set at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the punishing Paradise Palms was built on the site of a former sugarcane plantation and is framed by a dramatic rain-forest range and the Coral Sea. The course is long and lush, and the typical humidity can curl the hair on a nine iron. The air may be sweet with mango and frangipani, but the first hole, an endless double-dogleg par five, slams the door on thoughts of paradise. After driving across a pesky creek, you need to battle bunkers, encroaching jungle and the foothill of a mountain only to arrive at a green as long and skinny as the carpet pythons that occasionally slither by. The par-three seventh is a crowd-pleaser, featuring an elevated tee and an all-grass island green. A constantly varied and compelling challenge.
Links Golf Club
Old Port Road, Port Douglas; 011-617-4087-2222. Yardage: 6,737. Par: 71. Rating: 72. Architect: Michael Wolveridge. Green Fee: $51.
T&L GOLF Rating: ***
Ah, a day on the Links! Fierce rain, guys in kilts and—a crocodile named Nancy!?Yes, Australia is different. Perhaps the only links-style course through a rain forest on earth, this recently opened wonder is a rollicking spectacle on reclaimed coastal country near the Coral Sea, an open and undulating romp cooled by fragrant sea breezes. Watch out for the lily ponds that line the eleventh. Study the greens, too—they play like large, upturned saucers. Run by U.S. course management giant ClubCorp (Pinehurst), Links makes Americans feel right at home.
The Best Of The Rest
If you can get access, play straight through Melbourne's Sand Belt, from Mackenzie-designed Kingston Heath (011-613-9551-1955) and minimalist jewel Huntingdale (011-613-9579-4622) to the perfectly manicured Metropolitan (011-613-9579-3122). Anglesea (011-613-5263-1951) is where mobs of kangaroos go to see and be seen. The premier Gold Coast destination is The Links at Hope Island Resort (011-617-5530-9000), but neighboring Lakelands Golf Club (011-617-5579-8700), a Jack Nicklaus design, also adds local luster. Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s layout at the Hyatt Regency Coolum Resort (011-617-5446-1234) is the Sunshine Coast's toughest. Nearby Novotel Twin Waters Resort (011-617-5450-9594) is a challenging place to play while the kids are in the pool. Out west, near Perth, hit the phenomenal Vines Resort (011-618-9297-0777). It's more fun than a bunker of wallabies.