Tropical golfing with crocodiles at Palmer Sea Reef in Port Douglas

“If you lose your ball in the water, don’t bother looking for it. You could lose a leg, too!”

This warning both excited me and freaked me out at the same time. Crocodiles on a golf course, are you kidding me?! I actually have read something about those incidents in Florida, but experiencing this in person, lining up a putt next to a water pond with big yellow warning signs is indeed different, believe me! Having attended a croco show at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo north of Brisbane just one or two weeks earlier, I was well aware what these creatures are capable of doing. And just to be clear, lying around doing nothing but looking scary is not what I’m talking about.

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My girlfriend and I made our way up northbounds to the tropical area of Queensland, Australia. We passed the tropical capital city of Cairns and stayed some nights in famous Port Douglas. After one day of truly amazing snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef it was golf time again!

The Palmer Sea Reef Golf Club (formerly known as the Sea Temple Golf Club) is a tropical beauty. Next to the Sheraton Mirage’s golf course, this is the second 18-hole course in Port Douglas and is supposed to be the nicer one.

John, at the Paradise Links Resort, where we were staying, was very helpful getting me ready with some clubs, a tee time and valued advice. The next morning at 6.45am I teed off on my own and remained alone on the entire course for the whole round.

The course indeed is a beautiful place to play! It has a sort of linksy character to it but enough forest and trees around to be not mistaken you are in the proper tropics. There are multiple rainforests within the compounds of the course and you hear lots of tropical birds and cockatoos welcoming the daylight. On the other hand there are no spectacular views other than mountains, forests and the new golf villas around the holes but you always have the chance to see a real crocodile – isn’t that something?!

Before I started my round, when I bought the usual club logo ball souvenir, the club manager said to me: “Please be careful. We have crocodiles on the holes 9, 11, 12,…” I should have paid more attention because I immediately forgot the holes they have crocos on, which I at some point pretty much regretted beacuse I saw the first warning signs on hole no 2 and I was very sure nobody said something about hole 2… so I figured they could be everywhere!

But anyway, the course is very beautiful as you can tell from the pictures below. It was in great shape and as I said, there were not many people playing there that day – literally nobody else really at that time.

There is water coming into play at impressive 17 holes, although some of the side water hazards were not filled with any water by the time I played there (good, no crocodiles!). The fairways felt like carpets and were lush and green. Due to some heavy rain the nights before, the turf was rather wet and I had to keep on the cart path with my vehicle at all times. That annoyed me and slowed me down quite a bit but it was fair to the course and to all the other players coming behind me, enjoying this tropical masterpiece just like I did at that time.

The course treated me well. Never having played there before, with unknown clubs and not having played much at all in the last months (except the superb round on Hamilton Island) I managed to score some very nice pars and even a birdie. That was a bit surprising because only after at least 9 holes earning confidence again, I was brave enough to tee off with the driver. On the earlier holes I used a 4-iron or the hybrid. I managed well with the driver, had some really nice shots down the fairway and attacked the green more on the second half. By then it was 8am…

On the 15th I made a bad mistake. The 10 and the 15 share one large green, which I realised when I approached the 10. Over the next holes I totally forgot about that fact and unfortunately aligned wrongly on the 15th tee, a par 3. I played a beautiful 5-iron which landed one meter next to the flag, the wrong flag that is… I realised my mistake when I approached with my cart and was not very happy about it. However I managed to get up and down with a par after one very long putt and a just a small tap-in.

On the next hole, the 16th, I had a little audience at the tee box – a family on one of the golf villas terrasses having their breakfast watched me intensively when I teed up the ball and made myself ready for the shot on that par 4. Luckily I managed to play two beautiful shots attacking the green and left the green with another par.

After my round, although I was using a cart, I was totally exhausted, was sweating like crazy and couldn’t believe that I finished my round that quick and that well. I walked the short path to our apartment, jumped into the pool, waited for my girlfriend who went jogging on the beach before we had another wonderful day in the Port Douglas area – we went to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest National Park that day, highly recommended by the way.

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