After seven years at RACV Royal Pines, the Australian PGA Championship is on the move in 2020. ATM editor Brett Robinson looks back at last December’s event which brought to an end a 27-year tournament run for the Gold Coast course.
When Lincoln Coombes arrived as the new course superintendent of RACV Royal Pines in November 2011, little did he except the journey he would ultimately end up taking in the proceeding eight years. It was essentially a lifestyle choice to uproot his young family from the Mornington Peninsula back then and head to the warm climes of the Gold Coast, but within 15 months of arriving at the resort course, Coombes soon found himself involved in one of the most challenging and rewarding periods of his career.
Already home of the Australian Ladies Masters, it was in February 2013 when the PGA of Australia announced that its flagship event – the Australian PGA Championship – was moving from Hyatt Coolum to the Gold Coast. Shortly after Coombes had marshalled the troops for the first PGA in December 2013, a full championship course reconstruction ensued over the next two years, first the front nine between the 2013 and 2014 tournaments and then the back nine between the 2014 and 2015 tournaments.
From the flat, benign track that it once was, the Graham Marsh remodelling turned Royal Pines into one of the most feared tournament layouts (indeed, it now ranks second behind Brookwater as the toughest in the state). All the new surfaces were solid turfed and for the 2014 and 2015 tournaments Coombes and his crew had to prepare a mix of old, new and maturing holes. It was a huge challenge, but one they ultimately pulled off and in the years since the new playing surfaces have continued to mature and bed down nicely.
After its five contracted PGAs between 2013 and 2017, the tournament continued on in 2018 and 2019, but by this time there were discussions about the tournament’s future at the resort. That talk grew louder leading into last December’s tournament and sure enough just a little over three weeks after local hero Adam Scott collected his second Joe Kirkwood Cup, the PGA of Australia announced that the tournament was heading up the M1 to Royal Queensland Golf Club for the next three years.
After seven consecutive PGAs, it was a bittersweet announcement for Coombes and his crew, bringing to an end an incredible 27-year run of hosting tournaments. In addition to the PGA, for 25 up until 2016 it was also home of the Australian Ladies Masters (the tournament was rebadged as the RACV Gold Coast Challenge in 2017). During that time a who’s who of the international women’s game strode the Royal Pines couchgrass fairways, among them champions Jane Crafter (who won the first there in 1992), Laura Davies, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb who collected an incredible eight titles.
This article was originally published in Volume 22.1 (Jan - Feb 2020) of the Australian Turfgrass Managment Journal.
Images: Brett Robinson
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