Sea Temple Golf Course
One course, two perspectives...
Peter Thomson is an unabashed fan of links golf, and he and his partners have always been passionate advocates for the charms of the ground game. A throwaway criticism of their work is that they spent much of the 1980s and ’90s building monuments to the great links of Britain, but often on sites unsuitable for that style of design.
Exhibit A in the argument against TWP (now TP thanks to the departure of Michael Wolveridge) is the Sea Temple course in Port Douglas. Built within the North Queensland tropics, this crumpled, bumpy links-looking layout takes a nice picture but is one of the most unsatisfying resort golf experiences in the state for those who actually enjoy traditional links golf.
A North Queensland cane farm is about as removed from the fertile links ground of Scotland as one could possibly imagine, yet lead designer Wolveridge decided to inject all sorts of random humps and undulations into his fairways and greens here, presumably in the hope it would encourage golfers to discover their inner-Scot and continually bump their ball along the ground. The problem in this case is that the tropical conditions prevent the course superintendent from preparing the sort of tight, bouncy turf needed to encourage a running approach. Invariably golfers bypass all the undulation and instead play simple aerial shots into the soft, spongy greens.
This is a nice property and the routing is reasonably solid, but the physical design doesn’t work at all because holes that look firm and interesting are actually soft and repetitive. Plus unlike Scotland, all you need around the greens here is a lob wedge.
While there is nothing like a true links experience, sadly Sea Temple is nothing like a true links experience.
– Darius Oliver
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery then TWP deserves credit not admonishment for attempting to bring links golf to the most un-linksy land imaginable.
Sultry Port Douglas was never going to be able to accommodate true links golf as we have come to know and love it. The climate is far too prohibitive and the surfaces simply can’t be managed in the same fashion. Yet mimicking the links theme in such a foreign environment adds to the appeal for everyday players.
The holidaying golfer staying in a nearby resort won’t care a hoot that the course isn’t straight from Scotland or Ireland (where I bet they never get to play in 30-plus-degree weather with roaming drinks carts). No, instead they’re going to relish touring a layout that’s links-like in nature and didn’t require them to cross the equator to play it.
Sea Temple actually toned down its links characteristics a few years after it opened in 2000. In my opinion the softening of the course’s long par-3 sixth hole – where a woolly, manmade burn used to meander in front of the green and wrap around its edge – was a mistake. The burn should have stayed. OK, so the hole measures 192 metres from the tips and few golfers could navigate a straightforward path over or around it, but to me the burn was essential to the course’s image of replicating links land. If you’re going to imitate links golf then go ahead and do it in full.
Queensland is littered with resort-style golf courses. Breaking the ‘rules’ to bring a links layout to the tropics, even if it’s not strictly a links, is a refreshing difference.
– Steve Keipert