A new sunrise for Horizons-a golf course review

Horizons golf resort -once voted as the best resort course in NSW

Horizons was originally opened in 1992 and is a Graham Marsh/Ross Watson design. The Salamander Bay layout was carefully constructed out of wetlands and bush with consideration given to keeping open the corridors for the native wildlife. The first 10 years were wonderful and the course continued to gain attention with the NSW Open and the ANZ Championship (a European Tour co-sanctioned event)  being played there. It was voted as the best resort course in NSW.

Horizons Golf Club
The par 4 5th hole

But three owners later...

But in the noughties, trouble was brewing. The Sydney accountant who owned the property went into receivership in 2003 and the resort was bought by Korean construction company, Le Meilleur. They in turn went into receivership in 2010 and the sale of the property was blocked by Korean banks. As with all golf courses when the money gets tight, it’s the maintenance that suffers first. Fairways had become burnt out and play was on temporary greens at times. It was leased whilst in administration  but full recovery did not eventuate until local businessmen and members, Paul Rickard and Selva Saverimuttu bought the resort for $3-4 million in 2015. The golf course recently celebrated it’s rebirth by returning to the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 courses in 2020.

So what is the review now?

I first played Horizons in the 90’s. Couldn’t remember much about it except a few favourite holes like the par 3 4th. The good thing now is that fairways are beautiful couch to hit off and the greens have been restored to their best. The opening tee shot probably indicates what the rest of the course is going to be like. Lurking water to the far left, lurking ball hungry bush to the far right. But not exceptionally tight unlike it’s regional brother down the road, Pacific Dunes. It is designed to give you options if you don’t hit it dead straight but will punish profoundly if you hit the really bad shot. Unlike some other Graham Marsh and Ross Watson designs there is no over-bunkering. No bunkers are redundant nor do they discourage a bit of courage. This is a resort course , meant to be accessible and challenging for a variety of standards. It succeeds in doing this and is arguably the best layout in the Port Stephens area.

Club member Jai Kumar playing to the par 3 4th

I remember that my favourite holes from the round in the 90’s were on the front nine.  That is no longer the case. Sure there are some fine strategic holes on the front side like the par 5 3rd with OB on the immediate left and a negotiable path through bunkers and hollows to give yourself a viable third shot. There is ofcourse still the delectable par 3 4th with its surround bunkering and contouring green. There is also the options the 8th creates . It is a par 4 of 347m but bunkers lie down the middle of the fairway giving you a “Tiger line” and a more safer but longer line as another option.

However the back nine has it’s challenges and it starts off with the monster 10th of 389m hitting down a valley between bush and mounds to an uphill, large, redan positioned green.  However it is the 12th a par 4 of  344m, that illustrates the optical illusions that the course throws at the first time hitter. The large mound which hides a pot bunker at its base on the left, seems to push your tee shot to the right where another bunker awaits. It is actually not as tight as it looks. From there the journey involves more avoiding water until you come to the 17th.  A par 3 of  153m with an immediate marshland to the right and a bunker to the left. A front bunker 10m in front of the green adds to the deception of the hole. It is so good that it was included in the book “1001 golf holes to play before you die”.

Horizons Golf Club
Tee shot at the 17th

The 18th is a par 5 of 495m back to the clubhouse with water  down the left awaiting your hook (which I duly obliged). You finish a round at Horizons challenged but not beaten up. It is great to see it back to it’s former glory and now deserves to be in a Capital Bucketlist Tour to Port Stephens or the Hunter if you wish to drive down. Check out some of our ideas for  tour itineraries at our Hunter Valley and Port Stephens Tour page. We also look forward to hearing your ideas in putting a golf package to the region together.

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