Over the course of two decades, the Apple Isle has emerged as a world-class golf holiday destination, with the quality of its courses matched by the incredible food, cool climate wines, award-winning whiskies and natural attractions.
You have no doubt heard of, and probably sampled, some of the amazing produce that comes from King Island – including award-winning cheeses to lobsters, abalone and delicious beef.
But, arguably, golf has become one of the island’s main attractions in recent years.
Today, foodies and golfers compete for seats on flights to the island, which lies midway between the Victorian and Tasmanian coasts in Bass Strait.
The King Island Golf and Bowling Club was the first layout established back in 1932, having moved from grazing land near the island’s biggest town, Currie. The course covers rolling links land, exposing all its holes to the violent antics of the Southern Ocean’s ‘Roaring Forties’ winds.
“Today, foodies and golfers compete for seats on flights to the island, which lies midway between the Victorian and Tasmanian coasts in Bass Strait.”
The course has 12 greens as well as alternate tees for both nines. The opening two holes set the scene for an enjoyable round. The first drive is blind to a fairway angled away and off to a green set hard against the base of a long sand dune. It’s not by any means the most difficult par-4 you will play but it is a lot of fun.
The same can be said for the 2nd/11th, which plays along the ridge of the aforementioned sand dune. The fairway is wide enough but the player who attacks too hard here can find their ball bounding off the firm fairway into the rough and be left with a difficult shot into the smallish green, which slopes markedly from left-to-right and is cut into the edge of a high dune.
Maintained by a small but passionate crew of volunteers, King Island is a gem that lays claim to being the best nine-hole course in Australia. I couldn’t argue with that.
There has been much greater appreciation of this little gem since the opening of the island’s two new courses – Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes. To give you an idea of their quality, Cape Wickham is the No.1 Public Access Course in the nation, while Ocean Dunes sits at No.4 in the same list. Both layouts also feature in the top-10 of the Top-100 Courses ranking published by Golf Australia magazine in January this year.
“Maintained by a small but passionate crew of volunteers, King Island is a gem that lays claim to being the best nine-hole course in Australia.”
Cape Wickham Links – an enjoyable 40-minute drive north of Currie – was the first to launch, officially opening for play in early 2016, just three years after construction work began. It has been on the world golfing radar ever since.
American course designer Mike DeVries, in collaboration with Melbourne golf book author Darius Oliver, were blessed to be able to work on a spectacular piece of oceanside land that seems to have been created by Mother Nature for the purpose of playing golf.
Their creation offers golfers broad playing corridors and holes that provide fair strategies regardless of the wind strength and direction. A pod of fairway bunkers that is scarcely in play one day will move squarely into the frame the next. Lost balls will happen but in sleeves not boxes. Instead, the focus is on playability in the island’s sometimes unpredictable weather and variety through multiple playing lines and numerous shot options. Make no mistake this is a fun course to play, not a penal one.
A highlight of a round here – in fact there are four of them – are the par-3s. The seaside one-shotters at the 3rd, 11th and 17th are obviously memorable but it might just be the inland 7th that is Wickham’s best. The hole climbs slightly during its 137 metres to a green angled from front left to back right with a giant swale capturing any shot coming up short or right. A hump short and left and a dune hugging the left edge provide the key contours and will allow canny shots to feed close to certain pin positions. It’s a terrific par-3 that provides a great example of how the inland holes here are just as good, sometimes better, than the seaside holes.
Ocean Dunes hosted its first rounds a few months after Cape Wickham opened and it too has since received rave reviews. The Graeme Grant-designed layout, which is just a few minutes’ drive north of Currie just before the airport turn off, covers dramatic golfing terrain with fairways that weave over and between huge sand dunes, and feature several holes on its two-kilometre stretch of ocean frontage.
It doesn’t take long into a round for the excitement to grow at Ocean Dunes. Good quality short par-4s thrill all golfers and Ocean Dunes’ 280-metre 2nd hole could be regarded, in time, as one of the finest short two-shotters in the country. It is a wide driving hole but the green only opens up to those players prepared to risk placing their driving near the right edge of the fairway and the ‘Kelp Track’, which weaves along the shoreline. The further left you go, the more difficult the second shot approach becomes as it is a blind pitch over a bunker carved out of the face of a large dune. If your drive is too far left on a day when the flag is in the left half of the green, you will have no idea where the hole is as it will be hidden behind the dune. It is a pitch shot that is reminiscent of what golfers face on the famed ‘Dell’ hole at Lahinch in Ireland – it’s blind, over a large dune to a wide, receptive green … if the club and shot selection is spot on.
“To give you an idea of their quality, Cape Wickham is the No.1 Public Access Course in the nation, while Ocean Dunes sits at No.4 in the same list.”
The shortest of the holes at Ocean Dunes will be its most talked about and is destined to be its most photographed. The 130-metre par-3 4th hole is played across an ocean inlet with rocky edges on both sides of the water. The tee is perched just above the waves, while the expansive putting surface is very wide and features a bunker cut into the middle of the front edge. This pinches the target to its narrowest and has the effect of almost creating two greens, left and right of the bunker. A crop of pigface lying between the rocks and the grass short of the green flowers pink in spring and summer, adding to the beauty of this spectacular one-shotter.
While the 4th hole will be reached with a short club on most days, there will be times when the elements will conspire to make this diminutive offering a real beast, which is what links golf is all about.
HOW TO GET TO KING ISLAND & WHERE TO STAY
AIR ADVENTURE AUSTRALIA
Air Adventure Australia has been operating outback air safaris to remote Australian destinations since 1977.
Air Adventure Golf Tours specialises in remote Tasmanian golf and have flown more than 3,000 golfers to play at Barnbougle and King Island. It’s no surprise their four day / four round trip to both destinations is extremely popular.
Designed by golfers, for golfers, the tours make getting there easy. Golfers can carry their full set of clubs (in travel tube, which they provide) plus 10kg of extra luggage. They also supply full size Callaway cart bags at each venue so you can play out of a normal golf bag.
Based at Essendon Fields Airport, the parking and check in is simple.
The company’s ultimate Tasmanian golf adventure, the Like A Pro Tour, includes four rounds – one each at Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm, Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes – all in the one trip. At $2,075 per person it includes everything except meals and drinks.
Flights to King Island take only 35 minutes from Essendon Field Airport, and Barnbougle’s private airfield is a 45-minute flight from Essendon. Therefore, in the time it takes to just check-in at the major domestic airports you can be on the course at any of these top-four Australian courses.
GOLF TOURS OF TASMANIA
Golf Tours Tasmania can offer you a holiday package to suit all of your needs, from small groups to large, they can do it all for you.
When you allow Golf Tours Tasmania to package your next golfing getaway, they will provide you with an experience that you will not easily forget. They can provide all of your wants, needs, tastes and desires in one easy step, just ask them to put your next Tasmanian golf holiday together for you.
SOUTHERN GOLF GETAWAYS
Southern Golf Getaways provide a hassle free fly, play and stay package.
The King Island golf specialists, organise the flights in their private aircraft, accommodation and transport so you can enjoy a trip that is specifically catered to your needs.
The company – flying from their base at Barwon Heads and picking up from Avalon, Moorabbin or Essendon Airports – offers flexible departure and pick-up times to fit around your schedule. Whether you would like to fly in for the day or play the triangle of courses at King Island and Barnbougle over a few days, the choice is yours.
KING ISLAND HOTEL
The recently renovated King Island Hotel is located in Currie, five minutes’ drive from Ocean Dunes.
The beautifully modern decorated rooms are available as twin, double or a mixture of both, plus two connecting rooms for larger groups or families.
CAPE WICKHAM LINKS
Cape Wickham Links has 16 ocean view accommodation units perched on the side of the opening hole, overlooking Victoria Cove and Cape Wickham Lighthouse.
Each room includes two king single beds, one double bed, with ensuite, TV, air conditioning and wifi. Complimentary continental breakfast is available to all guests.
BOOMERANG BY THE SEA
Centrally located in the township of Currie, Boomerang By The Sea overlooks the nine hole King Island links course. There are 16 units which all feature large sliding doors opening to a verandah offering ocean views.