Play a round on Hamilton Island
WOW! That word came out of my lips before I knew it as I saw the fourth hole at the Hamilton Island Golf Club.
It definitely wasn't the first time that had happened to a golfer on the 12-month-old Peter Thomson-designed layout and you could just about guarantee it occurs to every first-timer after they make the long climb, via motorised cart, from the third green.
The 175m par-three heads in the direction of the mainland.
From where you stand on the tee, all you can see behind the green is the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean, maybe a sailing boat, and the forest-lined hills behind.
It's one of the most impressive views in Australian golf and finding the target with your tee shot, which hangs above a ravine as it travels through the tropical air, gives you a huge thrill.
The owners of the Hamilton course, which is actually located on nearby Dent Island, knew they were on to a good thing when they built the fourth.
Club professional Cherie Byrnes was one of the first to see the hole and knew straight away that she was making the right move when she decided to link up with the club.
“They took me out to the fourth when I was interviewing for the position,” the former tour pro from NSW said.
“The course was still being constructed but the fourth was there.
“I was blown away.”
What Cherie didn't know then was that the fourth is probably not the most spectacular of the 18 holes at Hammo.
There are ocean and island views throughout the layout, but none better than the remarkable three-hole stretch from the 14th to the 16th.
There is so much to see on these three, located on the eastern edge of the island, that the club regularly takes tour groups of non-golfers out to see them after they have enjoyed a lunch in the clubhouse.
The trio begins with a par-three whose tee, perched at the top of a cliff with crashing waves below, is reached by the lengthy wooden boardwalk, another regular feature of the resort course.
Ahead of you is a 150m hole, often played downwind.
The challenge is to make sure your ball clears the tree-filled canyon – about 120m wide – and doesn't disappear forever.
Then it's on to the long par-four 15th, which starts from an elevated tee and stretches out like a gangplank to the very eastern tip of Dent.
Make sure you walk up to the back tee, even if you have had a tough day and your ball supply is getting dangerously low (you can always call the clubhouse for more ammo). Hit a good drive and then start counting.
Your ball will be in the air for several seconds before it reaches the ground.
The 150m par-three 16th was my favourite hole of all – and not just because I managed a birdie.
It hugs a cliff's edge and plays back in the direction of the Hamilton marina and Front Street.
Guarding the green is a pile of boulders to the right and the hill to the left.
Once again, over the back is dead.
Like the 14th, it often plays downwind and you must take that into account when choosing a club.
The views aren't quite so special at the 17th, but they return when you get to the final hole – a long, downhill par-four heading back to the clubhouse.
There's no denying Thomson and his team have produced a tough golf course, especially if the wind is up and it's the first time you've played there.
There are a number of blind shots and the greens were a little bumpy as they struggled with a fungus issue a few weeks ago.
On the way back to Hamilton on the golf club's ferry – the 10-minute ride across the channel is the only way you can get to the course – I had a chat to a couple of golfers who had tested their skills on the course for the first time.
“We lost 22 balls,” said one gent.
“So what's the front nine like?”
They had only played the last nine holes.
But they didn't feel embarrassed about what had just taken place. They loved the place.
I reckon you would too.
Hamilton Island Golf Club green fees: $150 for 18 holes, $100 for nine holes (includes cart and ferry transfer).
Equipment hire: Clubs start at $40 per player, shoes $15 per player.
Par: 71 (6120 metres).
Stay and play packages: Stay three or four nights with one round of golf and one massage, from $705 per person or stay three or four nights with a round of golf from $628pp.
Clubhouse lunch: $59 for two courses.
Website: hamiltonislandgolf club.com.au.