Not to get mistaken with its US namesake course, Australia’s Pacific Dunes is a little beauty. Still in its infancy, the outstanding Port Stephens venue has already established itself as having one of NSW’s finest and fiercest tests of golf.
In the last decade, Pacific Dunes has risen up the ranks currently 26th in Golf Australia’s Top 100 Public Access Courses and almost cracking the top 50 in Australian Golf Digest’s biannual course rankings.
THE STORY BEHIND PACIFIC DUNES
When course designer James Wilcher first rocked up to survey the land, there wasn’t anything special about it. Formerly an old rustic mine, the area had a few native species planted around, but still remained a semi-cleared, partially open paddock.
Wilcher admits that he “pretty much manufactured [the course] out of the swamp” blending the landscape palate with the golf element. This is seen with the old Angophoras trees on the front nine providing the quintessential Australian bushland backdrop,
Since it opened in 2005, Pacific Dunes has been one of the most sought-after venues in the Hunter. The addition of the Green House Bar & Eatery in 2016 has created the perfect 19th hole for golfers to kick back at following a splendid round.
THE PACIFIC DUNES COURSE
What’s not to love about Pacific Dunes. You have the lush Santa Ana couch fairways, one of the purest putting surfaces in Australia, a range of risk and reward opportunities for the daring golfers, and easier alternatives for the cautious hacker.
The Pacific Dunes experience begins with a unique approach to a shared green on the 1st. Then there is the stunning par-3 5th – a beautifully designed one-shotter that demands accuracy from the tee. Anything to the left will fall in the sand, anything to the right will fall in the water.
The first few holes here can make or break your round. It starts with the par-5 11th, where you have to tee off with something less than a driver as a discrete pond cuts the fairway in half – most learn about its presence the hard way.
The hardest on the card, the 13th, is up next. While you might laugh when you see a wide open fairway from the tee, beware the approach. The green is deceptively long and runs off into the water behind and to the right of the flag, whilst on the left you have to avoid the sand.
THE SIGNATURE HOLE
The 10th hole is considered Pacific Dunes’ signature. It is the shortest par-4 on the course, but don’t think a birdie (or par) will come easy.
The first challenge comes from the tee, as a creek cuts the fairway around 150 metres into the hole. Next up is a nervous wedge shot to the green. Distance control is key as anything too long will be lost in the bushland, anything too short and you will hear a splash as your ball lands.
DID YOU KNOW
Course designer James Wilcher was a former member of the Greg Norman design team. His most famed contributions include Laguna Bintan in Indonesia, and WA’s The Cut.
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