After two years of uncertainty brought by pandemic lockdowns and border closures, here is the most comprehensive ranking of the nation’s finest layouts.
73. SETTLERS RUN G&CC
Botanic Ridge, Victoria
Designers: Greg Norman, Bob Harrison & Harley Kruse (2007).
Average points: 57.67.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 62, 63, 61, 63, 56.
Comments: “The layout stretches out over varying topography with the most interesting holes to be found rising and falling across the terrain. The variety of shots this produces fits in well with the Greg Norman, Bob Harrison and Harley Kruse design philosophy.” – Paul Wilson.
“The conditioning of the course at Settler’s Run is coming along nicely under the new course superintendent.” – Kevin Nolan.
72. STONECUTTERS RIDGE
Designers: Greg Norman & Bob Harrison (2012).
Average points: 58.1.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 63, 49, 40, 35, NR.
Comments: “There’s nothing outside the regulation Greg Norman and Bob Harrison playbook, but the fundamentals are all there for a golf course that asks interesting questions and never feels like a slog despite its difficulty.” – Scott Warren.
“I really like Stonecutters Ridge because of the playability of the design for golfers of all standards. Standing on each tee, you feel there is enough width not to get into trouble if you play conservatively, but if you want to be aggressive and skirt the trouble, you really need to be on your game. It is a course where you need to play to the edges, read the angles of approach, to make the best possible score.” – Joe Thomas.
71. ROYAL HOBART GC
Seven Mile Beach, Tasmania
Designers: Vern Morcom (1963); Richard Chamberlain (2018 & ongoing).
Average points: 58.8.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 90, 98, NR, NR, 91.
Comments: “I was pleasantly surprised at how good Royal Hobart is becoming. There are still issues with bits of the routing but it was in great condition and there is lots interesting movement in the fairways. Best of all, they are addressing tree encroachment and have started to open the course up and get a bit of width back in the fairways.” – Brian Walshe.
“For a flat course there is plenty of movement in the fairways. The removal of hundreds of trees that tightly hugged the fairways has improved the angles to the greens. With a new masterplan and plenty more changes coming, the course should continue climbing its way up the rankings.” – Kevin Nolan.
“The vegetation management undertaken over the past five years has paid dividends, with better turf, improved playing lines and a return of strategy and width to the course. The greens have returned to a high-quality surface. The recent work on the 7th hole has removed some of the adjacent congestion on the 6th and 8th holes. Royal Hobart has returned to that list of courses you wish to re-play next time you are in Tasmania.”
– James Bennett.
“It comes as no surprise that the tree removal in recent times has not only improved the playability of the layout but the turf quality is significantly better as well.” – Peter Shaw.
“The recent changes with a new 7th hole designed by Richard Chamberlain, has been a positive move. More strategic options now become a factor. Hopefully this change continues across the rest of the course.” – Carl Murphy.
70. LINKS LADY BAY RESORT
Normanville, South Australia
Designers: Jack Newton, Graeme Grant & John Spencer (2000).
Average points: 59.65.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 70, 70, 81, 77, 66.
Comments: “Links Lady Bay has maintained its position at No.70 in a ranking with volatile movements up and down for many courses. It has been a consistent performer in this list and is undoubtedly in the best condition ever seen by our judges.” – Brendan James.
“This is an exceptional layout and makes me pity we don’t have more courses in Australia from this talented design trio.” – Craig Read.
“This links course gives you space off the tee and provides risk-reward opportunities for the low marker, but a proliferation of bunkers could make it harder for the high handicapper.” – Ashley Clinch.
“Links Lady Bay always plays firm under foot and the greens are the equal of those famed courses in Adelaide.” – Tara Vincent.
69. ROSEBUD CC – NORTH COURSE
Designers: Jack Watson (1964); Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking Ashley Mead – OCM (2019 & ongoing).
Average points: 59.83.
Comments: “After watching the TPS Victoria tournament in January (2021) I had to visit Rosebud and see the course for myself. Wow! It exceeded all my expectations in terms of design and conditioning. It left me feeling the $75 weekday green fee was outstanding value for the round.” – James Walsh.
“Rosebud’s North Course has always been highly regarded but has sometimes been lost in the conversation about the Mornington Peninsula’s best courses simply because there are just so many good layouts in the area. But the appointment of course superintendent Ian Todd (formerly of Victoria Golf Club) has seen significant improvements across the layout and is an absolute joy to play.” – Paul Wilson.
68. MOONAH LINKS – OPEN COURSE
Designers: Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett (2001).
Average points: 59.87.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 65, 56, 66, 64, 41.
Comments: “I always enjoy the challenge the Open Course presents, especially around the greens. Don’t expect to play here and shoot well under your handicap. It is one of the longest and most challenging courses in the land and that is only magnified when the wind blows. That said, you will have fun trying to conquer what designer Peter Thomson called his ‘Leviathan’.” – Paul Wilson.
“I’ve been a regular visitor to Moonah Links over the years and rarely have I seen it in such a consistently good condition than it has been during the past two years.” – John Blackwell.
67. SANCTUARY LAKES GC
Point Cook, Victoria
Designers: Greg Norman & Bob Harrison (2000).
Average points: 60.75.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 60, 62, 67, 67, 52.
Comments: “Without knowing the back story of this course, you could swear this layout has been in the ground for 100 years and was crafted by Mother Nature with a little bit of human intervention. The fact is this land was a flood-prone salt plain, as flat as a tack and lifeless in the late 1990s and Norman and Harrison crafted it into a wonderful golf course. It has been 22 years since the first tee shots were struck here and, in my opinion, it just keeps getting better with age.” – Paul Wilson.
“Sanctuary Lakes is a testament to the design partnership of Greg Norman and Bob Harrison that they were able to turn a flat parcel of land that was just 'nothing' into an interesting and sometimes stern test of golf for players of all levels.” – Kevin Nolan.
66. KALGOORLIE GC
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Designer: Graham Marsh (2010).
Average points: 61.33.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 67, 66, 68, 73, 79.
Comments: “A wonderful, exciting and unique layout to add to your wish list.” – Craig Read.
“Kalgoorlie is one of the best courses Graham Marsh has ever created.” – Tristan Holmes.
“An Australian take on ’Desert Golf’. Kalgoorlie is a very unique golfing experience and a genuinely good layout that has utilised the terrain beautifully.” – DJ Loypur.
“I thoroughly enjoyed playing Kalgoorlie. It plays firm and fast as a desert course should. It’s a challenge with some raised large greens with bunkers that hug most greens. Conditioning is consistently first class across the entire course.” – Ashley Clinch.
65. SANCTUARY COVE G&CC – PINES COURSE
Sanctuary Cove, Queensland
Designers: Arnold Palmer & Ed Seay (1989).
Average points: 62.56.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 77, 72, 72, 68, 59.
Comments: "A multi-million-dollar renovation of Arnold Palmer’s only Australian course design has breathed life back into the famed layout. The condition of the course had been in a steady decline for several years, which was played out in its ranking position during the past ten years. All 18 greens were rebuilt and the surfaces changed to TifEagle ultradwarf (as used on the adjoining Palms layout) and the results have been outstanding.” – Joseph Baker.
“What a transformation. I played the Pines in early 2020 and it was Ok but the greens, and their surrounds, looked tired. Fast forward to October 2021 and the layout was mint. New irrigation, new greens and an overall high standard of presentation now showcase the best elements of the design.” – Sunny Chan.
64. RANFURLIE GC
Cranbourne West, Victoria
Designers: Mike Clayton (2002); Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Clayton, Mike Cocking & Ashley Mead – OCCM (2017)
Average points: 62.95.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 66, 69, 60, 65, 60.
Comments: “How they got so much width on such a small site is great golf course architecture. The downside is you're almost always hitting driver off each tee. While there are good and bad sides of the fairway there is little club choice to made on all the longer holes. The four of the five longest par-4s run in different directions meaning you will get relief from the wind on the strongest of blowy days. The par-3s offer something different on each hole, with the 15th probably the pick of the bunch. The new 9th hole is a tough par-3 now, replacing the wacky drive between the trees on the old par-4 due to the new water storage.” – Kevin Nolan.
“Ranfurlie is a masterclass in routing, with every last drop of excellence wrung from what may otherwise have been a pretty uninspiring property.” – Steve Beach.
63. THE CUT GC
Port Bouvard, Western Australia
Designer: James Wilcher (2004).
Average points: 63.15.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 59, 46, 37, 33, 34.
Comments: “The Cut weaves its way through some big dunes next to the Indian Ocean. The first four holes on the front nine next to the ocean are good fun and the back nine from start to finish is all fun. I found the course in excellent condition given how much golf is played here.” – Ashley Clinch.
“For a seaside course that is easily affected by wind, I think many of the fairways are a little too narrow to handle. My last game there, we played in a strong easterly that played as a crosswind on the beachside holes – like the 2nd, 12th, 16th and 17th – and you had to aim well away from the fairway to get your ball on the fairway. It made scoring tough going. That said, I enjoyed the challenge and will be back.” – Tristan Holmes.
62. CRANBOURNE GC
Designers: Sam Berriman (1954); Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking & Ashley Mead – OCM (ongoing).
Average points: 63.5.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 68, 64, 62, 69, 69.
Comments: “Cranbourne might lie on the outskirts of the Melbourne Sandbelt but it has all the hallmarks of a layout within the famed golfing region. Here you will find rolling couch fairways, large bunkers cut into the edges of the large, subtly sloping greens and playing surfaces that are first class.” – Chris Davidson.
“One word springs to mind to describe Cranbourne. Underrated. Immaculate conditioning combines with fair and challenging design in a beautiful setting. What more could you want?” – James Walsh.
“Cranbourne's three-shotters can be a bit of a snack for the longer hitters but woe betide any golfer who ventures offline. The redesign of the par-3 14th makes the walk around the course seem more fluent. There’s lots of risk and reward on some shorter par-4s, while the presentation is generally excellent.” – Kevin Nolan.
61. ST MICHAELS GC
Little Bay, NSW
Designers: Michael Moran & C.W Cole (1938).
Average points: 63.9.
2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012 rankings: 69, 81, 69, 75, 78.
Comments: “A terrific oceanside course with stunning views and equally stunning holes throughout. There has been a lot of course work carried out here during the past few years and all of it has been good. The clearing of areas of vegetation has made the playing corridors wider but this has not made St Michaels any less challenging … especially in the wind.” – Lucas Andrews.
“I can honestly say I’ve never scored well at St Michaels. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every round I have played there simply because each round has been completely different to the one before. The only experience that remains exactly the same with each visit is the view.” – Felicity Chapman.
“Eradicating vast tracts of non-native bush scrub has opened up the layout, improving it visually and strategically. The routing has changed very little since the days of Moran and Cole, but a dozen holes now feature bunkers and/or sandy wasteland areas that did not exist nearly a decade ago. This has transformed the course from simply being a testing layout to one that also oozes the visual appeal few courses in any Australian metropolitan area can boast.” – Brendan James.