Hamilton Island Golf Club

Dent Island, AUSTRALIA

Story by Sam Gole, Discover Golf Magazine

Hamilton Island is the gateway to the magnificent Whitsundays. It has been an idyllic holiday setting for generations, with yachting, fishing and water sports for visitors from across the globe. Hamilton Island Golf Club opened in 2009 and located on neighbouring Dent Island. Right from the outset, you will sense it is a special place, and for those seeking a unique golfing experience, you won’t be disappointed. After all, how many courses can boast their own island, and the only method of transportation to the clubhouse by ferry or helicopter?

As you approach Dent Island, the imposing terrain that rises around 150 metres from the sea is both remarkable and unmistakable. This is not your standard palm-fringed, white, sandy beach island retreat. Rather, Dent Island is goat country. The majority of the island is covered in bedrock and hilly terrain, and it’s difficult to fathom a golf course can live here.

The golf club is a credit to the current owners of Hamilton Island—the Oatley family—and their vision to create one of the most picturesque golf courses in the world. It is simply breathtaking.

The 378-metre par four 13th—where you experience 360-degree views from the plateau fairway—has a vista unrivalled in this country. Take your time to digest the vivid and varying colours of the Coral Sea, as well as the majesty of a panoramic seascape including mountainous islands and the Australian mainland.

For those coming to the island looking for a suitable challenge, the Thomson/Perrett design team has prepared three tee positions on each hole. Anyone, from the seasoned golf professional to the one-game-a-year resort guest, can tackle this beauty with a measured sense of fairness. It’s an element sure to attract you back time and again.

The par 71 course measures 6120 metres from the championship tees. Although modest in length by modern day standards, the true challenge lies in course elevation, tight landing areas, and the ever-present sea breezes.

Designed as a series of holes strung along the ridges and played across steep valleys, each hole is lined by indigenous trees and natural vegetation. Nearly every hole has views out to the Coral Sea—views that will completely captivate you.

Selecting a favourite or signature hole at many courses is often an easy decision—there’s usually a standout. But at Hamilton Island, there’s as many as nine that could claim that fame with picture-postcard appeal.

Each par three is a feature off the course, and many people rate the 14th as the pick of the bunch—it is brilliant. At 150 metres from the back tee, it isn’t long, but there is little room for error with the green surrounded by thick ball-grabbing bush. The views here are extraordinary and spending some time at the viewing platform adjacent to the tee is a must.

Personally, the 4th hole is one of the most stunning par threes I’ve seen anywhere. The highest point on the northern end of the course, this demanding hole is framed by expansive views of the Whitsunday Channel and a panorama of the course itself. At 175 metres off the back, you must fire a tee shot through a prevailing crosswind to a green guarded by a deep ravine short and left. Choose your club carefully.

Another hole expressing plenty of beauty of a different nature, is the 2nd. This 379-metre par four is encompassed by dense natural vegetation, and is a showcase of what to expect once you stray off the fairway during a round. Remember, there’s more room off the tee than it appears. Take an extra club on your approach to the green as it sits slightly higher than the tee box—the distance is a little deceiving.

Amazingly, with the immense water in view on most holes, the only time you actually have to navigate an aquatic hazard is on your approach to the 9th green. This 379-metre par four is rated the second hardest on the stroke index. This dogleg-right is a fine way to round off a challenging, scenic and naturally beautiful front nine.

The terrain on the Dent Island course is ever-changing. One moment you’re ascending steep rises to plateau fairways or tee boxes, and the next you’re perched on top of the world gazing down upon a fairway or green. All the way around you’re left wondering what lies next—surely it couldn’t get better? But is does.

For whatever you have encountered on the front nine, it is but an entree to what greets you on the way back in. The stretch from holes 13 to 18 is particularly impressive. Like a punchline is to a joke, these holes present the course’s knockout blow and wow-factor. I can’t recall a stretch of holes on another course like it—each hole could rightfully be regarded as the signature hole.

My pick must be the 387-metre par four 15th. As you play the preceding hole and witness the full scope of what lies ahead, you’ll see why it’s rated the hardest hole on the course.

No doubt intimidation plays a large hand on this hole in defeating the nervous golfer—I, too, succumbed to its pressure. The hole sits on a narrow peninsula heading off to the southern most point of the golf course. Most players will stand on the tee frozen with the fear of sending a ball off on a kamikaze mission. It’s a great hole.

The 18th is yet another brilliant hole. From an elevated tee you really have the opportunity to launch your drive and get one back on the course. Although the longest par four at 421 metres, it plays relatively short due the fall in altitude from tee to green. A birdie is certainly on the cards here, and what a way to finish an incredible day’s golf.

From the arrival by ferry (or helicopter) to the course’s natural bushland appeal, and to the unparalleled panoramic scenes of the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island Golf Club is truly unique, offering an awe-inspiring golfing experience. The course is golf heaven, and must be a new inclusion on all avid golfers wishlist of dream courses to play.

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