7th hole at The Palms
17th at The Palms

Sanctuary Cove

Posted on August 09, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Sanctuary Cove is on Australia’s famed Gold Coast. As if these evocative names were not exciting enough the course is half an hour north of Surfers Paradise and it is one of the largest and most famous golf courses in Australia. 

Robin Doodson is the Superintendent, he is on the board of AGCSA, he loves golf and he’s a keen supporter of grinders. 

Robin has been at Sanctuary Cove for 5 years. He moved from Wentworth 12 years ago when he married his Australian wife, Kerry. Originally from Glasgow, Robin has never looked back.

“I arrived in Port Douglas to take up my first job. It was the middle of the summer and extremely hot in the north of Queensland and I can tell you it was a very big learning curve for me.

Grass is grass at the end of the day, but I had never worked with warm season grasses before – or in such extreme temperatures.

Here at Sanctuary Cove the summers are generally around 30 – 35 degrees. In the winter, during the day, the average is around 10 – 20 degrees. Water usage is big, on average a million litres of fully recycled water per day, supplied by the local council.

It has been an odd year though with a mini cyclone and lots of rain. We had a couple of metres, which is unusual and meant the course had to be shut for 4 days due to being under water.”

Sanctuary Cove is one of most prestigious golf courses in Australia. It is quite unique as it has two completely different courses, The Pines and The Palms. Set in residential parkland with a marina it was the first of these ‘resort’ style courses built in the late 80’s.

The Pines, is a members only course, and is the only course in Australia designed by Arnold Palmer. It runs through an old pine plantation and the holes are in the forest, so it’s a difficult course to play because of the shadow and dappled light. The Palms, designed by Ross Watson, opened 3 years ago and Robin describes it as ‘rather more Australian’.


Well Equipped Workshop.

“We have got a considerable amount of equipment to work with, 2 fairway mowers, 2 rough, 12 greens and 2 tees mowers and twelve months ago took delivery of a pair of Bernhard grinders.

I have to say they turned our operation around. It’s been the biggest difference in any change we have made. I was fed up seeing poor quality of cut, not up to our standard and we were contracting out our grinding and found the machine time out was debilitating. 

It was a big decision at the time, particularly as we’d seen some pretty serious budget cuts in the last year but we did our research over the space of 12 months when we looked at other grinders on the market.

The returns on the investment are very clear. The quality of the turf, going into winter, well, you can’t compare how it was 12 months ago. We are now doing more grinding but in our time and it is not costing us close to what it was, and the benefits can be seen are out on the golf course. 

We are seeing less instances of turf damage caused by mowers, the long term effects of fertilizer use have improved with less instances of dry spot. Generally the quality and the presentation is sensational

Feed back from members has been fantastic. We’ve had nothing but positive comments particularly in the last three months – and I must tell you, it is rare to get feedback from the members.

The training we had from Chris Stig was excellent and could not have been better. That was one of the attractions. One of our groundsman now spends half the week grinding, he could run training courses on it.

It’s such an uncompetitive business to be in. Everyone shares everything, no one has any secrets, it’s such a small world. It is what I wanted to do from a young age and I consider myself very lucky.”

Outside his job, Robin loves to spend time with his wife and twin daughters, Amy and Emma. He is also in training for the Kokoda Challenge, a punishing 96 kilometer hike through the Gold Coast hinterland to raise money for the Kokoda Youth Group, a charity run by ex servicemen set up to encourage disadvantaged youth.

“I’m doing this with 3 other greenkeepers. It’s 24 hours non-stop of extremely hard terrain, hills, loose rocks and steep climbs. 3,000 people do it, but a third don’t finish.”