After two years of judging, here is the most comprehensive ranking of the nation’s finest 100 layouts in the land.
This year marks 31 years since Golf Australia magazine first published a ranking of the country’s best golf courses.
Back in 1988, a meagre judging panel of six cast their eye over more than 40 courses to eventually come up with a final list representing the top 20 courses in Australia.
Much has changed in 31 years ... and not just to the golfing landscape. Today, we have 35 men and women looking at courses across the country for nearly two years before casting their votes. That number will increase again for our next ranking in January 2022
Back in the bicentennial year, the list clearly dominated at the pointy end by the world-famous quality courses of the Melbourne Sandbelt. The No.1 course back then was Royal Melbourne’s West Course, a title it has never lost and still holds today.
That inaugural list didn’t have a single course from Tasmania, whereas today there are three challenging the great Dr Alister MacKenzie’s West Course for the crown.
In fact, there has been significant change since our last ranking was published in January 2018, with several courses undergoing major renovations by big name course designers. How did they fare? What courses are rising? Which ones have slipped from the Top-100? And which layouts should we be watching for 2022? You will find all the answers here as well as comments from our judges and an explanation to the how we arrived at our final list. Enjoy!
Golf Australia magazine
100. YARRAWONGA MULWALA GC RESORT – MURRAY COURSE
Designers: Peter Thomson & Michael Wolveridge (1991).
Average points: 35.85.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 95, 92, NR, NR.
Judge's comments: “There are few more Australian settings to play a round of golf. The stretch of holes from the par-3 2nd to the par-4 6th is among the best to be found anywhere along the Murray.” – Lucas Andrews.
“The 100th ranked course in 2018 was The Federal GC with a points average of 36.89. The Murray Course has polled five points higher than Federal and received more votes than it did two years ago, yet it has moved out five positions in the list. So the course has improved and yet has still dropped some spots, which suggests it is getting harder and harder to grab a spot in the Top-100.” – Brendan James.
99. KEW GOLF CLUB
East Kew, Victoria
Designers: Jock Robinson & Jock Young (1922); Various (1960s and 1970s); Graeme Grant (2015).
Average points: 36.
Judge's comments: “Kew has been working hard over the past 10 years to get the course into the Top- 100 where it belongs. Firstly, an extensive drainage and couch fairway program has improved the playing conditions, especially in the wet months. Following that there has been significant clearing and opening up of not only the holes, but the views across the course. On a riverside, parkland course the trees are hugely important to the layout, but they no longer crowd the golfer and hurt the turf maintenance. A few design tweaks have also been made and the course is fun to play and would gain a lot more attention if it was in any other state.” – Rich Macafee.
“The commissioning of designer Graeme Grant to come up with a masterplan has worked a treat. Grant redesigned and built eight new holes – the 1st, 3rd, 8th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes – while overseeing the conversion of all the fairways and greens surrounds to Santa Ana couch grass, and the greens to bentgrass. The result … a spot in the Top-100 Courses in Australia.” – Brendan James.
98. EYNESBURY GOLF COURSE
Designer: Graham Marsh (2008).
Average points: 36.15.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 88, 77, 82, 77.
Judge's comments: “This is a beast from the tips. I learned my lesson from the first time playing there and moved forward to the next tee on the second trip., which was much more fun and brought the strategy of the design more into
play.” – Joe Thomas.
97. THE BRISBANE GOLF CLUB
Designers: Carnegie Clark (1904); Dr Alister MacKenzie (1926 advisory); Ross Watson (2007).
Average points: 36.33.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 92, 95, 99, NR.
Judge's comments: “After hosting the Queensland Open for the past three years, members and guests are now enjoying the fruits of an experienced course set up. The Champion putting surfaces are a real highlight.” – Peter Martin.
“The conversion of the greens to Champion strain a decade ago has been the making of the modern version of one of Queensland’s oldest clubs.” – Brendan James.
96. SANCTUARY COVE GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB – PALMS COURSE
Sanctuary Cove, Queensland
Designer: Fred Bolton (1988); Ross Watson (2011).
Average points: 36.6.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 89, 75, 72, 63.
Judge's comments: “Ross Watson’s redesign dials up the strategy with some fine risk and reward challenges – the kinds of greens that take some learning and fun use of water around the middle of both nines.” – Scott Warren.
“Watson’s incarnation is streets ahead of the original creation in terms of strategy and fun. Having regularly played the course during the past decade, I feel like it’s started to look a little tired recently, especially around the greens.” – Lucas Andrews.
95. TWIN CREEKS GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
Designer: Graham Marsh (2006).
Average points: 39.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 93, 97, 97, 75.
Judge's comments: “I always look forward to the back nine run that combines scoreable short holes with some stout tests in a beautiful woodland setting.” – Scott Warren.
“Under new owners, and since becoming home to the NSW Open, Twin Creeks has recaptured the polish it had when it first opened for play in the mid-2000s. Graham Marsh’s design extracts the best from a predominantly plain landscape.” – Lachlan Farmer.
94. BELMONT GOLF CLUB
Designer: Prosper Ellis (1952); Jack Newton (2000s); James Wilcher (2018).
Average points: 39.18.
Judge's comments: “The club has invested wisely on the layout in recent times, raising the level of presentation and tweaking the layout with several holes redesigned by James Wilcher. The loss of what was the par-3 12th hole – to give way for some bowling greens after the club amalgamated with the local bowlo – has since given rise to a new beachside one-shotter that is world-class. In fact, the quartet of holes from the 13th to the 16th is worth playing for double the green fee.”– Brendan James.
“A true links course that I could never tire playing. Belmont has a great variety of interesting holes and the beachside offerings are fantastic.” – Lucas Andrews.
93. THE VINES RESORT & COUNTRY CLUB – LAKES COURSE
Designers: Graham Marsh & Ross Watson (1989).
Average points: 39.69.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 79, 63, 58, 47.
Judge's comments: “I first played the Lakes Course in the mid-90s, when 12 of its holes were part of the tournament course used annually. Back then it was one of the best resort courses in the country. Today, the bones of that terrific layout remain but it is looking a little tired in terms of the level of conditioning compared with what has been offered in the past.” – Lachlan Farmer.
92. COTTESLOE GOLF CLUB
Designers: David Anderson (1931); Alex Russell (1939); Justin Seward & Boyd King (1960); Peter Thomson & Michael Wolveridge (1980); Graham Marsh (1994 and ongoing).
Average points: 39.75.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 85, 72, 76, 71.
Judge's comments: “A really fun course where a good score can be had. Always well-presented and a place that requires precise shot-making.” – DJ Loypur.
“As you read this, Cottesloe is implementing widespread changes. Five front nine holes have been redesigned as part of a plan mapped out by Graham Marsh, while a multi-million dollar irrigation project is due for completion. One can only imagine a higher ranking is just around the corner.” – Lachlan Farmer.
91. LAKELANDS GOLF CLUB
Designer: Jack Nicklaus (1997).
Average points: 39.9.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 82, 73, 80, 83.
Judge's comments: “Five-star presentation has always been the trump card of this Jack Nicklaus design. And that continues.” – Lucas Andrews.
“The design offers some interesting and challenging holes but I can’t understand why some bunkers that adorned the course for many years after opening have been filled in. The loss of most of the sand right of the 15th fairway, to me for example, seems odd. As does the decision to introduce wood chips around the base of trees and gradually narrow the fairway cutting lines so every fairway bunker, with the exception of
two (8th and 16th holes), are surrounded by rough.” – Brendan James.
90. ROYAL HOBART GOLF CLUB
Seven Mile Beach, Tasmania
Designers: Vern Morcom (1963); Richard Chamberlain (2018).
Average points: 40.6.
2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 98, NR, NR, 91.
Judge's comments: “An extensive removal of trees and shrubs has opened the playing corridors, but the upcoming changes under the course masterplan by Richard Chamberlain should see even more significant improvements.” – Carl Murphy.
“Royal Hobart has a lot going for it. A great location close to the ocean, with sandy slightly undulating terrain, the perfect weather for growing fine grasses and an abundance of land. The course today is good but with the changes they are looking at, it should be much better in years to come.” – Brian Walshe.