Our biennial ranking of the Top-100 Public Access Courses in the nation is here. With international travel off the table for the foreseeable future, here is a feast of fine courses everyone can play … right here at home.
There has never been a better time to hit the road and explore this big, brown land with a set of golf clubs slung over your shoulder.
Dreams of global golfing odysseys are going to have to wait as international travel goes on hold because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. There is plenty of quality golf to be discovered in our own backyard, which makes this presentation of Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses arguably the most important ranking Golf Australia magazine has ever published.
If there is a positive to be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the shot in the arm it has given Australian golf. According to figures from Golf Australia, there have been more rounds of golf played across the country in the past 12 months than at any other time in the past 20 years.
Australian golfers are keen to play. But where?
If you’re looking for a course to play where you don’t need to know a member to get a game, or a place where the golf is interesting and fun … a place that will hopefully provide you with a memorable golfing experience. You’ve come to the right place.
It hasn’t been easy pulling this ranking together, especially during the past 10 months with several state borders being closed for most of that time and, at various stages, courses being closed for extended periods due to the pandemic.
Normally, guidelines to our Public Access Courses ranking panel of judges have been to only consider courses they have played during the past two years, or from the voting deadline for the previous ranking. For the purposes of this ranking, the rolling voting period was extended to three years, while an additional 13 judges – taking the total number to 45 from across the country – were added to the panel. Each of our judges volunteered to provide their opinions and insights about courses they have seen, and it is a task they tackled enthusiastically.
“Significant periods of the past 10 months have proven challenging in terms of judges seeing courses, particularly outside of their own states,” Golf Australia magazine Editor Brendan James said. “But I have to applaud the panel for getting out to look at as many courses as they could within the confines of the government-imposed travel restrictions of their state.
“They played courses, mostly covertly, paying green fees and then noting any significant changes to the design as well as the conditioning of each course they saw.
“I cannot thank them enough for the effort they have put in.”
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. Courses attached to resorts, where non-member tee times are primarily set aside for hotel guests, were not considered for this ranking.
Despite the hurdles presented by COVID-19 along the way, 187 courses received votes from our judges. Here, we showcase the Top-100 of those courses, as well as an additional 30 that received votes but narrowly missed inclusion among the centurions.
However, there are two courses you won’t find on the list – Lonsdale Links, on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, and the newest addition to the Melbourne Sandbelt, Sandy Links.
At the time of going to press, Sandy Links – a major redesign of the Sandringham public course by Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead (OCM) – had just opened its remaining holes. At Lonsdale, the finishing touches were being made to the course for an early 2021 opening. Both layouts will be strong contenders in this ranking in 2023.
Please enjoy our 2021 Top-100 Public Access Courses ranking, and we hope it comes in handy as a reference to plan your next golfing adventure at home … Enjoy!
100. MOORE PARK GC
Moore Park, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “As a golfer I hope Moore Park gets a stay of execution as the axe hangs over cutting the layout to just nine holes. No other course in this country can offer fun, interesting golf on well-presented playing surfaces, just five minutes’ cab ride from the CBD, like Moore Park can.” – Julian Allen.
99. GARDINERS RUN
Judge’s Comment: “Gardiners Run was a revelation to me. There was plenty of variety in terms of shots the course asks of your game. The bunkering was dynamic, while the greens were pretty large and often dramatic. I started 2019 having not heard of Gardiners Run and have since played it five times, I was that impressed with it.” – Sam Brooking.
98. DUNTRYLEAGUE GC
Judge’s Comment: “Duntryleague is a beautiful place to play, especially in the spring, when the course is alive with colour. The first time I played there a few years back the playing surfaces were very good. When I returned in 2020, my expectations were for much the same, but they were exceeded.” – Jodie Ewart.
97. CLUB MANDALAY
Judge’s Comment: “This Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett-designed layout looked like it might fall out of the Top-100 after finishing 99th two years ago. But it has edged up two spots for this list, which I think can be attributed to the improved conditioning right across the entire layout.” – Graham Brady.
96. THE KOORALBYN VALLEY
Judge’s Comment: “This is the first time Kooralbyn Valley has appeared in a Golf Australia magazine ranking for more than 20 years. After a decade of gradual decline under a series of different owners, Kooralbyn closed in 2008. Current owner, Peter Huang, reopened the resort and adjoining course in 2016 and the significant multi-million dollar investment made to recapture the glory of the original Desmond Muirhead design is certainly evident.” – Brendan James.
95. RIVERSIDE OAKS RESORT (Gangurru Course)
Judge’s Comment: “I always enjoy playing the original Riverside Oaks course because there are plenty of memorable holes. My only ongoing criticism is the placement of cart paths alongside water hazards, especially on several back nine holes like 12, 17 and 18, which make for some unfair bounces.” – Scott Matthews.
94. COBRAM-BAROOGA GC (Old Course)
Judge’s Comment: “There has been a lot of work done on the Old Course in recent years (with more ongoing) and the improvements have certainly enhanced a round here. I look forward to going back to see the new 18th hole and some of the other work being done to the course.” – Nathan Burgess.
93. MACQUARIE LINKS INTERNATIONAL GC
Macquarie Links, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “The course covers gently rolling land and has some standout holes like the long par-4 2nd and the downhill par-3 11th, which is played across a wide, scrub-filled ravine. It is a tough hole but a standout on a back nine that boasts the pick of the most interesting holes.” – Ken Robinson.
92. LAKES ENTRANCE GC
Lakes Entrance, Victoria.
Judge’s Comment: “I was surprised to learn Lakes Entrance had never featured in the Top-100 ranking before. The front nine holes, running nearest to the beach, are links-like and are brilliant in their simplicity. Then you get a memorable par-3 like the 15th hole, which has water and sand and is completely different to anything else you have played that day. Lakes Entrance could be the best hidden gem in Victorian golf.” – Paul Wilson.
91. HORSHAM GC
Judge’s Comment: “I played Horsham for the first time in early 2020 and had an open mind, despite several golf mates who had played there who had said that it wasn’t as good as it was before it was devastated by bushfire in 2009. It must have been some course back then because I loved the current Horsham layout. There are plenty of good strategic holes and I found the layout a lot of fun to play.” – Hamish Walker.
90. OCEAN SHORES CC
Ocean Shores, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “I really enjoy playing Ocean Shores. It presents beautifully and it can be a really tough challenge, depending on the conditions. I quite like the mix of six par-3s, 4s and 5s, while the risk and reward strategy is clearly evident. I really enjoyed the walk through the heavily tree-lined parts of the beautiful back nine.” – Ken Robinson.
89. COFFS HARBOUR GC (Lakes Course)
Coffs Harbour, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “Coffs Harbour has made a significant rise in this ranking and, in my opinion, it will probably climb higher as more judges discover its delights. This is easily the best country course I have ever played. Great greens, great fairways and the challenge is ever-present.” – Joe Thomas.
88. NUDGEE GC (Bay Course)
Judge’s Comment: “Nudgee has gone through huge changes during the past four years, with another nine holes to be constructed to return the club to a 36-hole facility. The Bay Course, as it is currently known, has the lion’s share of the best holes at Nudgee and the conditioning is something you would be more likely to find at an expensive private club.” – Phil Nicholls.
87. TURA BEACH CC
Tura Beach, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “This Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge layout offers a wonderful mix of holes as it winds across tree-lined, dramatic sloping topography as well as flatter links-like terrain near the beach. Combined, it makes for an interesting and fun round.” – Graham Brady.
86. SHELLY BEACH GC
Shelly Beach, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “Shelly Beach has always been a wonderful place to play golf, but it has been at its best in recent years. The holes closest to the beach are the obvious highlight during a round that never disappoints.” – Sandra Lyons.
85. SANDHURST CLUB (North Course)
Judge’s Comment: “I don’t think the North Course has looked as good as it has in recent times. There is no mistaking the Peter Thomson influence on the design with large greens offering wide openings, dramatic mounding and deep pot bunkers.” – James Walsh.
84. ALICE SPRINGS GC
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Judge’s Comment: “After a significant period where the club had problems with its greens, the putting surfaces are now very good and complement the presentation of the rest of the course. Any comment about Alice Springs must also make mention of the beautiful outback setting, with the MacDonnell Ranges providing a picturesque backdrop to the layout.” – Scott Matthews.
83. FORSTER-TUNCURRY GC (Tuncurry Course)
Judge’s Comment: “A shining example of great golf being created by minimalist design (long before it became a trend). Crafted by Kel Nagle and Mike Cooper, the course ebbs and flows across rolling dunes near Tuncurry Beach and is absolutely superb in its simplicity.” – Brendan James.
82. RICH RIVER GC (East Course)
Judge’s Comment: “Irrigation upgrades are already proving beneficial to the playing surfaces right across the East Course. Some holes – like the 8th, 16th and 17th holes – have been redesigned and this has improved these holes markedly. The 16th is now a gem of a par-3, with bunkers removed and the green made larger, to bring the adjoining lake into play, and shaped to provide some interesting birdie putts.” – Brendan James.
81. BYRON BAY GC
Byron Bay, NSW
Judge’s Comment: “Byron Bay is one of the most beautiful places to play in northern NSW. It’s a very Australian setting, with a variety of gums and other natives lining the fairways, while the playing surfaces are consistently presented in great shape.” – Jan Richardson.
80. PALMER SEA REEF
Port Douglas, Queensland
Judge’s Comment: “With the closure of Paradise Palms, Sea Reef is now the best course in North Queensland. The wide fairways offer a variety of angles into the large, inviting greens, which are one of the standout features of the links-style design.” – Stephen Jackson.
79. BRIBIE ISLAND GC
Judge’s Comment: “What an eye-opener this course was. I travelled to Bribie Island to play Pacific Harbour and added a round here and was blown away by how good it was. Laid out on rolling terrain, there are hints of the Melbourne Sandbelt in the bunkering and the sandy lies off the fairway. You could never get bored playing here week after week.” – Tristan Holmes.
78. GROWLING FROG
Yan Yean, Victoria
Judge’s Comment: “It certainly doesn’t surprise me this Graham Marsh-designed layout has risen in this ranking, which I attribute to a significant improvement in its conditioning right across the property. Even the bunker presentation has improved in recent times.” – John Blackwell.
77. INDOOROOPILLY GC (East Course)
Judge’s Comment: “A very natural layout with its best holes running close to the Brisbane River. The par-5 3rd (on the Blue nine or 12 on the East Course) is a real highlight as you navigate your way down a narrow tree-lined fairway to an angled green laid between a hill left and the river to the right.” – Bernie Smith.
76. SANDHURST CLUB (Champions Course)
Judge’s Comment: “The presentation of the Champions Course is first class, just like its North Course neighbour. However, it’s a very different golfing experience – moving away from the links game to more of a parkland style layout. There are plenty of good holes but I particularly liked the quality of the par-3s and, in particular, the shortest of them all at the 11th.” – James Walsh.
75. SECRET HARBOUR LINKS
Secret Harbour, Western Australia.
Judge’s Comment: “A round at Secret Harbor is as much about beating the elements as it is about keeping your ball out of the pot bunkers, water hazards and scrub. It’s a fun course to play but it doesn’t have as many jaw-dropping vistas that it once did because of the encroachment of suburbia.” – Richard O’Reilly.
74. COOLANGATTA & TWEED HEADS GC (West Course)
Tweed Heads South, NSW.
Judge’s Comment: “There’s been lots of good work done on the bunkers and greens here during the past few years, which have all had a positive effect. The West Course keeps improving year on year and is one of the best value rounds available on the Gold Coast.” – Joe Thomas.
73. ALBANY GC
Albany, Western Australia.
Judge’s Comments: “Albany might be the oldest course in this Top-100 ranking, but its popularity has rarely been greater than it has in the past few years. And no wonder … this is a fun, links course that can be enjoyed by players of all standards. Do yourself a favour and add Albany to your bucket list.” – Anthony Brown.
“The day we played this course in early 2020 it was blowing strongly and the course really bared its teeth. Yet, I had a huge amount of fun playing so many different shots in the conditions.” – Chris Davidson.
72. FLINDERS GC
Judge’s Comments: “Arguably the most underrated course on the Mornington Peninsula. Its highlights are obvious, with the short par-4s at the 4th, 8th and 16th holes being memorable standouts, while the each of the par-5s offers a different challenge every time you play.” – James Walsh.
“Flinders offers the best value for money golf on the Mornington Peninsula. Always fun to play and beautifully presented.” – Julie Stokes.
71. MONA VALE GC
Mona Vale, NSW
Judge’s Comment: “Mona Vale is perhaps the lushest course you will find north of Sydney Harbour. The fairways and greens are always nicely presented across the entire layout, while the closing quarter of holes, which lay closest to the beach, are the most memorable.” – Matthew Greig.
70. MURWILLUMBAH GC
Judge’s Comment: “What a gem! I had never played Murwillumbah until early 2020 and I will be back for sure. Most of the course covers undulating terrain, which gives rise to some challenging drives from elevated tees, or uphill approaches into well-bunkered greens. I loved this course.” – Paul Wilson.
69. YARRAWONGA MULWALA GC RESORT (Lake Course)
Judge’s Comment: “I’ve played at Yarrawonga many times over the years and I think the Lake Course has rarely looked better. Some of the greens and bunkers have had work done and overall its presentation has improved a lot.” – Joseph Baker.
68. MOLLYMOOK GC (Hilltop Course)
Judge’s Comment: “A course improvement program in recent years has Mollymook looking good and playing great. Mollymook’s continuing rise in this list, for the fourth consecutive ranking, is testament to the success of that work.” – Brendan James.
67. BALLARAT GC
Judge’s Comment: “Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett’s design at Ballarat is a beauty. Of particular note is the routing with holes playing to all points of the compass, which adds to the variety of shots you play during a round. The short par-4s, like the dogleg left drive and pitch 12th, and par-3s at Ballarat are a real standout for me.” – Hamish Walker.
66. CYPRESS LAKES RESORT
Judge’s Comment: “Cypress Lakes’ rise in this ranking continues as the quality of the course gradually returns to a standard more familiar to visitors in its early years. Cypress Lakes was missing from Golf Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses ranking for several years, but an investment by its current owners in refurbishing the entire layout has seen it gradually climb the list after a 2017 debut appearance at No.97.” – Brendan James.
65. LEONGATHA GC
Leongatha South, Victoria
Judge’s Comment: “This Vern Morcom-design layout in Victoria’s Gippsland first debuted in this ranking in 2013 and this is the first year it has suffered a drop of any kind in the list. No need for panic stations at Leongatha though as it remains one of the most enjoyable courses to play in regional Victoria and is a great example of Morcom’s design work.” – Brendan James.
64. MORNINGTON CC
Judge’s Comment: “Having debuted in this ranking in 2019, Mornington continues to impress. The closing holes of both nines have been improved with the construction of new greens, while the 19th hole addition is one of the most visually spectacular holes on the Mornington Peninsula.” – James Walsh.
63. COOLANGATTA & TWEED HEADS GC (River Course)
Tweed Heads South, NSW
Judge’s Comment: “The River Course is not as long as its neighbouring West Course but the bunkers and frequently doglegging holes make it more difficult than the scorecard would suggest. Having played here many times over the years, I can’t recall the River Course being as well presented as it has in the past 24 months or so.” – Terry Anderson.
62. PALM MEADOWS
Judge’s Comment: “Palm Meadows is always fun to play and it was good to see the course in good condition when I played there last summer. The one aspect of a round that I always enjoy is the anticipation of reaching the par-5 18th hole and taking on the water carry from the tee.” – Craig Smart.
61. ROSEBUD CC (North Course)
Judge’s Comment: “Laid out on sandy soil and covering the best land of all 36 holes at Rosebud CC, the North Course is an underrated gem that offers strategic choices and nicely presented playing surfaces. An OCM (Ogilvy, Cocking & Mead) masterplan will undoubtedly improve the golfing experience here even more in years to come.” – Sam Brooking.
60. KOOINDAH WATERS GC
Judge’s Comments: “Kooindah is a beautiful course but I sympathise with some of my fellow female golfers who might struggle with some of the forced carries, like the 8th, 9th and 17th holes.” – Debbie Walker.
“There is plenty to like about a round here. I like Ross Watson’s design and the condition of the fairways and greens is always very good.” – Brett Oldham.
59. JOONDALUP RESORT (Dune-Lake Course)
Joondalup, Western Australia
Judge’s Comment: “The volatile movement of courses through the mid-section of this ranking has caused some courses, like Joondalup’s Dune-Lake Course, to take a dip in this edition of the ranking. Despite the drop, it is a layout that remains a superb test with first-class playing surfaces.” – Brendan James.
58. NOOSA SPRINGS RESORT
Noosa Heads, Queensland
Judge’s Comments: “What a wonderful place to play. The stretch of holes from the 3rd to the 7th are beautiful, while the closing trio to the round really test your mettle.” – Deborah Hill.
“Noosa Springs is consistently well presented, which makes a round here always enjoyable. Water comes into play on many holes but none more so than the par-4 17th, which is undoubtedly one of the best short two-shotters on the Sunshine Coast.” – Bernie Smith.
57. THE COAST GC
Little Bay, NSW
Judge’s Comments: “One of Sydney’s most spectacular courses, with the holes running across the tops of the cliffs being the standouts during a round. The presentation of the layout has improved markedly during the past couple of years raising the overall quality of the course.” – Daniel O’Keefe.
“Playing the par-3 4th hole, across the edge of the ocean, is worth the cost of the green fee alone.” – Jack Donaldson.
56. TWIN WATERS GC
Twin Waters, Queensland
Judge’s Comments: “I can’t imagine ever travelling to the Sunshine Coast and not playing Twin Waters. Good fun layout designed by Peter Thomson and can’t fault the conditioning.” – Gavin Hill.
“A Sunshine Coast staple but I have to question some of the mowing lines. The rough short of the green on the par-3 11th and the par-5 18th eliminate the option of a running shot onto the green, which hurts shorter hitters like me.” – Tara Vincent.
55. RACV ROYAL PINES RESORT (Green-Gold Course)
Judge’s Comments: “When the wind blows here, the Green and Gold layout (which is used for tournament play) is one of the hardest courses on the Gold Coast. A must-play layout if you like a challenge.” – Gavin Hill.
“The Graham Marsh redesign is so much better than the original layout, but you have to wonder about some of the bunkering … for example, the bunker back right of the 18th green, at the base of a steep slope surrounded by rough. The same could said for the bunker long of the 8th green, which I can’t imagine comes into play, except for catching thinned chip and pitch shots.” – Toby McCracken.
54. MAROOCHY RIVER GC
Bli Bli, Queensland
Judge’s Comment: “After making its debut appearance in 2019, Maroochy River cements its place with further northward movement in this list. The Graham Marsh design delivers fun and challenging golf to players of all standards. The fairways are generally wide, which doesn’t deter high handicappers, while better players will need to hug the edges to find the best line into the angled, undulating greens.” – Brendan James.
53. BLACK BULL
Judge’s Comment: “The newest layout on the Murray River continues to make baby-steps toward cracking a spot in the top half of this ranking, rising another two places from its 2019 position. The Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett design is very good and includes the best closing hole to be found anywhere along the mighty river.” – Brendan James.
52. EASTLAKE GC
Judge’s Comment: “Eight years ago, Eastlake was ranked No.82 in this list. It’s rise of 30 spots in this ranking over that period is testament to the improvement work carried out by course superintendent Nathan Bradbury and his team. It seems with each passing year Bradbury finds something else to alter or construct – whether they are mowing lines, bunkers or greens – that makes a round here more interesting than it was before.” – Brendan James.
51. LINKS LADY BAY RESORT
Normanville, South Australia
Judge’s Comments: “Links Lady Bay has rarely looked better than it has during the past two years. Rain in that time has obviously helped with the grass cover across the entire property, but the overall condition – including the many bunkers – just seems to have reached a new, and welcoming, level.” – Stephen Jackson.
“Links Lady Bay has the best green complexes, and putting surfaces, to be found in South Australia outside the big four Adelaide clubs. Just superb.” – Christian Harris.
50. YARRAWONGA MULWALA GC RESORT (Murray Course)
Judge’s Comments: “The Murray Course cracks the top-50 in this ranking, eight long years after reaching No.59 and improving bit-by-bit ever since. Subtle design changes over the years and maintaining a high standard of presentation have played their role in this rank rise.” – Brendan James.
“The look, and even the smell, of the various bird-filled gums lining most holes is unmistakeably Australian. Even a bad day’s golf is a real joy walking among the gums on the Murray Course.” – Debbie Walker.
49. RACV CAPE SCHANCK RESORT
Cape Schanck, Victoria
Judge’s Comment: “This Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed layout reaches its highest rank in this list for the first time in more than a decade. While there have only been subtle tweaks to the design, it is the higher level of conditioning that has led to this ranking rise. There was a period of decline in presentation between 2014-2017, but that has certainly been overcome and Jones’ creation can now be fully appreciated.” – Brendan James.
48. BELMONT GC
Judge’s Comments: “This seaside gem south of Newcastle is another course that continues to improve in this list. Now ranked 41 places higher than its debut rank of No.89 (2011), Belmont adds its name to the likes of Newcastle GC, Pacific Dunes, The Vintage and Cypress Lakes as must-play courses in the Hunter region.” – Brendan James.
“Design work to create new oceanside holes and improve others across the course has dramatically improved Belmont. There are some wonderful links holes – perhaps some of the best on the east coast – to be found at Belmont.” – Joe Thomas.
47. EYNESBURY GOLF
Judge’s Comment: “Graham Marsh’s design team did a wonderful job turning flat, fairly lifeless terrain into an interesting layout. Since opening in 2007, new houses and maturing trees have filled out some edges of the course, but the playing lines have not been affected.” – Alex Georgiou.
46. SANCTUARY COVE G&CC (Palms Course)
Sanctuary Cove, Queensland
Judge’s Comment: “The Palms layout just keeps getting better and better in my opinion. The Ross Watson redesign is so much better than the original, with more interesting green complexes and strategic questions asked on most holes. Depending on the tee you’re playing, it is a fun course for good as well as not-so-good players.” – Tristan Holmes.
45. FEDERAL GC
Red Hill, ACT
Judge’s Comment: “The most significant improvement at Federal in recent times has come in the quality of the playing surfaces, which has lifted the enjoyment factor and better complements the design.” – Edward Lee.
“Wonderful mix of holes across terrain that changes at every turn. Federal also has a memorable set of par-3s with the downhill 16th being the standout.” – Ally Peters.
44. TASMANIA GC
Judge’s Comments: “There has been a lot of tree clearing at Tasmania in recent times and all of it for the better. Holes like the 9th and 10th feel a little more exposed to the weather now, which adds to the challenge of these long par-4s.” – Nathan Burgess.
“Dramatic topography gives rise to some unique and memorable holes at Tasmania GC. While the par-5 3rd wrapping around the edge of Barilla Bay is the pin-up hole for the course, there are a host of other great holes, like the drop-shot par-3 11th or the short
par-4 15th. These are holes you simply won’t find anywhere else.” – Joseph Baker.
43. MURRAY DOWNS G&CC
Murray Downs, NSW
Judge’s Comments: “The playing surfaces are immaculate, the course plays firm and fast and incorporates all the best elements of the Parslow brothers’ design. I would never tire playing this course if I was a member here.” – Jack Donaldson.
“It is a source of great relief and joy to play Murray Downs’ long par-3 5th and succesfully carry the water, avoid all the bunkers and run your ball up onto the green.” – Susan Johnson.
42. MT COMPASS GOLF COURSE
Mt Compass, South Australia
Judge’s Comment: “Mt Compass is one of the most improved courses in Australia in recent times. Since ownership changed a handful of years ago and significant investment was made in the presentation of the course, Mt Compass has gone from strength-to-strength. The course maintenance crew are to be loudly applauded for the transformation of the quality Neil Crafter design.” – Brendan James.
41. RIVERSIDE OAKS RESORT (Bungool Course)
Judge’s Comment: “A very good risk-and-reward layout from designer Bob Harrison. The holes lying nearest to the Hawkesbury River are unique, while the sequence of holes from the 8th to the 15th (on the southern half of the course) are significantly more open and have a ‘links’ feel about them. To me, they’re the standout holes of what is a high quality layout.” – Julian Allen.
40. WARRNAMBOOL GC
Judge’s Comments: “The work to clear scrub from sand dunes beside holes like the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th has definitely enhanced the golfing experience here. The exposed dunes not only look great, but you get a better view of your destination from the fairway.” – John Blackwell.
“Warrnambool was the greatest eye-opener for me in the past two years of looking at courses. The setting is beautiful, the fairways and greens are immaculate, and Mother Nature absolutely guarantees no two rounds you play on this layout are ever going to be the same.” – Phil Nicholls.
39. JOONDALUP RESORT (Quarry-Lake Course)
Joondalup, Western Australia
Judge’s Comments: “The two most contrasting nines at Joondalup make for a fun round. You have the visually spectacular natural surrounds of the Quarry course, while the Robert Trent Jones Jnr created moonscape bunkering and dramatic mounding on the Lake course really change things up.” – Chris Davidson.
“The drama charged Quarry nine never fails to impress, while the Lake nine is hugely underrated.” – Nikki Scott.
38. PACIFIC DUNES GC
Judge’s Comment: “I’ve always enjoyed playing at Pacific Dunes. However, the maturation of the trees lining many holes – particularly on the front nine – since the course opened in the mid-2000s is now affecting the design by shutting down lines into the angled greens. The stretch of holes from the 2nd to the 9th were always heavily tree-lined and tight but the corridors are seemingly even narrower now.” – Joe Thomas.
37. RANFURLIE GC
Judge’s Comments: “It is only in the past few years that I have come to appreciate the quality of Mike Clayton’s design at Ranfurlie. It is not remarkable land, but the routing makes the most of it. There is a myriad of ways to get your ball around this course, which is testament to the design.” – James Walsh.
“I’ve always felt the presentation of Ranfurlie let down the quality of the design, but this hasn’t been a factor in recent years.” – Graham Brady.
36. SUN CITY CC
Yanchep, Western Australia
Judge’s Comments: “Six years ago, Sun City cracked a spot in this ranking at No.75 after the first few holes of an extensive redesign by Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (OCCM) were opened for play. In the ensuing years it has cemented a spot in the mid-30s of this list and as more holes are renovated it is likely Sun City will edge even closer to the top-25.” – Brendan James.
“New holes, like the short uphill par-4 2nd, the 10th and the back nine trio from 13 through 15, have elevated Sun City to must play status.” – Richard O’Reilly.
35. SETTLERS RUN G&CC
Botanic Ridge, Victoria
Judge’s Comments: “There is a lot to like about this Greg Norman-designed layout. The best holes cover the terrain with most changes in elevation, while the expansive bunkering blends in well with the shaping of the fairways, much like what you will find in the nearby Melbourne Sandbelt.” – Hamish Walker.
“Wide fairways, big bunkers and interesting green complexes all wrapped up in a beautifully presented package.” – Felicity Chapman.
34. LAKELANDS GC
Judge’s Comments: “The fairways and greens at Lakelands are always excellent and some of the best to be found on the Gold Coast.” – Tara Vincent.
“There is no doubt Lakelands has been one of the best presented courses on the Gold Coast for many years. But the Jack Nicklaus-design has been compromised by fairway mowing lines that see nearly all the fairway bunkers now lying in the rough and many of the approach angles into greens from fairway edges lost.” – Brendan James.
33. STONECUTTERS RIDGE GC
Judge’s Comment: “Changes in elevation, even slight ones, usually give rise to the most interesting holes on a golf course. But not so at Stonecutters Ridge, where the best holes – in my opinion – cover the flattest terrain early in the round. The fairways are wide and this offers a variety of playing lines, with different clubs, into the greens. That said, there are several very good holes on the inward nine, like the par-4 14th, which are laid across undulating land adding to the challenge of the layout.” – Lucas Andrews.
32. KALGOORLIE GC
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Judge’s Comments: “Kalgoorlie continues to inch higher in this ranking on the back of superior year-round presentation, which is quite a feat given the climate fluctuations between the heights of winter and summer.” – Richard O’Reilly.
“What a wonderful landscape for a golf course. The place bursts with desert colour, especially on dusk, and reminds me of a Russell Drysdale painting.” – Nikki Scott.
31. LONG REEF GC
Judge’s Comments: “The removal of the greenkeeping shed from the middle of the course as part of a new lake construction has certainly improved the visuals across the layout, which is in keeping with the spectacular vistas up and down the coast from every corner of the course.” – Matthew Greig.
“Several holes have improved after a minor redesign, including the downhill par-4 16th, while the course’s condition puts it among the best layouts in Sydney.” – Paul Wilson.
30. SANCTUARY LAKES GC
Point Cook, Victoria
Judge’s Comments: “When you consider the land at Sanctuary Lakes was previously a salt plain, it is simply amazing what Greg Norman and Bob Harrison have created. Expansive bunkering blends with mounding – subtle and dramatic – to produce some of the best green complexes in Melbourne outside the Sandbelt.” – James Walsh.
“I always enjoy a round at Sanctuary Lakes. It generally plays firm and fast, which brings every element of the design right into play.” – Sam Brooking.
29. PELICAN WATERS GC
Pelican Waters, Queensland
Judge’s Comment: “For a course that is the hub for a surrounding residential community, Pelican Waters has a lion’s share of visually appealing holes. Many of these holes are featured on the front nine, which is set to be completely re-built as part of a new residential development being undertaken by the course’s owners and covers land currently home to the 8th and 9th holes.” – Brendan James.
28. PACIFIC HARBOUR G&CC
Banksia Beach, Queensland
Judge’s Comments: “This Ross Watson design is a challenge for all players. It’s generally wide enough for high handicappers and casual golfers to keep their ball in play (although there are some forced carries to contend with), while single figure players can chase a good score by playing to the edges and shooting at the flags.” – Craig Smart.
“In my opinion there are few courses that offer as many different shots from a variety of lies from one round to another than Pacific Harbour does. My only concern is the encroachment of couch into the greens, making them a little smaller than their original size.” – Toby McCracken.
27. THE VINTAGE GC
Judge’s Comments: “Immaculate is one word that springs to mind whenever I’m asked about The Vintage. The fairways and greens are beautifully maintained and are a joy to play on.” – Sandra Lyons.
“I’ve always enjoyed the challenge a round at The Vintage offers. But I cannot understand the move to start growing thick grass collars around many of the fairway bunkers scattered across the course, which stops balls rolling into the sand and makes holes less strategic as a result.” – Brendan James.
26. THIRTEENTH BEACH LINKS (Creek Course)
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Judge’s Comments: “The Tony Cashmore and Nick Faldo-designed Creek Course has been entrenched in the mid-20s of this ranking for a decade, which is testament to the quality of the layout and the respect it has earned since opening in 2004.” – Brendan James.
“The land is not as dramatic as the neighbouring Beach Course but it makes up for this with very good risk-and-reward holes on a big stage of wide fairways and big rolling greens.” – Sam Brooking.
25. CURLEWIS GC
Judge’s Comments: “One of the most improved courses in this list during the past eight years, since making its debut in 2013 at No.57. This can be attributed to significant design changes, advised by Mike Clayton, which has created a memorable golfing experience. Trees have been cleared, vast areas of sandy wasteland opened up and a new par-4 9th hole added as part of recent improvements made to the layout.” – Brendan James.
“Curlewis is simply a fun course to play. It seems like every change, even the little ones, made during the past few years has made the course better every time.” – Julian Allen.
24. THE GLADES GC
Judge’s Comment: “An extensive bunker refurbishment as part of an increased investment in the layout has elevated the presentation of The Glades in recent times. Aside from the sandy hazards, the greens might just be the best rolling surfaces on the Gold Coast. They are generally presented firm under foot and at a good speed.” – Joe Thomas.
23. ST MICHAEL’S GC
Little Bay, NSW
Judge’s Comments: “St Michael’s occupies a rare piece of Sydney seaside real estate and shares borders with the world acclaimed NSW Golf Club to the south and The Coast GC (ranked No.57 in this list) to the north. The quality of the neighbourhood screams great golfing potential, which is being realised through recent design changes. The removal of scrub on many holes has not only exposed vast tracts of sandy wasteland it has also opened up the playing corridors. There are few more fun and challenging courses to play in Sydney when the wind blows.” – Brendan James.
“Always a fun experience. The stretch of holes from the par-3 12th to the par-5 17th never fails to excite, especially when the wind is pumping from the south.” – Brett Oldham.
22. LINKS HOPE ISLAND
Hope Island, Queensland
Judge’s Comments: “No golfing trip to the Gold Coast should by-pass Hope Island. Consistently good conditioning combines with a very good design that provides risk-and-reward strategies right across the layout.” – Terry Anderson.
“Hope Island is always fun to play and is one of the fairest, yet still challenging, courses to play in Queensland. The course is designed and set-up to receive all kinds of approach shots, whether they are low and running or coming in from a height.” – Deborah Hill.
21. MEADOW SPRINGS G&CC
Meadow Springs, Western Australia
Judge’s Comments: “You would need to travel a long way to find a better conditioned course in WA.” – Richard O’Reilly.
“Robert Trent Jones Jr is renowned for his designs on difficult and dramatic land but his creation at Meadow Springs didn’t offer that canvas at all, yet he produced a wonderful layout that gently rolls between tall stands of ancient Tuart trees. The most significant elevation changes are on the back nine with the par-4 17th, where you play uphill to a massive tiered green, being one of the premier holes.” – Chris Davidson.
20. MOONAH LINKS (Open Course)
Judge’s Comments: “Moonah Links’ Open Course has rarely looked as good as it has during the past few years. The greens and close mown surrounds are the standout. They’re always nicely maintained, while the putting surfaces are firm and roll at a good speed. The high standard of the surrounds does give you the option of using a range of clubs for recovery shots, from your putter through to a chip-and-run with a wood, which just adds to the fun of playing this course.” – Julie Stokes.
“I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of the Open Course but there was a period a few years back where the quality of the turf, particularly in gathering areas on the fairway, had become a problem. This is not the case anymore and its presentation deserves applauding.” – Sam Brooking.
19. PORTSEA GC
Judge’s Comment: “One of the great Mornington Peninsula courses where the design doesn’t feel contrived as it winds across wonderful golfing terrain.” – James Walsh.
“If you haven’t played Portsea, add it to your bucket list. It’s not an overly long course but the variety of lies and resulting shots you will face in a round throws down the challenge in earnest, even on a calm day.” – Graham Brady.
18. NAROOMA GC
Judge’s Comment: “The jewel in the golfing crown of NSW’s South Coast has reached its highest ever position in this ranking as a result of superior conditioning as well as some minor tweaks to the design in recent times. While the ocean cliff-top holes seem to get all the acclaim, the inland holes covering more dramatic terrain – from the 10th to the 15th – not only offer a starkly different golfing experience but are very good holes in their own right.” – Brendan James.
17. THE CUT GC
Dawesville, Western Australia
Judge’s Comment: “Beautiful ocean views, dramatic golfing land and well-manicured fairways and greens. If you can’t like that, then you’re too hard to please.” – Nikki Scott.
“With the exception of the string of holes – the 5th to the 9th – that weave through
the residential estate, The Cut is a visual delight. Standing on the elevated tee of the long par-4 12th in the late afternoon, with the sun hanging low over the Indian Ocean, might be as good as it gets.” – Anthony Brown.
16. MOONAH LINKS (Legends Course)
Judge’s Comments: “What a great foil this course is to the neighbouring Open Course. Legends doesn’t play as long, but the strategy required to score well is certainly ramped up.” – Alex Georgiou.
“The Legends Course is simply superb. There is plenty of width on most holes that allows you to pick your route from the tee and, if you play your intended shot well, you’ll have an easier approach shot into the green. Also, I’m yet to play this course when the greens haven’t been outstanding.” – Paul Wilson.
15. HAMILTON ISLAND GC
Dent Island, Queensland
Judge’s Comments: “Hamilton Island could easily mount a case for the most beautiful
setting to play golf in Australia, perhaps the world.” – Tara Vincent.
“This Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett design is easily the most dramatic layout they ever created. The holes fall and rise through valleys or hug the edges of ridges, creating a vast number of different shot scenarios and all accompanied by magnificent views. My only criticism would be the long distances between some of the greens and tees, but I guess there was no choice considering the land the designers were working with.” – Gavin Hill.
14. PORT FAIRY LINKS
Port Fairy, Victoria
Judge’s Comments: “The evolution of this wonderful links layout continues, having been ranked No.31 in this list in 2011. There have been lots of changes to the layout during the past decade – from the addition of bunkers, the clearing of coastal scrub and the rebuilding of several greens – all of which have improved this seaside gem.” – Brendan James.
“Not only does Port Fairy offer one of the best valued for money rounds in the country, it is a memorable golfing experience for everyone … from pros and elite amateurs right through to the casual holidaying golfer, such is the quality of this simple but always interesting design.” – John Blackwell.
13. JOONDALUP RESORT (Quarry-Dune Course)
Joondalup, Western Australia
Judge’s Comment: “There is no other site in the country quite like the Quarry and Dune layout at Joondalup. Robert Trent Jones Jr’s imaginative routing around, through and over an abandoned quarry sets the scene for some memorable golf holes. Playing the string of holes from the par-4 2nd to the par-4 6th on the Quarry nine as well as the 3rd to the 6th of the Dune nine are worth the cost of the green fee alone.” – Anthony Brown.
“There is no more dramatic landscape for golf in WA. From what it once was, it was beautifully transformed into a challenging and unforgettable golfing experience.” – Chris Davidson.
12. BROOKWATER G&CC
Judge’s Comments: “Brookwater can be penal but if you play smart around this Greg Norman design and use the dramatic terrain to your advantage, you can make a good score here. The condition of the course has significantly improved since a refurbishment a few years ago.” – Phil Nicholls.
“A testing challenge from the opening drive to the last uphill approach to the 18th green. Heavily tree-lined and covering land that varies significantly from hilly to flat in parts, which creates all kinds of lies and shots from one hole to the next.” – Gavin Hill.
“Everything about Brookwater is big, from the greens to the trees that line every hole. It is a big stage that offers a memorable round every time you play there.” – Bernie Smith.
11. BONVILLE GOLF RESORT
Judge’s Comments: “What a spectacular course. It’s not just the setting – picture well-manicured undulating fairways lined by Flooded gums and other natives and the occasional lake or stream – it’s the quality of the holes and the challenges they present. The par-5s are an absolute standout, the short par-4s (like the double water carry 15th) are interesting and fun while the par-3 17th is world class.” – Jack Donaldson.
“My only disappointment about Bonville is that it’s a six-hour drive from Sydney and I don’t get to play there very often. But, when I do, I love every moment. It’s such a wonderful setting that you can easily forget how bad you’re playing, while the ovreall resort experience is first class.” – Debbie Walker.
10. LINKS KENNEDY BAY
Port Kennedy, Western Australia
Judge’s Comment: “A fabulous links course that features for the last time in this ranking in its current form. The Michael Coate and Roger Mackay creation is set to lose nine holes to make way for a residential development, while Graham Marsh has been commissioned to design the new nine to complete the redesign. The developers have said works will be staggered to ensure a nine-hole course is always open during the construction process.” – Brendan James.
9. NEWCASTLE GC
Fern Bay, NSW
Judge’s Comments: “What an incredible course, that has withstood the test of time and advances in modern equipment so well. Everyone talks about the trio of holes – the twin par-4s, the 5th and 6th, and the world class par-3 7th – but Newcastle offers far more than these three beauties. The sandy, rolling landscape offers up gems like the par-4 2nd or the par-5 10th – with its blind tee shot and second shot.” – Joe Thomas.
“Precise ball-striking is the order of the day for a round here. There are no weak holes across the entire property, but the course will become even stronger when it loses the closing three holes and new holes will be created on the east side of the layout.” – Daniel O’Keefe.
8. THE DUNES GOLF LINKS
Judge’s Comments: “Golf is meant to be fun and The Dunes offers exactly that by the bucket load. There are any number of shots during the round – like the approach into the 1st or the 4th or the second shot over the sandy wasteland on 12, or the tee shots on 13 and 17 – that get you really excited and hopeful you can meet the challenge.” – Hamish Walker.
“The Dunes blends so well with its natural surrounds it seems like it has been in the ground for a hundred years.” – Alex Georgiou.
“There’s width from the tee, interesting green complexes, wild and natural bunkering, questions asked on every shot and the playing surfaces are superb. You can’t ask for any more than that.” – James Walsh.
7. THIRTEENTH BEACH LINKS (Beach Course)
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Judge’s Comment: “The Beach Course will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2021 and it’s as exciting to play today as it was when designer Tony Cashmore completed the layout. The course sits on fantastic rolling land, with holes predominantly running through or alongside the dunes at the back of Thirteenth Beach. Cashmore’s imagination ran wild with the green complexes, incorporating plenty of movement under foot as well as varying the size of each. All of this makes for a whole lot of fun.” – Brendan James.
6. OCEAN DUNES
King Island, Tasmania
Judge’s Comments: “Forget the fact Ocean Dunes has dropped two places in this ranking since 2019. The rise of other courses in the top-10 has squeezed out the King Island layout, but it remains one of this country’s most spectacular courses.” – Brendan James.
“The ocean views from most parts of the course is the icing on an impressive golfing cake. There are few places (NSW GC in Sydney comes close) in Australia where you hit golf shots as close to the sea as you do at Ocean Dunes. You can actually stand on the tee at the par-3 4th and feel the spray of the ocean on your face as you prepare to hit.” – Hamish Walker.
“The stars of a round at Ocean Dunes are the seaside holes, like the opening quartet as well as the brilliant 10th and 11th holes, but they are suitably supported by some impressive inland holes that offer great views as well as plenty of challenges.” – Sam Brooking.
5. BARWON HEADS GC
Barwon Heads, Victoria
Judge’s Comments: “2021 will mark 100 years since the first nine holes of the original Victor East-designed Barwon Heads opened for play, with the second nine being added in 1922. The vintage of this wonderful links layout is evident and has only been enhanced by recent redesign work as part of a masterplan by design team Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford. The opening six holes – across the road from the glorious clubhouse – are some of the most interesting and fun links holes you will find in this country.” – Brendan James.
“Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford’s design work at Barwon Heads has improved many of the holes. The changes to the course have been subtle, which is in keeping with the simplicity and genius of this wonderful layout.” – Hamish Walker.
4. ST. ANDREWS BEACH
St Andrews Beach, Victoria
Judge’s Comments: “I can just imagine how excited Tom Doak would have been when he first laid eyes on this wonderful ‘Cups Region’ landscape. The hardest decision would have been ‘where do I start’? Whatever the decision, the resulting course is brilliant. He provides plenty of room from the tees and every approach shot into a green is accompanied by a question. Brilliant.” – James Walsh.
“St Andrews Beach is the thinking golfer’s piece of chocolate cake … there’s plenty of satisfaction and joy in the eating and when it’s all gone, like putting out on the 18th, you desperately want to indulge in some more.” – Brendan James.
3. BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM
Judge’s Comments: “The game’s best courses never reveal all at first sight. They take dozens of rounds – played in different weather, wind directions and time of year – offering a variety of pin positions before you even scratch the surface of ‘really’ knowing the course. Barnbougle Lost Farm is one such course. The Bill Coore-designed Lost Farm rarely plays the same from morning to afternoon, let alone from day-to-day or week-to-week, which makes it a lot of fun to play. Every round is almost a journey of discovery.” – Brendan James.
“Lost Farm is not quite as dramatic around the edges or with the same undulating topography as the Dunes layout next door. But Lost Farm’s wider fairways make this a more strategic course with multiple routes between tee and green, depending on the clubs you wish to use. Great stuff!” – Nathan Burgess.
2. BARNBOUGLE DUNES
Judge’s Comments: “On a calm day, Barnbougle Dunes can be conquered; when the wind blows it can be downright diabolical … and just as much fun, which is why Barnbougle Dunes has been pencilled onto golfer’s bucket lists across the globe.” – Hamish Walker.
“Tom Doak and Mike Clayton’s course is world class by any measure. The looping nines along Anderson Bay create an extraordinary set of highlights via holes such as the multi-faceted par-4 4th and the fiendish short par-3 7th, known as Tom’s Little Devil, which is possibly the most impossible 110 metres of golfing ground in the game.” – Brendan James.
“Barnbougle Dunes has now been in the ground for almost 17 years, but it has the look of a century old classic you might discover on the west coast of England or Ireland.” – Joseph Baker.
1. CAPE WICKHAM LINKS
King Island, Tasmania
Judge’s Comment: “When the weather is OK, Cape Wickham comes closest to toppling Royal Melbourne’s West Course as the premier layout in Australia, with a lion’s share of world class holes set against an ocean backdrop at every turn. When the wind really blows (usually from the west) it is a brutal excursion but the genius of the Mike DeVries and Darius Oliver design makes it playable and, for some, fun.” – Hamish Walker.
“It’s easy to overlook the quality of the design and presentation of the Cape Wickham course when you’re distracted by the scenery. The routing maximises the ocean views, while the generous playing corridors leave it up to the individual how they will play the hole. The creative juices of designer Mike DeVries were obviously flowing when he crafted the green complexes here.” – Lucas Andrews.
“Every golfer should play Cape Wickham before they die.” – Brendan James.