More Australians are playing golf today than at any other time in the past 20 years. But the economic reality, as we emerge from the darkest months of the COVID-19 pandemic, is many of us now need to make our hard-earned dollars stretch a little further. Here, we reveal the 18-hole layouts – and some standout nine-holers – offering Australian golfers the greatest value for money golfing experiences.
Yan Yean, Victoria
Green fees: $49; $44 (online).
Consistently ranked by Golf Australia magazine in the nation’s Top-100 Public Access Courses, Growling Frog is a terrific Graham Marsh design with multiple tees and large undulating greens set across former grazing land.
The quality of the design, its conditioning and the serenity of the setting – including several 300-year-old River Red Gums dotted across the layout– make for a memorable golf experience.
Green fee: $50.
Situated between the Grampians and Little Desert National Park, Horsham is the standout golf offering in Victoria’s Wimmera region.
Despite being wiped out by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, the resilient club has managed to maintain a place inside Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses, as ranked by Golf Australia magazine, based on the fun, well-designed holes.
Leongatha South, Victoria
Green fee: $45.
According to Golf Australia magazine’s ranking judge’s panel, Leongatha is the ‘must-play’ course in the Gippsland region.
Ranked No.61 in Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses for 2019, the Vern Morcom-designed layout winds its way across gently rolling, to sometimes hilly, terrain with ancient gums lining most of the wide Santa Ana fairways. Perhaps the biggest surprise
for first time visitors is the quality of the subtle-breaking greens.
MT GAMBIER GC
Mt Gambier, South Australia
Green fee: $30.
Mt Gambier has evolved into one of South Australia’s best regional courses, since being completely remodelled in the late 70s.
Mt Gambier boasts plenty of challenging holes where the elevation change from tee-to-green combined with a dogleg to make for a memorable golfing experience. But it is the downhill par-3 8th hole, listed among the Top-100 Par-3s in Australia by this magazine, which you will recall long after your round.
Green fees: $30 (weekdays); $37 (weekends).
One of the best views you will get of Mt Warning and the surrounding national park is from Murwillumbah Golf Club and, in particular, from the 10th green.
The 10th comes at the end of a wonderful sequence of undulating holes that cover the most dramatic terrain of the layout. It is a gorgeous course with so many different species of trees – with gums, camphor laurels, pines, African tulips, silky oaks and hardwoods among them – and superb playing surfaces.
Naracoorte, South Australia
Green fee: $30.
Carved out of wild, thick scrub, wattles and bracken using horse and dray in 1927, it is only in recent times that Naracoorte has grabbed some national attention as an interesting and challenging layout.
Voted South Australia’s No.8 ranked course in January this year, Naracoorte covers beautiful rolling terrain on a deep sandy base, which ensures the layout is playable all year round and the bunkering is natural and easily maintained.
Elements of the design and set-up of the layout have obviously been influenced by the great courses of the Melbourne Sandbelt, adding to the value of a round here.
OCEAN SHORES CC
Ocean Shores, NSW
Green fee: $45.
Located just 15 minutes’ drive north of Byron Bay, visitors are greeted by panoramic ocean views from the clubhouse and some of the biggest greens in NSW.
Laid out in an area of natural flora with tidal lakes, creeks and mountain ranges as a backdrop, the beauty of the setting speaks for itself. The layout designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge unusually comprises six par-3s, par-4s and par-5s, presenting good scoring opportunities for all players.
Pambula, New South Wales
Green fees: $50 (unlimited golf).
The challenging Pambula-Merimbula 27-hole layout offers a good mix of tight driving holes, interesting dogleg fairways and huge true rolling greens. And for just $50 you can play as many holes as you like. Each nine has its own character but all cover a gently rolling landscape that is dominated by massive gum trees lining most holes.
Green fees: $40.
A round here is a memorable one because it is as if time has stopped in the 1800s. This is where golf in Australia began back in the 1820s, when Scottish emigrant Alexander Reid knocked featheries around the property.
Over the past two decades, devoted owner Greg Ramsey has invested in the restoration of the course to its true origins. And like the originals, hole maintenance is carried out by sheep and feature fenced square greens.
Green fees: $41.50 (weekdays); $43.50 (weekends).
Sandringham has undergone an extensive redevelopment by design team Ogilvy, Cocking and Mead (OCM) and recently opened all 18 new holes. On first glance, the layout - now known as Sandy Links - will be pushing for inclusion in the nation's Top-100 Courses ranking in the future.
The course is set to be the new home for Golf Australia, PGA of Australia and Golf Victoria, with the Australian Golf Centre currently under construction.
West Ulverstone, Tasmania
Green fees: $30 (local players); $50 (interstate visitors).
Ulverstone is a superb Al Howard design cut from a tall eucalypt forest. The most beautiful hole is the 158-metre par-4 5th hole where the entire hole is framed by tall gums and the tee shot must be played over a lake to a green tucked in close to the botanical towers.
Green fees: $45.
Ballina is a beautiful layout less than an hour’s drive south of the Gold Coast on the east bank of North Creek, a tributary of the nearby picturesque Richmond River. The easy-walking, tree-lined layout has gained a reputation in recent years for its superb presentation and interesting mix of holes.
The short par-4 11th hole, offering views across North Creek, is a definite highlight with numerous bunkers coming into play and accuracy being a premium to get close to the flag on the angled green.