Champion Australian golfer and golf course designer Greg Norman arrived on site on the morning of 11 October 2017 via helicopter, to inspect the start of work on his latest golf course project - part of the new Silkari development in Avondale, at its stunning bushland setting near Wollongong.

The Norman-designed and built course and a proposed Australia-first Greg Norman Golf Academy will be the centrepiece of the Visionary Investment Group’s (VIG) ambitious $1.02 billion re-development of the 556-hectare site.

VIG’s inspiring vision for the site at Avondale includes an 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse with restaurants and function centre, 290-key resort hotel, two smaller high-end spa lodges of 35 and 20 keys respectively, a tennis and recreation centre, a sports academy and a 395 dwelling residential housing component that includes residential lots overlooking the golf course fairways as well as larger “semi-rural” lots.

VIG also is in talks with the University of Wollongong about the establishment of a hospitality school and sports academy attached to the resort.

Work has started on the golf course construction, while VIG has submitted other aspects of the project to Wollongong City Council for approval.

Greg Norman Golf Course Design is providing design/build services for this project, and Norman describes the location of the Silkari development as “the perfect site for a golf course”. “I fell in love with the site immediately,” he said. “The diversification of topography and the environment, with its variety of vegetation from hardwoods to ferns and palms, is magnificent and the golf course will be unique.”

Norman, who has designed more than 100 golf courses in 34 countries, says he takes a “least disturbance” approach to golf course design and construction. “That means that when we finish, it will look like the golf course has been there for 20 years,” he said.

Norman said his experience with developments of this scale in Australia and overseas was that it would have a major economic impact on the region, in the construction phase and through long-term employment opportunities in the hotel and on the course.

He added that the proposed Greg Norman Golf Academy would be modelled on his successful US-based academy, and would attract talented young golfers from Australia and the Asian-Pacific region who were seeking careers as professional golfers.

Visionary Investment Group Chief Executive Officer Michael Guo said having a course designer of Greg Norman’s stature was integral to the success of the project.

“Our vision for the Silkari development at Avondale is that it becomes the premier golf destination in Australia – somewhere people will come to from across the country and from overseas for a special golf experience, and that the people of the Illawarra can be extremely proud of,” Mr Guo said.

“Greg Norman has designed many magnificent golf courses here and overseas, but we believe this unique site will be his best yet. It has a beautiful natural bushland setting, with views of the Illawarra Escarpment and east across Lake Illawarra to the ocean.”

Mr Guo said the residential and accommodation aspects to the project were integral to its success.

“Visionary Investment Group is committed to providing better spaces, communities and services for people,” he said. “This in large part, is driven by our commitment to economic and environmental sustainability – that is – seeking out innovative ecological technologies that will not only produce positive environmental outcomes, but also deliver tangible benefits for home-owners in the form of cost savings on things like water and energy.

“Since we took over the project in December 2015, we were determined to make it something very special. For a start, we reduced the number of residential lots on our Masterplan from the original developer’s proposal, and made them larger. We think that will give the development a more spacious, estate feel that will appeal more to Illawarra buyers and other people seeking to move there for a fantastic lifestyle.

“This site was originally the Huntley colliery, and we want the Illawarra community to be amazed by the transformation and want to come there – to live or just use the facilities.”

Construction of the golf course has commenced and is expected to be completed in late 2019, although completion of the holes will be staged to allow them to be played in stages. Pending Council approval, the first stage of the residential component should go on sale in Spring 2018, followed by construction of the hotel, lodges and other recreation facilities.