Christopher Skase had a chequered career as a business tycoon, but he certainly left his mark on the sleepy fishing village at Port Douglas.
He transformed it to the swish international tropical getaway it is today
The centrepiece of his plan was the Mirage Country Club with the luxury resort set right on the magnificent Four Mile Beach.
The accompanying Mirage Marina soon filled up with luxury yachts.
And the golf course was a regular on our TV screens back in the day with the annual skins event being telecast around the world.
The course was designed by Thomson & Wolveridge and opened for play in 1987.
Mike Wolveridge lived the latter part of his life in Port Douglas, and also designed the nearby Palmer Sea Reef course
Some years ago Wolveridge was brought out of retirement by the new Chinese owners to give the course a much needed facelift.
He continued to advise Mirage until his untimely death in March 2020.
His starting point was the greens, which were looking a little tired.
At the time of his passing he had redesigned and overseen the construction of new greens at hole 1 & 5, and two permanent additional greens.
These add-ons enabled longer holes to be played as two short holes- thus enabling the club to take other holes out of play while they were being refurbished.
The new greens are a distinct improvement- I was particularly impressed with the new 18th green.
Mike Wolveridge also left plans before his death for a new 5th green which is under construction at the time of writing..
Mirage Country Club is a tale of two nines
The front nine is on the beach side of the highway surrounding the resort accommodation.
The back nine is on the clubhouse side of the road in the mangroves.
Overall the course features 6 par 3's, 6 par 4's and 6 par 5's.
Their is very little elevation change throughout the property, but it matters little
On the front nine the course winds through some magnificent tropical rainforest with a couple of holes right on the beach.
The huge ancient trees frame the holes majestically.
You need to be straight as some of the holes are very tight in places.
In the back nine the fairways are wider with water hazards and palm trees determining the lines of play
Unfortunately Christopher Skase ran out of money after construction of the first nine and declined to bring in the sand base needed- so the back nine is clay based in the mangroves- not perfect for turf maintenance in a tropical climate.
Nevertheless the back nine has it's own charm and uses the water hazards and bunkering to keep players on their toes.
Throughout the course the greens are raised and require deft iron play.
The back nine finishes with "The Croc Trap"- three challenging holes with water, bunkers and palm trees waiting to punish any false shot..
I preferred the front nine, which I thought had real character.
Even though a number of holes run right along the beach, I would label the front nine as a parkland course.
But I really loved those big old trees!
Notable holes include:
- hole 2, a pretty par 3 defined by the huge trees
- hole 3, a wonderful par 5 running along the beach
- hole 4, a unique short par 4 with a scarily small gap in the trees to negotiate for the approach
- hole 6, another pretty par 3 in a parkland setting which is again defined by those imposing trees
- hole 7, a short par 4 with a strategically placed palm tree to be avoided on the approach to an elevated green
- hole 13, an island green par 3
- hole 15, an attractive par 3 with water to carry off the tee and mangroves lurking behind the green (see pic mid page)
- hole 17, a tough longer par 4 with water dominating the landscape off the tee. An accurate tee shot is a must
- hole 18, a mid length par 3 over water to a difficult green with a sharp false front and movement aplenty
Port Douglas is one of my favourite destinations in the world.
Beautiful beaches and climate, fabulous restuarants and world class activities combine very nicely with a couple of games of golf at Mirage and Palmer Sea Reef.
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For suggested destinations see: Golf Destinations- Far North Queensland
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