SET at the foot of the McPherson Ranges some 90 kilometres from both Brisbane and the Gold Coast, The Kooralbyn Valley (resort and golf course) is the one inland golf experience you won’t want to miss.
The serene and distinctive beauty of its 18 holes is a complete departure from coastal resort courses.
It’s a credit to Scottish course designer Desmond Muirhead that the spell cast by Kooralbyn’s lovely surroundings is not broken by the golf course itself.
Muirhead described it as “one of the best pieces of land I had been given to work with; it reminded me of the marvellous country at Glen Eagles in Scotland”.
Each hole is deliberately charming at Kooralbyn – greens and fairways are thoughtfully framed by Australian native trees, valleys, ravines and lakes.
On any given day, this is a natural and tranquil Australian bushland setting.
At 6471m off the championship tees, The Kooralbyn Valley National is a stern and stunning test of championship golf.
It’s where Adam Scott and Jason Day honed their skills while attending the Kooralbyn International School ahead of a move to the PGA Tour and golfing fame.
Greg Norman and the late, great Norman von Nida too had an association with Kooralbyn when it first opened in 1979.
The Von said of Kooralbyn: “There should be one like this in heaven.”
He knew a thing or two when he said this as he served as the facility’s teaching professional for many years.
According to The Von, the layout provides one arresting challenge after another.
Of course, golfers can choose the degree of difficulty they are comfortable with by playing from the blue, white or red tee blocks.
Irrespective of your choice, there is a lovely rhythm to the course despite it having totally different nines.
The outward half resembles a Scottish loop with each hole completely separate; golfers are in a world of their own as no holes are parallel.
Because the front nine weaves its way through valley and ravines, accuracy off the tee is paramount.
The course progresses with a persuasive logic, the opening holes gradually giving way to the more muscular and dramatic section of the course.
The second nine plays through the basin of the valley with more generous fairways, however, 25 acres of water come into play.
It’s target golf at its best.
The course has only 49 bunkers – nature creating the majority of the playing hazards with deep gullies and rolling fairways.
The excitement begins with a relatively straight-forward 347m par-4 named The Packer, after the late Kerry Packer who was a frequent visitor.
From here, the golf course builds steadily to a crescendo of great finishing holes.
The 355m par-4 third, called “Blind Faith”, funnels up to the green, which is invisible from the tee.
The fifth hole is where you shoot with the camera first and your club of choice second.
There is a kind of aesthetic climax at the fifth – the oh-so-aptly named “Eagles Nest” – an exquisitely natural 220m par-3 in which the golfer finds himself secluded from the rest of the course by a narrow valley of trees and native bush.
It’s a hole you want to keep looking at and its beauty sends a chill up your spine.
There’s a spectacular 33m drop from tee to green. The green is closely guarded by bunkers left and right making this one of Kooralbyn’s most memorable holes.
Shark Attack! That’s the name of the 482m par-5 seventh hole.
It’s a daunting challenge featuring a 160m ravine carry from the tee, then doglegs right to a difficult green.
Named after the Shark (Greg Norman) this hole can bite.
The 354m par-4 10th requires a long drive (180m) over Kent Lake. Find the fairway and it’s a mid-iron to the green on the edge of the lake.
The course ends with four more absorbing holes of great variety.
They begin with the toughest hole on the course.
The 410m par-4 hole is unmistakably named “Twin Lakes”. This hole asks questions like: “Do I risk firing a 180m carry over the first lake or do I lay-up and aim for a bogey?”
The 391m 16th is used as the longest drive hole during the Copperhead Challenge, which is played weekly and from the tiger tees.
The 17th – named “Ruin or Make Your Day”, after Jason Day – is a 182-m par-3 over water.
It’s 160m to fly the water to a tight, undulating green guarded by menacing bunkers.
The hole is described as iconic and majestic.
Garry Doolan, who won the 1981 Queensland Open at Kooralbyn, has fond memories of the 17th.
“I hit a 3-iron to the green, made par and went on the win the Open,” he told Inside Golf. “What a great hole.”
After surviving the 17th, the 18th – “The Last Thrill” – may look menacing with its two fairway bunkers and water hazard and water behind the green, but those who bear down and concentrate can end the round on a high note.
The reward is a cold drink on the deck overlooking an inviting pool.
After checking the scorecard, you’ll want to immediately book in for another round.
The pro shop is a nice surprise – a shop that isn’t garish but provides for golfers’ needs (apparel and all the golfing accessories like golf balls, gloves, tees, etc.)
The Kooralbyn Valley is the perfect getaway for play-and-stay.
Located in the heart of the Scenic Rim, it’s the perfect place to stay.
The resort has 130 rooms including the Packer Lodge not far from the main resort building.
It’s perfect for families as well as small and large golfing groups and the good news is The Kooralbyn Valley offers packages to suit all budgets.
The premium in-room amenities include luxurious queen and king beds, built-in robes, air conditioning, 43” flat screen TVs, mini-safe, in-room WiFi, robes, slippers, bar cabinets, stone benchtop vanities with make-up station/ writing desk, tea and coffee-making facilities, private balconies and spacious bathrooms.
Room sizes vary from 30m² to 100m², some with twin sofa beds, corner deep soak baths, striking panoramic views alternating between the famous golf course, the pool and surrounding Kooralbyn Valley landscape.
Lillies Restaurant Bar and Grill is within the resort.
It’s open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and à la carte dinners.
It’s here you can try local produce dishes whilst enjoying stunning view across the grounds and golf course through floor to ceiling windows.
Then there is the Pavilion Tavern located 400 metres from the main resort building.
It’s open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and is home to mini golf, a children’s playground and bowling green.
There’s even a shuttle service available.
So, go on, spoil yourself and head for The Kooralbyn Valley.
THE KOORALBYN VALLEY FACT FILE
Getting there: From Brisbane go southwest to Beaudesert and follow the Mount Lindesay Highway to the Kooralbyn Road turnoff on the right. That will lead you to the resort. From the Gold Coast head west to Beaudesert and follow the Mount Lindesay Highway to the Kooralbyn Road turnoff. That will lead you to the resort.
Course description: The front nine plays through valleys while the back nine brings into play plenty of water.
Course designer: Scottish golf architect Desmond Muirhead.
Area: The golf course covers 430 acres.
The first: Kooralbyn was the first golf resort built in Australia. It opened for play in 1979.
Green fees including cart hire: $60 Mon-Fri and $80 weekends and public holidays. Prices include motorised golf cart, twin share. Group discounts (20+ players) 18 holes Mon-Fri $50; weekends and public holidays $65.
Club hire: $40 for 18 holes and $20 for nine.
Tuesday vets comp (over 50s): $40 includes comp fee, green fee and cart hire.
Range balls: Small bucket (50 balls) $8; large (100 balls) $12.
Public access: Golfers welcomed daily.
Practice facilities: Driving range, putting green and practice bunker.
Pro shop: Apparel and golfing accessories (balls, gloves, tees, etc).
Food and drink: Bar and tea and coffee available.
The one shot you need: Accuracy off the tee.
Length of course: Championship 6471m; white tees 6065m; red tees 5582m; social tees 4758m.
Toughest hole: 410m par-4 15th.
Best birdie chance: 446m par-5 18th.
Scenic value: The 220m par-3 fifth from its elevated tee. The green lies in a basin 33m below.
Ammunition quota: Ability comes into play. If water makes you nervous, grab two sleeves from the pro shop.
Watch out for: The abundance of native birdlife and kangaroo population.
Don’t leave home without it: Camera.
Don’t miss: The restaurant menu.
Play-and-stay: Accommodation is available in the resort’s 130-room The Kooralbyn Valley. Family suites to twin rooms. The Packer Lodge, 400m from the main resort building, has 30 rooms – two king singles per room.
Conference facilities: The Conference Centre can accommodate 200 people for corporate and social golf and functions.
Weddings: The Kooralbyn Valley is a popular wedding venue. It even has its own chapel and beautiful backdrops for photographs.
What’s in a name? Kooralbyn is a Yugambeh word meaning the place of the copperhead snake.
Area attractions: Explore the region’s many other attractions within an easy tourist drive following the rim road surrounding the resort including Wyaralong Dam, Maroon Dam, Mt Maroon, Mt Barney, Mt Lindesay, Vineyards, Camel Farm, Olive Farm and Robotic Dairy Farm.