There are more than 1,800 golf courses in Australia and New Zealand, but only a small percentage have the ingredients – the setting, history, dramatic holes, the tournament dramas – that combine to take your breath away during a round.
Here are the 50 courses across both countries we reckon will move you to say “WOW” … perhaps more than once.
Arrowtown, South Island, NZ
Arrowtown blends beautifully with its setting, the surrounding rugged peaks and sheer cliff faces of Crown Range and The Remarkables.
There are no bunkers on this course … it doesn’t need them because its equivalent hazard are rocks. Big rocks, small rocks and schist outcrops that have been wonderfully incorporated into the design of many holes are what make this layout extraordinary.
Apart from the quirky and cool holes on the course, we suggest you visit in autumn when the maple, oak and cherry tree-covered landscape turns various shades of orange, yellow, red and brown.
Barnbougle Dunes put Tasmania on the international golfing map when it opened for play in 2004.
Designed by Tom Doak in collaboration with Mike Clayton, Barnbougle Dunes – the first links course built in Australia in nearly 80 years – has since cemented a place among the world’s top-100 courses and is also among Australia’s finest.
The all-fescue playing surfaces, the challenging and fun Doak-Clayton design and the dunescape setting along beautiful Tasmania coastline combine to provide an unforgettable golfing experience.
BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM
Almost six years after the Dunes opened for play, the Bill Coore-designed Barnbougle Lost Farm was born.
Coore’s 20-hole creation (with two extra par-3s on the inward half) hugs the sea where possible but it also takes advantage of the fine golfing terrain found just inland from the beach. This has resulted in a layout that plays to all points of the compass and, with the ever-present wind, makes for a wonderful variety of shots during the course of a round.
Lost Farm is fun, world class golf of the highest order.
The newest addition to the Barnbougle family, having opened earlier this year, is already considered one of the best short courses on the planet.
The Bill Coore-designed 14-hole layout, with 12 par-3s and two brilliant short par-4s, twists and turns over and through high, dramatic sand dunes away from the edge of the beach, providing views over the entire Barnbougle property.
Bougle Run is fun from 1st tee to 14th green. Play it with all your clubs, three clubs or just a putter … you read that right as Coore designed each hole with one playing line that could be covered by a putter. Incredible!
BARWON HEADS GC
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Barwon Heads possesses great Old-World charm and there are plenty of challenges and fun holes to experience.
Recent changes overseen by course designers Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford (Golf Course Strategies) have elevated this superb Bellarine Peninsula layout to its highest ever national ranking.
The sequence of holes from the 1st to the 8th are as much fun as you can have on an Australian course, while the year-round conditioning rarely wavers from being simply superb.
BONVILLE GOLF RESORT
North Bonville, NSW
Carved from 250 hectares of Flooded gum and blackbutt forest as well as small pockets of sub-tropical rainforest, Bonville has often been described as Australia’s answer to Augusta National.
Designers Terry Watson and Ted Stirling were given a brief by the original owners to create a course like Augusta and the pair did a fantastic job in creating a local version incorporating many features Augusta is famous for – great elevation change between tee and green, natural watercourses, large undulating greens and demanding bunkers.
The Greg Norman and Bob Harrison-designed Brookwater is one of Australia’s most spectacular inland courses.
There is an overwhelming Australian feel about the course with towering Eucalypts and Ironwoods, tall wild grasses and the occasional kangaroo bounding across a fairway. It is a beautiful setting.
Brookwater doesn’t really have a signature hole, but if you are a first-time visitor, we guarantee you will be moved to say “wow” when you stand on the tee at the par-5 4th hole. Ahead from the elevated back tee lies 551 metres of rollercoaster fairway, culminating in a green cut high into a hill some two valleys away. It is an awesome hole, with bunkers placed strategically at intervals along the fairway and surrounding the green. Pars are rare here; birdies are probably wishful thinking.
Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ
“If Cape Kidnappers were a book, it would be an epic.” With these words, acclaimed American course designer Tom Doak concisely, but accurately, describes what is one of the most spectacular courses built in the world during the past 50 years.
With each hole you play at Cape Kidnappers there is another twist in the plot. This is one ‘book’ you will never want to put down.
Faced with having to route the course along, and across, fingers of land surrounded by jagged cliffs that stretch 150 metres (500 feet) above the Pacific Ocean, Doak created holes that are not only playable (nearly all the long holes play with the prevailing wind) but are a lot of fun to play.
“You’ll never play golf like this anywhere else,” Doak says.
CAPE WICKHAM LINKS
King Island, Tasmania
There are few more picturesque settings to play golf than what takes your breath away at Cape Wickham.
The routing is brilliant, with eight holes set against the rocky coastline and another two where any approach shot is played towards an ocean backdrop. You can see Bass Strait from every hole. Some holes sit high above the sea, on others you’re so close to the water you can feel the sea spray.
Just when you think this layout could not get any more spectacular, you walk off a green, over a dune and down to the next tee where your jaw drops again as you take in the vista.
CATHEDRAL LODGE & GC
The first time Greg Norman visited the site for his future design, Cathedral Lodge, he fell in love with the place.
What’s not to love … rolling hills set against a backdrop dominated by the Cathedral Range in the distance. It’s a naturally spectacular setting.
“Cathedral Lodge is very special to me as there is nothing else like it in Australia, or the world for that matter,” Norman said at the course’s opening in 2017.
If you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to play this very exclusive layout, we’re pretty sure you will be ‘wowed’ from start to finish.
Dunedin, South Island, NZ
One of only a few genuine links courses in New Zealand, Chisholm Links could easily have been plucked from the Scottish coastline and dropped in Dunedin.
Fourteen of the 18 holes weave their way among the dunes at the back of St Kilda Beach, while the stretch of holes from the par-5 8th to the par-5 11th leads players on a climb up to a picturesque headland.
There are amazing views from most holes but it is the charm and simplicity of this seaside design, which it shares with hidden gem links of Great Britain and Ireland, that you will love and want to play again and again.
Not dissimilar in many ways to Cathedral Lodge – a picturesque rural setting forms the backdrop to a spectacular Greg Norman and Bob Harrison layout.
But where Cathedral Lodge is accommodating for players of all standards, Ellerston is not.
When Kerry Packer commissioned Norman and Harrison to create the course, his brief was to make it tough, and it is unashamedly so with demanding drives and exhilarating approach shots. And – given its exclusivity and small number of players annually – it might just be the best conditioned course in the land.