Here it is ... Our biennial ranking of the Top-100 Public Access Courses in the nation. That's right, all the best courses everyone can play.
Ranking golf courses is a not a modern phenomenon.
Back in 1926, during the Golden Era of course design, a rating of Britain’s 14 most famous courses was published. Muirfield topped the list, while the Old Course at St Andrews finished dead last. The list’s author, Joshua Crane, admitted he favoured difficult courses ahead of those requiring strategic thought or those that were charming or pleasurable.
It was a controversial list and legendary golf course architect Dr Alistair MacKenzie was pointed in his criticism, who stated only a course that was a good test of golf could give lasting pleasure.
What follows is a list of 100 courses that can certainly be considered “pleasurable”. They can also be played by all golfers of every standard. If the course is on this list of century makers, you can be assured visitors willing to pay a green fee are welcome to play.
The vast majority of Australia’s 1,500-plus courses welcome visiting golfers – they are public accessible. By our definition, a public access course is one that offers tee times for visiting golfers at least five days a week.
This ranking was compiled during the past two years by Golf Australia Editor Brendan James and a team of 32 committed Golf Australia readers, who volunteered to present their opinions and insights. Some 173 courses received votes from our judges. They played courses, often covertly, paying green fees and then noting any changes to the design as well as the conditioning of each course they saw.
Like Crane’s list, we’re sure there will be controversy and discussions about the list and the positioning of some courses within it. We’re also sure, each of the layouts ranked here offers a good test of golf and “lasting pleasure” for all golfers.
100. THE VINES RESORT & CC (Ellenbrook course)
Swan Valley, Western Australia
Ranking history: 79 (2017); 64 (2015).
The Ellenbrook course continues to drop in this ranking with most of our judges feeling the conditioning could be better. Some questioned why the adjoining Lakes course was “streaks ahead” in terms of presentation. www.vines.com.au
99. CLUB MANDALAY
Ranking history: 93 (2017); NR (2015)
This Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett-designed layout has slipped slightly in this rank since making its debut appearance two years ago. This is probably a better reflection of other courses jumping in front of it rather than any decline at Club Mandalay. www.clubmandalay.com.au
98. COFFS HARBOUR GC (Lakes course)
Coffs Harbour, NSW
Ranking history: Debut
The renovations carried out on the Lakes course in recent years were winning applause long before the club hosted the Women’s NSW Open in 2018 and won the hearts of the players. Our judges were also glowing in their praise for the course, hence its rise into the Top-100 for the first time. www.coffsharbourgolfclub.com.au
97. EAGLE RIDGE
Ranking history: 81 (2017); 61 (2015).
The new owners, who took over in 2016, have invested well in raising the standard of presentation. While some areas have been cleared of scrub and wild grasses to help playability, most of our new judges to the panel felt the design would be more fun by eliminating “small, thickly grassed mounds from playing lines” and replacing bunkers that forced lay-ups or narrowed fairways too much. www.eagleridge.com.au
96. DUNTRYLEAGUE GC
Ranking history: 89 (2017); NR (2015).
Having re-entered our ranking at No.89 two years ago, Duntryleague has dropped seven places in this list, which can be attributed to gains made by other courses. Duntryleague remains one of the best courses to be found in regional NSW. www.duntryleague.com.au
95. GROWLING FROG
Yan Yean, Victoria
Ranking history: 82 (2017); 70 (2015).
Wide fairways, multiple tees and large undulating greens set across former grazing land dotted with river gums. It is a terrific setting for the Graham Marsh design and has proven a popular choice for golfers in Melbourne’s north east. www.growlingfroggolfcourse.com.au
94. HORSHAM GC
Ranking history: 94 (2017); 47 (2015).
It has been ten years since Horsham was wiped out by the Black Saturday bushfires. The club has bounced back by building a modern, expansive clubhouse and while the course has enormous potential, its conditioning remains a concern. www.horshamgolfclub.com.au
93. THE SANDHURST CLUB (North course)
Ranking history: 100 (2017); 95 (2015).
The Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett-designed layout underwent an extensive renovation a few years back and the presentation has continued to improve since the last ranking in 2017. The ongoing conversion of the fairways from Legends couch to Santa Ana couch will dramatically improve the presentation and playing attributes of the links-style layout. www.sandhurst.com
92. RIVERSIDE OAKS RESORT (Gangurru course)
Ranking history: 96 (2017); 86 (2015)
Riverside Oaks’ original course has moved up four spots in this rank on the back of better conditioning. Many judges remain critical of the cart paths that are wedged between greens, fairways and hazards. www.riversideoaks.com.au
91. NORTH LAKES RESORT GC
North Lakes, Queensland
Ranking history: 83 (2017); 72 (2015).
Graham Marsh’s trademark wide fairways and large greens can be found here. Course is home to some of the best Tifeagle putting surfaces in the country. Some trimming of trees is required to open up playing lines, especially from the tee. www.northlakesgolfclub.com.au
90. ALBANY GC
Albany, Western Australia
Ranking history: 85 (2017); 74 (2015).
Albany is an underrated links layout with a fine selection of natural holes. It’s slight dip in the ranking here is more reflective of the number of debutantes and redesigned courses that have grabbed higher spots in the list. www.albanygolfclub.com.au
89. LAKESIDE CC
Ranking history: NR (2017); NR (2015).
Originally designed by Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett, Lakeside re-enters our Public Access ranking after an eight-year absence. Extensive changes including new greens (designed by James Wilcher) and four recently finished holes, created by Greg Norman Golf Design, have changed the face of this links-style layout. There are expectations it will climb higher in future rankings once the playing surfaces mature. www.camdenlakeside.com.au
88. OCEAN SHORES CC
Ocean Shores, NSW
Ranking history: 86 (2017); 69 (2015).
The northern NSW course is a fun and challenging layout, boasting six par-5s, par-4s and par-3s. But it is the size and rolling quality of the putting surfaces that impresses every time. www.oceanshorescc.com.au
87. COBRAM-BAROOGA GC (Old course)
Ranking history: 88 (2017); 98 (2015).
Renovation work and a high standard of presentation over the past few years have not gone unnoticed, keeping the charming Old course cemented in the Top-100 despite the volatile movements at this end of the ranking. www.cbgc.com.au
86. SHELLY BEACH GC
Shelly Beach, NSW
Ranking history: Debut.
Shelly Beach finished just outside the Top-100 in each of the past two biennial rankings but it cracks a spot this year on the back of improvements made across the course. The picturesque layout not only offers great views during the round, it is a fun course to play … especially when the wind is blowing. www.shellybeachgolfclub.com.au
85. ALICE SPRINGS GC
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Ranking history: 87 (2017); 89 (2015).
Has moved up another two spots in the ranking as course improvements continue. The greens have been the focus for some time and they continue to get better, as will the tees and fairways in time. www.alicespringsgolfclub.com.au
84. MORNINGTON GC
Ranking history: Debut.
One of the oldest clubs in this ranking having been established in 1904, Mornington cruises into the Top-100 Public Access ranking as a result of improved presentation and upgrades including a new par-3 19th hole that will eventually be absorbed into the 18-hole routing under a redesign masterplan by Contour Golf Design Group. Our judges predict Mornington will be one of the big movers in the 2021 ranking. www.morningtongolf.com.au
83. BYRON BAY GC
Byron Bay, NSW
Ranking history: 92 (2017); 81 (2015).
One of the prettiest courses on the NSW North Coast has bounced back after a dip in this ranking two years ago. Our judges really liked the variety of holes and the high quality “strip-cut carpet-like” Queensland blue couch fairways. www.byronbaygolfclub.com.au
82. THE SANDS TORQUAY
Ranking history: Debut.
The Sands Torquay makes its first appearance in this ranking after a change, under new ownership, to offer more tee times for public access. The Stuart Appleby and International Management Group designed course is renowned for its extensive bunkering, which Appleby says were modelled on the Melbourne Sandbelt style. www.thesandstorquay.com
81. FLINDERS GC
Ranking history: 84 (2017); 85 (2015).
Nudging a little higher in the ranking this year, Flinders is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s most enjoyable courses. The ‘Coffin’ 4th hole is an obvious highlight on a course where no two rounds are ever the same. www.flindersgolfclub.com.au
80. BRIBIE ISLAND GC
Bribie Island, Queensland
Ranking history: 80 (2017); NR (2015).
Having dropped out of this biennial list in 2015, Bribie Island surged back in 2017 and has consolidated that position two years on. There is plenty to like about the layout, from the Melbourne Sandbelt-style bunkering to the quality of the playing surfaces. It is an easy-walking course despite the design being dictated by the contours of sand dunes. www.bribiegolf.com.au
79. CAPRICORN RESORT
Ranking history: 50 (2017); 34 (2015).
This Karl Litten-designed layout continues to drop in this ranking, having once been listed in the top-25 public access courses in the country. While the design remains one of Queensland’s most challenging, several judges reported the standard of course presentation was not what it was in its heyday. www.capricornresortgolf.com.au
78. MACQUARIE LINKS INTERNATIONAL GC
Macquarie Links, NSW
Ranking history: Debut.
Macquarie Links International opened for play in 2001 and was originally part of the Club Corp group of managed and owned courses worldwide. With that, the club was private to members, their guests and some corporate events.
Ownership has changed hands a few times during the past 18 years and the course is currently open to visiting golfers with enough tee times to satisfy our criteria as a public access course. The layout – the design in Australia by American Robin Nelson – is laid across a gently rolling terrain in the middle of a gated residential community. Nelson’s creation has obviously drawn some inspiration from courses far closer to the sea, with a mix of sprawling and pot bunkers, scattered throughout. www.macquarielinksgolfclub.com.au
77. COOLANGATTA & TWEED HEADS GC (West course)
Tweed Heads South, NSW
Ranking history: 91 (2017); 88 (2015).
There has been a raft of improvements made to the West Course since the last ranking was published in 2017. The greens have been a focus for course superintendent Peter Lonergan and his team, with the putting surfaces enlarged and reshaped during a conversion from bentgrass to the smooth-rolling Bermuda TifEagle. There have been some bunker renovations carried out also, and there are more tweaks to the already challenging design expected as part of the improvement process. www.cooltweedgolf.com.au
76. THE SANDHURST CLUB (Champions course)
Ranking history: 78 (2017); 51 (2015).
It has been ten years since the Champions Course opened for play and after a significant drop in this ranking in 2017, it has consolidated its position and moved up two places in 2019. Much of this can be attributed to extensive renovations carried out on the bunkering, while the overall presentation continues to improve back to the standard offered in the first few years after the course opened. www.sandhurst.com
75. INDOOROOPILLY GC (East course)
Ranking history: 70 (2017); 66 (2015).
There is plenty to like about the variety and quality of the East Course holes, which comprises the Blue and Green nines of the 36-hole facility and is popular with visiting golfers. The East features much less bunkering and water hazards than the West Course, but the interesting golf here comes in the form elevation change and natural twists in the terrain. www.indooroopillygolf.com.au
74. YARRAWONGA MULWALA RESORT (Lake course)
Ranking history: 74 (2017); 92 (2015).
After surging 18 spots up the ranking in 2017, the Lake Course at Yarrawonga Mulwala has confirmed its position from two years ago, despite several new entries and a host of redesigned courses jumping in this list. The par-72 is well-presented year around and a beautification and tree removal program is adding to the quality of a round here. www.yarragolf.com.au
73.CYPRESS LAKES G&CC
Ranking history: 97 (2017); NR (2015)
The rise and rise again of Cypress Lakes continues having reached its highest position in this ranking in more than a decade. The Hunter Valley course fell well out of the Top-100 in 2015, but new owners have invested heavily in the layout in recent years with extensive renovations to greens, fairways and, in particular, the bunkers to reach a standard of presentation not seen there since its early days. www.cypresslakes.com.au
72. MOLLYMOOK GC (Hilltop course)
Ranking history: 80 (2017); 99 (2015)
Mollymook continues its rise in this ranking, moving up another eight places after a big jump from 2015 to 2017. The NSW South Coast is looking superb with a program of selective bunker renovations and tree removal, combined with better playing surfaces being the cornerstone of its improvement in the list. www.mollymookgolf.com.au
71. MURWILLUMBAH GC
Ranking history: 79 (2017); 90 (2015).
Murwillumbah is another regional NSW course on the ascendency. The par-71 offers impressive views to the hinterland and Mt Warning, while the layout is not only a good test it is very enjoyable to play. The trio of holes closing out the front nine are a particular highlight. www.murwillumbahgolfclub.com.au
70. BALLARAT GC
Ranking history: 73 (2017); 63 (2015).
A decade on from the reopening of the ‘new’ course designed by Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett, and Ballarat has established a reputation for high quality conditioning and some of he best greens in regional Victoria. Several judges commented they really enjoyed the strategy and fun aspects of the layout’s short par-4s. www.ballaratgolfclub.com.au
69. ROSEBUD CC (North course)
Ranking history: 71 (2017); 62 (2015).
A consolidated position for this year proves the consistently good presentation of a layout that our judges believe is the best at Rosebud CC. This will be one course to watch over the next two to four years after the club recently announced the design firm, Ogilvy Clayton Cocking & Mead (OCCM) will undertake a redesign of the 36-hole complex. www.rosebudcountryclub.com.au
68. SECRET HARBOUR LINKS
Secret Harbour, WA
Ranking history: 56 (2017); 50 (2015).
Graham Marsh’s design covers an exposed site on WA’s Golf Coast, where the strength and direction of the winds off the Indian Ocean play a major influence on strategy and club selection. www.secretharbourgolflinks.com.au
67. PARADISE PALMS
Kewarra Beach, Queensland
Ranking history: 63 (2017); 76 (2015).
Our judges enjoyed playing Paradise Palms for this ranking but many of them believe the course is still a long way from reaching its potential. While the relatively new 10th and 11th holes easily fit into the round, they are far from the quality of the holes they replaced. www.paradisepalms.com.au
66. COOLANGATTA & TWEED HEADS GC (River course)
Tweed Heads South, NSW
Ranking history: 76 (2017); 78 (2015).
A jump of 10 places in this ranking will hardly be surprising to any golfer who has played this course during the past 18 months. The more strategic of the two Coolangatta and Tweed Heads courses is always beautifully manicured, while tweaks to the design and renovation of the bunkering has contributed to its higher place in the list. www.cooltweedgolf.com.au
65. MAROOCHY RIVER GC
Bli Bli, Queensland
Ranking history: Debut.
This Graham Marsh-designed layout makes its debut in this ranking just three years after opening for play. Raised from a floodplain during construction, the links-style course has matured beautifully while the classic risk-and-reward strategy of the design has made it very popular with golfers of all abilities. www.maroochyrivergolfclub.com.au
64. MONA VALE GC
Mona Vale, NSW
Ranking history: 67 (2017); NR.
Mona Vale has improved on its highest-ever rank achieved in 2017, which is validation for the selective changes – including the construction of several new greens and the design tweak of the picturesque 17th hole – that have been made to the course in recent times. Well manicured is the norm, rather than the exception at Mona Vale. www.mvgc.com.au
63. EASTLAKE GC
Ranking history: 75 (2017); 80 (2015).
Eastlake could quite easily claim the title of Sydney’s most underrated course. Has improved each year since first entering this ranking at No.82 in 2013. The minor changes to some aspects of the design carried out by course superintendent Nathan Bradbury and his team are enhanced by the ever-improving playing surfaces. www.eastlakegolfclub.com.au
62. PALMER SEA REEF
Port Douglas, Queensland
Ranking history: 60 (2017); 39 (2015).
Palmer Sea Reef has consolidated its position in the ranking, with our judges – particularly those who played this course for the first time for this ranking – impressed with design and the condition of the playing of the playing surfaces. www.palmergolf.com.au
61. LEONGATHA GC
Leongatha South, Victoria
Ranking history: 65 (2017); 83 (2015).
Gippsland’s only course to make the Top-100 is a Vern Morcom-designed layout that is no longer regarded a hidden gem as a result of its national ranking status. The course covers wonderful golfing terrain, while the variety of holes on offer at Leongatha make it a ‘must play’ course when you’re in the region. www.leongathagolf.com.au
60. NOOSA SPRINGS RESORT
Noosa Heads, Queensland.
Ranking history: 66 (2017); 57 (2015).
Noosa Springs is perhaps the idyllic resort course in that it offers an enjoyable golfing escape in beautiful surrounds, while the challenge is not brutal. That said, good strategy and correct club selection are of the utmost importance here. www.noosasprings.com.au
59. MT COMPASS
Mt Compass, South Australia
Ranking history: Debut.
Mt Compass is the highest debutante in this ranking and is likely to rank even higher in 2021 as the general rate of improvement continues. Mt Compass started from a long way back to storm into this list, having received only enough votes to be the No.121 course in 2015. Since then, ownership of the course has changed and there has been significant investment in upgrades to the agronomy as well as the design, which is now paying dividends. www.mcgc.com.au
58. RACV CAPE SCHANCK RESORT
Cape Schanck, Victoria
Ranking history: 64 (2017); 52 (2015).
With construction of the hotel development now complete the Robert Trent Jones Jnr design is starting to blossom again. Players at the Victoria PGA Championship held there in October were full of praise for the course, as were our judges for this ranking. www.racv.com.au
57. THE COAST GC
Little Bay, NSW
Ranking history: 49 (2017); 44 (2015).
The ranking positions between 45 and 65 are the most volatile in terms of up and down movement. So with that in mind, there is nothing to read into The Coast’s drop of eight places from its 2017 position. The course remains in great shape and holes like the 3rd, 4th and 5th are worth playing for the green fee alone. www.coastgolf.com.au
56. LINKS LADY BAY RESORT
Normanville, South Australia
Ranking history: 58 (2017); 43 (2015).
After consecutive drops in this public access ranking during the past five years, Links Lady Bay has seemingly turned the corner with its improved position in 2019, albeit just two spots higher. Our returning judges reported they had not seen Lady Bay in such good condition for many years. www.linksladybay.com.au
55. BLACK BULL
Ranking history: 57 (2017); NR (2015).
Black Bull made its debut in this ranking two years and its slight improvement in 2017 comes as no surprise. The Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett-designed layout challenges for having for the best greens along the Murray River, while the much talked about ‘Bull Ring’ and the closing hole beside Lake Mulwala are a real highlight of any round. www.blackbullgc.com.au
54. BELMONT GC
Ranking history: 70 (2017); 79 (2015).
Belmont is one of the big movers this year, jumping an incredible 16 places in the list from 2017 to achieve its highest-ever ranking position. The club has invested heavily in the layout in recent years, including the construction of a new beachside par-3 and extensive improvements to other holes. Combine this with generally better presentation across the board and it won’t surprise if Belmont cracks a spot in the top half of this ranking in 2021. www.belmontgolf.com.au
53. KOOINDAH WATERS RESORT
Ranking history: 48 (2017); 46 (2015).
A strategic layout where trouble in the form of wetlands and bunkers can be found scattered across the layout. Kooindah Waters is not a particularly long course but forced water carries on the likes of the 2nd, 8th, 9th and 17th holes test your nerve. www.kooindahwatersgolf.com.au
52. PALM MEADOWS
Ranking history: 61 (2017); 65 (2015).
Palm Meadows is one of the most improved courses in Australian golf in the past eight years. Having dropped out of this ranking in 2011, it returned in 2013 at No.78 and is now on the verge of cracking a position in the top half of the list. According to our judges, it’s simply a case of consistently better presentation complementing what has always been an enjoyable design. www.palmmeadows.com.au
51. YARRAWONGA MULWALA GC RESORT (Murray course)
Ranking history: 55 (2017); 59 (2015).
The ascendency of one of the most popular courses to be found on the Murray River continues. It has managed to climb a few places each time this ranking has been published since 2013, when it was listed at No.64. The Murray course, like its Lake course neighbour, has thrived with access to better irrigation in recent years. www.yarragolf.com.au
50. JOONDALUP RESORT & CC (Dune/Lake course)
Joondalup, Western Australia
Ranking history: 51 (2017); 49 (2015).
The Dune/Lake course is one of the really consistent achievers in this ranking, having floated between No.49 and No.51 for the past eight years. This reflects exactly what the visiting golfer will find every time they tee it up on the Dune/Lake course – good conditioning combined with a wide range of interesting holes. www.joondalupresort.com.au
49. FEDERAL GC
Red Hill, ACT
Ranking history: 46 (2017); 48 (2015).
Federal’s dip in the ranking here can really be attributed to the improvement of several other courses in this percentile of the rank rather than any drop off in its presentation or design. Federal is a beautiful course that covers terrain that varies from gently rolling to hilly and offers plenty of enjoyable highlights. www.fgc.com.au
48. SANCTUARY COVE G&CC (Palms course)
Sanctuary Cove, Queensland
Ranking history: 44 (2017); 36 (2015).
It is nearly eight years since the $9 million rebuild to a Ross Watson design was completed and the course continues to prove popular as a result of the changes. Several judges noted that the undulating greens are some of the most challenging anywhere on the Gold Coast. www.sanctuarycovegolf.com.au
47. TASMANIA GC
Barilla Bay, Tasmania
Ranking history: 59 (2017); 55 (2015).
A tree removal program in recent times has really opened up parts of the Tasmania course, which has improved the outlook across the course, the turf quality in several areas and widened the playing lines on some holes. It is no surprise to our judges that Tasmania has achieved its highest-ever position in this ranking. www.tasmaniagolfclub.com.au
46. MURRAY DOWNS G&CC
Murray Downs, NSW
Ranking history: 52 (2017); 58 (2015).
Murray Downs can again boast it is the No.1 course on the Murray River, after climbing to its highest-ever position in the history of this ranking. Terrific presentation continues to be a highlight of a round here, with our judges making particular mention of the “outstanding” putting surfaces. www.murraydownsgolf.com.au
45. WARRNAMBOOL GC
Ranking history: 54 (2017); 71 (2015).
Warrnambool’s reputation for beautifully presented playing surfaces has long been the appeal for attracting visiting golfers. But some fine-tuning of the design in recent times – like the clearing of scrub from sand dunes alongside holes on the ‘Shipwreck Bend’ – have enhanced the strategy and enjoyment of playing the layout. www.wgcinc.com.au
44. RACV ROYAL PINES RESORT (Green/Gold course)
Ranking history: 38 (2017); NR.
The home of the Australian PGA Championship is undoubtedly a better incarnation since the Graham Marsh redesign was completed in 2015. The course is well-presented year round but some judges felt some of the bunkering is only “ever going to penalise the high handicapper or casual player”. www.racv.com.au
43. TWIN WATERS GC
Twin Waters, Queensland
Ranking history: 39 (2017); 42 (2015).
Generous fairways and big putting surfaces make Twin Waters playable and challenging for players of all standards. The Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett design is a Sunshine Coast icon that is always in good shape. www.twinwatersgolfclub.com.au
42. EYNESBURY GC
Ranking history: 37 (2017); 35 (2015)
Eynesbury celebrated its 10th birthday in 2018 and continues to hold a spot in the top half of this ranking, despite the high debut positioning of new and redesigned courses during the past decade. Designed by Graham Marsh, Eynesbury is a long excursion but, ironically, some of its best holes are its short par-4s and the all the par-3s. www.eynesburygolf.com.au
41. THE VINES G&CC RESORT (Lakes course)
Swan Valley, Western Australia
Ranking history: 34 (2017); 26 (2015).
The Graham Marsh and Ross Watson design of the Lakes layout remains one of the most interesting to play in WA, with a good variety of holes and interesting greenscapes. But most judges felt the overall presentation had declined from the high standards set during its tournament hosting years. www.thevines.com.au
40. RANFURLIE GC
Ranking history: 47 (2017); 38 (2015).
Here is one course that seems to polarise the golfing community. Our judges loved the simplicity and strategy of the design, and singled out the green/bunker complexes as very good. They were also full of praise for the improved presentation and changes to the layout, including the new par-3 9th hole. www.ranfurlie.com.au
39. RIVERSIDE OAKS (Bungool course)
Ranking history: 35 (2017); 41 (2015).
The shuffling of dozens of courses within the top-half of this ranking has seen this Bob Harrison-designed layout drop four places in the list, but it actually received more votes from our judges than it did in 2017. The judges loved the strategic nature of the design and the quality of the playing surfaces. www.riversideoaks.com.au
38. SETTLERS RUN G&CC
Botanic Ridge, Victoria
Ranking history: 41 (2017); 45 (2015).
The overall presentation of the Greg Norman and Harley Kruse-designed Settlers Run continues to impress our judges. Four years after debuting in this list it has achieved its highest-ever ranking. www.settlersrungcc.com.au
37. CURLEWIS GC
Ranking history: 42 (2017); 53 (2015).
When Curlewis debuted in this ranking at No.57 in 2013, we received a handful of emails criticising us (tongue firmly in cheek) for letting the secret out about this wonderful Sandbelt-style course. The layout continues to evolve with minor tweaks to the design and playing surfaces that should be the envy of most city clubs. www.curlewisgolf.com.au
36. KALGOORLIE GC
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Ranking history: 43 (2017); 40 (2015).
From the back markers, Kalgoorlie is the longest golf course in Australia. But there is far more substance to this Graham Marsh-designed outback gem than its length. The green complexes require plenty of thought – not just when putting either – and good ball-striking into the preferred half of fairways will be rewarded with easier approach shots. www.kalgoorliegolfcourse.com.au
35. JOONDALUP RESORT & CC (Quarry/Lake course)
Joondalup, Western Australia
Ranking history: 32 (2017); 32 (2015).
The Quarry/Lake layout is the second best of the Joondalup combinations with the Lake nine offering a slightly less dramatic, but no less enjoyable, complement to the Quarry nine.
The bunkering, including several moon crater-style offerings, on the Lake course, coupled with the dramatic terrain of the Quarry course make for a memorable round every time you tee it up here. www.joondalupresort.com.au
34. SUN CITY CC
Yanchep, Western Australia
Ranking history: 45 (2017); 75 (2015).
Again, one of the big improvers in this ranking in the wake of the OCCM (Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead) redesign that has transformed the course during the past four years. There are still some holes left to be changed but at this point in time, Sun City has never been better. www.suncitycountryclub.com.au
33. LONG REEF GC
Ranking history: 33 (2017); 31 (2015).
Located on a spectacular, sloping headland with water views on three sides, the course sweeps up and down the hill with wind dictating what you will shoot on the day. Plenty of room to drive the ball but precision required at the business end to score even moderately well … Long Reef is a solid test in a great location. www.longreefgolfclub.com.au
32. PACIFIC DUNES
Ranking history: 26 (2017); 27 (2015).
Catering to the holidaying golfer as well as their members, Pacific Dunes provides an ideal level of challenge for golfers of all standards in a beautiful setting. The James Wilcher-designed layout has taken a slight dip in this ranking but the congestion between No.20 and No. 35, could easily have seen Pacific Dunes rank as high as No.23. Perhaps that will be the case in 2021. www.pacificdunes.com.au
31. LAKELANDS GC
Ranking history: 27 (2017); 24 (2015).
This Jack Nicklaus-designed course (his first signature creation in Australia) has gained a reputation over many years for being meticulously maintained. In fact, the greens might be some of the best couch putting surfaces you will find in Queensland. www.lakelandsgolfclub.com.au
30. ST MICHAELS GC
Little Bay, NSW
Ranking history: 36 (2017); 30 (2015).
As predicted after its slip to No.36 in 2017, St Michaels has bounced back and is heading in the right direction in this ranking. The course maintenance team has worked hard on improving the design’s playability and visual appeal during the past few years and St Micks is blossoming as a result. www.stmichaelsgolf.com.au
29. SANCTUARY LAKES CLUB
Point Cook, Victoria
Ranking history: 31 (2017); 37 (2015).
The Greg Norman and Bob Harrison-designed course joined the public access ranks back in 2015 and its gradual climb in this list continues. It is a fabulous design on what was very ordinary land for golf and the presentation of the layout keeps getting better with age. www.sanctuarylakesclub.com.au
28. THE GLADES
Ranking history: 30 (2017); 23 (2015).
Nothing but positive reports from our judges, who report that The Glades is in the best shape they have seen it for many years, with several singling out the fairways as arguably the best on the Gold Coast. www.glades.com.au
27. THIRTEENTH BEACH (Creek course)
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Ranking history: 24 (2017); 25 (2015).
Laid across less dramatic topography than its Beach course neighbour, the Creek course features wider fairways with vast sloping greens (much like you will find in the Melbourne Sandbelt) and expansive bunkering. There is a great deal of strategy involved in scoring well on this course, which our judges really enjoyed. www.13thbeachgolf.com
26. STONECUTTERS RIDGE GC
Ranking history: 22 (2017); 17 (2015).
There is no mistaking Stonecutters Ridge for anything other than a Greg Norman and Bob Harrison design. In fact it was their last collaboration together and it combines everything their courses are famous for – wide fairways, interesting green complexes and big bunkering – across varying terrain. The low-lying holes from the 1st to the 7th are very good, while the stretch from 10 through to 14 on rolling terrain are even better. www.stonecuttersgc.com.au
25. PELICAN WATERS GC
Pelican Waters, Queensland
Ranking history: 21 (2017); 16 (2015).
Pelican Waters is another course from the design team of Greg Norman and Bob Harrison that is perennially ranked in the top-half of this ranking. Our judges really enjoyed the course, with several reporting that “even the holes with residential backdrops were visually stunning.” It will be interesting to see where Pelican Waters ranks once a redesign of the course, to allow for more residential development, is completed. www.pelicangolf.com.au
24. PACIFIC HARBOUR G&CC
Banksia Beach, Queensland
Ranking history: 28 (2017); 22 (2015).
The clearing of thick scrub in key areas of the course has made Pacific Harbour a more playable proposition than it was when this ranking was last published in 2017. The Ross Watson-designed layout is a challenging one, especially when the wind is up. Avoiding the plethora of bunkers scattered across the course is one of the keys to scoring well here. www.pacificharbourgolf.com.au
23. MOONAH LINKS (Open course)
Ranking history: 23 (2017); 19 (2015).
On a typical Mornington Peninsula day the Open course at Moonah Links could be the hardest 18 holes in Australia. Designed by Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett and opened for play nearly 18 years ago, the Open layout challenges every facet of your game across a lengthy excursion. The presentation of the course has been superb in recent times. www.moonahlinks.com.au
22. NAROOMA GC
Ranking history: 29 (2017); 28 (2015).
Narooma climbs seven places to claim its highest ever ranking position in this ranking. Its reputation as a ‘must play’ course has been enhanced in recent times with some minor tweaks to the design (the greenside bunkering on the cliff-top 3rd hole is a fine example) and a higher standard of conditioning. The spectacular opening six holes laid out across cliff tops above the Pacific Ocean are unforgettable, while the dramatic terrain of the inland holes not only add variety but demand a whole range of different shots than you will need by the sea. www.naroomagolf.com.au
21. PORT FAIRY GL
Port Fairy, Victoria
Ranking history: 25 (2017); 29 (2015).
Port Fairy is another course of those showcased here that has reason to celebrate, having reached its best-ever public access ranking position. A vegetation management program and some adjustments to the design has elevated some of Port Fairy’s holes to stand alongside its best. The stretch along the beach, holes 12 to 16 inclusive, remain the highlight but the eradication of scrub left of the 16th make it a much better hole. www.portfairygolf.com.au
20. LINKS HOPE ISLAND
Hope Island, Queensland
Ranking history: 17 (2017); 18 (2015).
A blend of links-like ground features amid quintessentially Queensland vegetation, Hope Island captures the best of both worlds that appeals to players of all standards. The Gold Coast icon has dipped a few places in this list as a result of the movement of other courses in the ranking. www.linkshopeisland.com.au
19. PORTSEA GC
Ranking history: 18 (2017); 14 (2015).
Portsea remains one of the ‘must play’ layouts for any visiting golfer to the Mornington Peninsula. The course is not long by modern standards but it packs plenty of fun into its 18 holes with a collection of great short par-4s and par-3s making full use of the undulating topography. www.portseagolf.com.au
18. MEADOW SPRINGS G&CC
Meadow Springs, Western Australia
Ranking history: 20 (2017); 20 (2015).
After four years of seemingly being cemented at No.20 in this ranking, Meadow Springs creeps up two places to No.18 – its highest position ever in the biennial list. Long-time course superintendent Greg Simmonds, who resigned from his position a few months ago, can be proud of the year-after-year quality of Meadow Springs’ presentation, which complements Robert Trent Jones Jnr’s underrated design. www.msgcc.com.au
17. THE VINTAGE
Ranking history: 19 (2017); 21 (2015).
This Greg Norman and Bob Harrison-designed Hunter Valley layout has risen to its highest rank after more than a decade of this biennial list being published. Despite having to endure temperature extremes throughout the year, The Vintage always presents well and the design is always a challenge and a lot of fun to play. www.thevintage.com.au
16. THE CUT
Port Bouvard, Western Australia
Ranking history: 16 (2017); 13 (2015).
James Wilcher’s design has been a mainstay in the top-20 of this ranking since opening for play in 2005. It is a layout of two contrasting nines – the three of the first four holes on the front skirt the back of a beach before turning inland to weave through a residential development, while the back nine ventures deep into the dunes across more dramatic terrain. This inward half has been described by some as the best nine holes in the country. www.the-cut.com.au
15. MOONAH LINKS (Legends course)
Ranking history: 13 (2017); 15 (2015).
The Legends course at Moonah Links, according to our judges, is one of the most enjoyable layouts to play on the Mornington Peninsula. Ross Perrett’s creation combines a collection of well-designed holes with excellent conditioning to provide the visiting golfer a memorable experience. www.moonahlinks.com.au
14. HAMILTON ISLAND GC
Dent Island, Queensland
Ranking history: 15 (2017); 11 (2015).
Hamilton Island celebrates its 10th anniversary of play this year and in the decade since it has never been ranked lower than 15th position. Designers Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett utilised the dramatic elevation changes across the island in laying many holes along ridges or across steep valleys between tees and greens. Did we mention these high points offer some of the most breathtaking views in Australian golf? www.hamiltonislandgolfclub.com.au
13. NEWCASTLE GC
Ranking history: 12 (2017); 9 (2015).
Newcastle is a brilliant course covering naturally rolling and sandy terrain that has given rise to some world class holes, with none better than the par-4 5th, par-4 6th and par-3 7th.
RIGHT: No.13. Newcastle GC. PHOTO: Brendan James
The club has plans to redevelop with the inclusion of new holes, designed by Bob Harrison, to be built between the current course and the nearby beach.
12. JOONDALUP RESORT & CC (Quarry/Dunes course)
Ranking history: 10 (2017); 5 (2015).
There are few courses in this country, found away from the ocean, that offer as many spectacular holes as the Quarry/Dunes layout at Joondalup. American designer Robert Trent Jones Jnr unleashed his creative juices in routing the layout around and over an abandoned limestone quarry, before heading out on the rolling Dunes nine, which features elevation change and the odd blind shot. www.joondalupresort.com.au
11. BROOKWATER GC
Ranking history: 14 (2017); 12 (2015).
A major redesign undertaken a few years ago by Greg Norman’s design company has bedded in well and is validated in its highest ranking since 2011. All bunkers and greens were renovated, while trees were thinned out in key areas to make the course more playable. Our judges really enjoyed the changes and the improved conditioning of the layout. www.brookwater.com.au/golf-and-country-club
10. BONVILLE GOLF RESORT
Ranking history: 9 (2017); 10 (2015).
There are few more beautiful places to play golf in Australian than among the flooded gum-lined fairways and greens at Bonville. Nearly six years after an extensive renovation of the bunkers and some greens, the course has never been better. The course drops one spot in this ranking, despite getting more voting points than it did in 2017 when it ranked No.9. www.bonvillegolf.com.au
9. THE DUNES GL
Ranking history: 11 (2017); 8 (2015).
The Dunes has re-entered the top-10 of this ranking, having dropped out in 2017 when the two newcomers – Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes – surged to the pointy end of the list on debut. The Dunes has been in play now for 22 years and has rarely looked or played better. The rolling terrain, changed very little in construction, continues to excite and impress. www.thedunes.com.au
8. LINKS KENNEDY BAY
Port Kennedy, Western Australia
Ranking history: 7 (2017); 3 (2015).
Kennedy Bay completed its 20th year of play in 2018 and its fourth successive top-10 ranking in this list, making it the No.1 public access course in Western Australia. Undulating greens, dozens of pot bunkers (and the occasional sprawling bunker) and naturally rippled fairways are what make great golfing memories of a round here. www.kennedybay.com.au
7. THIRTEENTH BEACH GL (Beach course)
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Ranking history: 8 (2017); 6 (2015).
Tony Cashmore’s Beach course at Thirteenth Beach is still as exciting to play as it was when it first opened for play in 2001.
RIGHT: No.7. Thirteenth Beach (Beach Course). PHOTO: Brendan James.
The course has a wonderful mix of thought provoking short holes and challenging longer holes capable of destroying your scorecard. The bunkering, plus sandy wastelands, look natural, while the green complexes have great variation in shape, slope and size. www.13thbeachgolf.com
6. ST ANDREWS BEACH
Ranking history: 5 (2017); 4 (2015).
With less than two voting points separating positions No.4 through to No.7, there is an expectation that there will be some chopping and changing of placings in the top-10 in years to come. And so it is that St Andrews Beach has dropped down one spot in the ranking despite being the No.1 public access course on the Mornington Peninsula. Designer Tom Doak provided plenty of width from the tee in creating a course which is all about setting up the approach shot from the best position in the fairway. www.standrewsbeachgolf.com.au
5. BARWON HEADS GC
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Ranking history: 6 (2017); 7 (2015).
Barwon Heads is a beautiful links course and, if you’re looking for a fun round, this is the place to play. By fun, it might mean punching a little 5-iron through the wind when a wedge might do on a calm day or caressing a chip-and-run 4-iron onto a green in a bid to conquer the par-70 layout. Subtle changes to the design by consulting architects Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford and immaculate conditioning keep Barwon Heads nudging higher in national ranking lists like this. www.barwonheads.golf
4. OCEAN DUNES
King Island, Tasmania
Ranking history: 4 (2017); NR (2015).
The Graeme Grant-designed Ocean Dunes made its debut in this ranking just months after opening in 2016 and has managed to hold its position, despite some pressure from below, two years on. Grant had wonderful seaside terrain in which to create a par-72 that offers one memorable hole after another. Any first time visitor can be easily seduced by the spectacular oceanside holes, but the course loses nothing when the routing turns inland. www.oceandunes.com.au
3. BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM
Ranking history: 3 (2017); 2 (2015).
Two words easily describe the Lost Farm creation by acclaimed American course architect Bill Coore – world class. Like its neighbour Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm is set among dramatic coastal sand dunes, but the layout is very different. Featuring more changes of direction than the original course and including two cute extra par-3s to make a 20-hole journey, Lost Farm is chock full of memorable moments. The diminutive par-3 4th hole is a hole you want to play more than once, while the short two-shotters at the 3rd and 14th offer more strategy options than are immediately apparent. And don’t forget the brilliant 5th hole, a long par-4 played from a variety of tees either around or over a huge dune that protects the ideal part of the fairway. What a hole! www.barnbougle.com.au
2. BARNBOUGLE DUNES
Ranking history: 2 (2017); 1 (2015).
The course that put Tasmania on the global golfing map in 2004 was knocked out of its No.1 spot for the first time in 2017. Two years on, and the Tom Doak and Mike Clayton-designed remains in the penultimate position. The looping nines along Anderson Bay create an extraordinary set of highlights with holes such as the multi-faceted par-4 4th and the fiendish short par-3 7th, which presents possibly the most impossible 110 metres in the game. The terrain here was poked and prodded, not pushed, by the design team and the result is a public links for the ages. www.barnbougle.com.au
1. CAPE WICKHAM
King Island, Tasmania
Ranking history: 1 (2017); NR (2015).
Having emulated Barnbougle Dunes’ feat from 2005 by grabbing the No.1 spot on debut (2017), Cape Wickham keeps its position as the premier public access course in Australia. Officially opened for play in 2015, the Mike DeVries and Darius Oliver design has since been lauded here and abroad, with several overseas publications including the seaside layout in the Top-100 Courses in the world. There are no arguments with that accolade from our judges. It is an outstanding routing, which features eight holes set right alongside the jagged 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 can almost feel the sea spray as you put your ball on the tee. There are holes built across rocky promontories and others, like the short par-4 18th hole, where a beach lies at the edge of the fairway. Yes … Cape Wickham certainly has postcard views but, more importantly, it has plenty of golfing substance. www.capewickham.com.au