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Australia's Top 100 Golf Courses - 2012

from the Golf Course Guide

Ausgolf and The Golf Course Guide is proud to present our annual assessment of Australia’s Best Public Access Courses in the most informative format we can devise – separate lists showing how our judges ranked the candidates in each of three key criteria: Design, Conditions and Aesthetics.

Top 100 Public Access Courses 2012

2012 RANK    COURSE    2011 RANK
1    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    1
2    Barnbougle Lost Farm Golf Club    new
3   THE DUNES  3
4    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    2
5    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    4
6    KENNEDY BAY    5
7    BARWON HEADS    8
8    MAGENTA SHORES    6
9    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    7
10    ST ANDREWS BEACH    10
11    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    9
12    THE CUT    13
13    PORTSEA     12
14    PACIFIC HARBOUR    11
15    BROOKWATER    15
16    HOPE ISLAND     17
17    BONVILLE      16
18    HAMILTON ISLAND    14
19    HYATT REGENCY COOLUM    18
20    PELICAN WATERS    19
21    GLADES     21
22    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    20
23    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    22
24    LAKELANDS     23
25    VINES - LAKES    24
26    SANCTUARY COVE - PALMS    new
27    KALGOORLIE    new
28    SANCTUARY COVE - PINES    27
29    HORSHAM    30
30    SORRENTO    33
31    VINTAGE    25
32    ROBINA WOODS     38
33    THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK    29
34    PACIFIC DUNES    26
35    RANFURLIE    39
36    EYNESBURY    31
37    TASMANIA    Top 100
38    CAPE SCHANCK    34
39    MURRAY DOWNS     40
40    ST MICHAEL'S    35
41    PORT FAIRY    28
42    PARADISE PALMS     37
43    TWIN WATERS     44
44    NOOSA SPRINGS     43
45    ROYAL HOBART    45
46    MEADOW SPRINGS     32
47    ALICE SPRINGS     41
48    SANDS TORQUAY    Top 100
49    HERITAGE - HENLEY    42
50    CURLEWIS    nr

Next 50 alphabetic

Top 100    ALBANY     Top 100
Top 100    ARALUEN     Top 100
Top 100    BALLARAT    nr
Top 100    BELMONT     Top 100
Top 100    BRIBIE ISLAND     Top 100
Top 100    CAMDEN LAKESIDE    Top 100
Top 100    COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD    Top 100
Top 100    COLONIAL    Top 100
Top 100    COROWA     Top 100
Top 100    CRANBOURNE    50
Top 100    CRESWICK FOREST    Top 100
Top 100    CYPRESS LAKES     Top 100
Top 100    EAGLE RIDGE    Top 100
Top 100    FEDERAL     Top 100
Top 100    FLINDERS    Top 100
Top 100    FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY    Top 100
Top 100    GOLD CREEK     Top 100
Top 100    GROWLING FROG    Top 100
Top 100    HORIZONS    Top 100
Top 100    KEPERRA     Top 100
Top 100    KINGSTON BEACH    nr
Top 100    KINGSTON LINKS    Top 100
Top 100    KOOINDAH WATERS    Top 100
Top 100    LAGUNA  - TURTLE POINT    36
Top 100    LAKES ENTRANCE    Top 100
Top 100    LINKS LADY BAY    46
Top 100    LONG REEF    48
Top 100    LONSDALE    nr
Top 100    LYNWOOD    nr
Top 100    MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP    Top 100
Top 100    MT BROUGHTON     Top 100
Top 100    NAROOMA     49
Top 100    NORTH LAKES    Top 100
Top 100    OCEAN SHORES     Top 100
Top 100    PALM MEADOWS     nr
Top 100    ROSEBUD - NORTH    Top 100
Top 100    ROSEBUD - SOUTH    Top 100
Top 100    ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD    Top 100
Top 100    SEATEMPLE      Top 100
Top 100    SECRET HARBOUR      Top 100
Top 100    SHEPPARTON    Top 100
Top 100    TALLWOODS    Top 100
Top 100    TOCUMWAL - CAPTAINS    Top 100
Top 100    TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS    Top 100
Top 100   TURA BEACH   Top 100
Top 100    ULVERSTONE    nr
Top 100    WARRNAMBOOL    Top 100
Top 100    WATERFORD VALLEY    Top 100
Top 100    YARRAWONGA - MURRAY    Top 100
Top 100    YERING MEADOWS    Top 100

Comments by Guide Editor Selwyn Berg

Everyone was waiting for the second course to open at Barnbougle on Tasmania’s north coast and Bill Coore’s Lost Farm hasn’t disappointed.

Jumping into our rankings at Number 2, Lost Farm provides 20 holes amongst towering sand dunes, even larger than those on its neighbour, Tom Doak’s  Barnbougle Dunes, still ranked Number 1 for design and overall, but clearly challenged by the new kid next door. Our judges were split, but the majority gave it to the original Barnbougle course.

Coore has created a fascinating routing that runs in all directions through these huge hills, east and inland of the original course, that is simultaneously different and complementary, challenging, and yet highly playable for all, with very wide fairways and greens that are gentler than Doak’s. There are coastal holes, beside the Forester River and inland holes, rather then the typical ‘out and back’ along the coastline with and against the prevailing wind for the original links. The fairways are already good, with scope to improve as they mature.

The Dunes just edged out The Legends this year – both well-established favourites with our judges, and the many visitors to the Mornington Peninsula - otherwise little changed amongst our top 25 courses.

Ross Watson’s redesign of The Palms at Sanctuary Cove has entered our list at Number 26, just ahead of The Pines next door, to join his courses at Magenta Shores and Pacific Harbour.

Ross is incredibly proud of this latest work, especially the creation of the rugged bunkering style, which complements the palm trees and is a welcome change from the pristine white sand at many Gold Coast resort courses.

Garry and I flew to WA to sample Graham Marsh’s desert course at Kalgoorlie, Number 27 and were highly impressed with this oasis. What a winner for the locals, who gave up their 9 hole sandscrapes so that this magnificent fully watered layout could be built by the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and managed for them by Prime Golf WA. As course rankers we try to assess what we find on the ground, but in cases such as this it is difficult not to provide an additional design point to the creators of such interest from a flat and ‘boring’ canvass. The new fairways and greens contrast dramatically with the red earth that forms the rough, and generally presents an easily found wayward ball and the chance for a recovery, albeit from a tight lie. There are several tee options (up to six) on each hole, and with generous fairway widths and gentle undulation, the course is definitely playable for all.

It’s sad to report on the continuing decline at Laguna – ranked as high as No 2 by this Guide in 2004. Clearly lack of money has led to a reduction in maintenance and hence conditions, but we’ve also ranked the course lower in the Design category. The two are related, as poor playing surfaces can, in cases, defeat the intent of the architect to provoke a strategic approach to a hole, as can poor greens that are either too soft and slow (so that a lob from anywhere will stick) or too unreceptive to spin to reward a skilful shot. And, I must admit, at least some of our judges are human, and simply cannot appreciate all the beauty or design brilliance on a track that has been sorely neglected – where balls wind up in unsodded divots and putts veer off due to bumpy greens.

Major improvements at Curlewis (50) and a new course at Ballarat saw them enter our Top 100 list, along with Kingston Beach and Ulverstone hidden away in Tasmania, and the Tasmania Golf Club at Barilla Bay, with its ‘Pebble Beach’ 3rd hole has been elevated to Number 37. It may well be true that Barnbougle’s brilliant courses have attracted attention to some of the Apple Isle’s other gems.

Other newcomers are an improved Lonsdale, re-opened Palm Meadows and the new Lynwood Country Club northwest of Sydney.

Looking at the individual categories that add up to the overall ranking, it is clear that the brilliance of their designs, coupled with stunning aesthetics accounted for the Barnbougle placings. Subtle movements on the Design table for other courses usually reflect minor course work, or the preferences of the individual judges, as it is not possible for every panelist to see every course each year.

Conditioning at many courses was seen to improve this year, as the drought broke in most areas or as water supplies from other sources were secured. Our panel particularly noted improved conditions at Hope Island, moving up to 4th place. Other small changes most likely reflect the luck of the draw with the timing of our visits. For the new courses, there is both the opportunity to move up the list as surfaces grow in, and the challenge to maintain conditions despite user traffic.


BEST DESIGN

2012     COURSE    2011

1    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    1
2    BARBOUGLE LOST FARM    new
3    THE DUNES    2
4    ST ANDREWS BEACH    3
5    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    4
6    KENNEDY BAY    6
7    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    7
8    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    5
9    MAGENTA SHORES    8
10    BARWON HEADS    10
11    PORTSEA     9
12    THE CUT    12
13    PACIFIC HARBOUR    11
14    GLADES     15
15    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    17
16    PELICAN WATERS    13
17    BROOKWATER    16
18    HOPE ISLAND     14
19    SANCTUARY COVE - PALMS    new
20    VINES - LAKES    21
21    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    19
22    KALGOORLIE    new
23    HYATT REGENCY COOLUM    22
24    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    18
25    BONVILLE      Top 50

Next 25 alphabetic

Top 50    EYNESBURY    25
Top 50    HAMILTON ISLAND    Top 50
Top 50    HORIZONS    Top 50
Top 50    HORSHAM    Top 50
Top 50    LAGUNA  - TURTLE POINT    20
Top 50    LAKELANDS     Top 50
Top 50    LINKS LADY BAY    Top 50
Top 50    MEADOW SPRINGS     Top 50
Top 50    MURRAY DOWNS     Top 50
Top 50    NOOSA SPRINGS     nr
Top 50    PACIFIC DUNES    24
Top 50    PARADISE PALMS     Top 50
Top 50    PORT FAIRY    Top 50
Top 50    RANFURLIE    23
Top 50    ROBINA WOODS     Top 50
Top 50    ROYAL HOBART    Top 50
Top 50    SANCTUARY COVE - PINES    Top 50
Top 50    SECRET HARBOUR      Top 50
Top 50    SORRENTO    Top 50
Top 50    ST MICHAEL'S    Top 50
Top 50    TASMANIA    Top 50
Top 50    THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK    Top 50
Top 50    TWIN WATERS     Top 50
Top 50    VINTAGE    Top 50
Top 50    YERING MEADOWS    Top 50


BEST CONDITIONS
2012
    COURSE    2011



1    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    1
2    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    2
3    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    3
4    HOPE ISLAND     8
5    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    4
6    THE DUNES    6
7    BARBOUGLE LOST FARM    new
8    LAKELANDS     5
9    THE CUT    14
10    MAGENTA SHORES    11
11    KENNEDY BAY    7
12    BROOKWATER    12
13    BARWON HEADS    10
14    PACIFIC HARBOUR    9
15    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    13
16    SANCTUARY COVE - PALMS    new
17    HYATT REGENCY COOLUM    15
18    PORTSEA     17
19    HAMILTON ISLAND    16
20    ST ANDREWS BEACH    19
21    KALGOORLIE    new
22    PELICAN WATERS    21
23    GLADES     18
24    SANCTUARY COVE - PINES    25
25    BONVILLE      23

Next 25 alphabetic

Top 50    CAPE SCHANCK    Top 50
Top 50    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    Top 50
Top 50    CRANBOURNE    Top 50
Top 50    CURLEWIS    nr
Top 50    EAGLE RIDGE    Top 50
Top 50    EYNESBURY    Top 50
Top 50    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    20
Top 50    HORSHAM    Top 50
Top 50    MURRAY DOWNS     Top 50
Top 50    NOOSA SPRINGS     Top 50
Top 50    NORTH LAKES    nr
Top 50    PACIFIC DUNES    Top 50
Top 50    PARADISE PALMS     Top 50
Top 50    PORT FAIRY    Top 50
Top 50    RANFURLIE    Top 50
Top 50    ROBINA WOODS     Top 50
Top 50    ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD    Top 50
Top 50    SANDS TORQUAY    Top 50
Top 50    SORRENTO    Top 50
Top 50    TASMANIA    nr
Top 50    THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK    Top 50
Top 50    TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS    nr
Top 50    TWIN WATERS     Top 50
Top 50    VINES - LAKES    24
Top 50    VINTAGE    22

BEST AESTHETICS

2012
    COURSE    2011


1    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    1
2    BARBOUGLE LOST FARM    new
3    BONVILLE      2
4    HAMILTON ISLAND    3
5    THE DUNES    4
6    BARWON HEADS    6
7    KENNEDY BAY    5
8    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    8
9    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    11
10    ST ANDREWS BEACH    7
11    PORTSEA     10
12    MAGENTA SHORES    9
13    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    19
14    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    13
15    HYATT REGENCY COOLUM    18
16    BROOKWATER    22
17    THE CUT    16
18    NAROOMA     17
19    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    14
20    LAGUNA  - TURTLE POINT    15
21    ALICE SPRINGS     21
22    PACIFIC HARBOUR    12
23    CAPE SCHANCK    23
24    PORT FAIRY    20
25    ST MICHAEL'S    nr



WHAT ARE PUBLIC ACCESS COURSES?

Courses must be available for play by public, green fee paying golfers for most of the year. Courses available only to members, interstate or overseas visitors, or holders of official handicaps are excluded. The list includes:Public Courses –the best courses are mostly privately owned these days, although a few are council owned. These courses have no members and are available to anyone who pays a green fee and conforms to a few simple requirements such as dress codes and owning or hiring a set of clubs.

Resort Courses – privately owned, with additional facilities on site such as accommodation.

Private Courses – most golf courses throughout Australia are private clubs. An annual fee, and often a joining fee, is required, and members then do not usually pay green fees. Most clubs have tee times when the public may pay green fees and play the course, sometimes including club competition times. Such courses are considered “public access” in this Guide if they permit green fee players several days per week. Some private courses are only accessible to the public whilst they stay in on site accommodation. These courses are included in the list.

Other clubs are more exclusive, requiring guests to be introduced by a member, or permitting unaccompanied non-members access only if they are club members visiting from interstate or overseas. These courses are excluded from this list.

 

 

 

HOW THE LISTS WERE COMPILED

The Golf Course Guide has published a list of Australia’s best Public Access Courses every year since 2001. Our list differs from those found in other publications in some important aspects. Clearly, we are focused only on those courses that encourage green fee players (see details under “what are public access courses”). Our judges have a range of ages and golfing abilities and are instructed to reward course designs that cater for golfers of every level. For the Design category in particular, courses that offer higher handicappers an exciting test will find themselves rated better in this Guide, and courses that are really only playable by low markers will be ranked lower. We are extremely proud of the methodology that we have developed over many years. We strive for transparency, with clear criteria, and we offer separate lists based on course design, conditions and aesthetics to enable readers to select courses that will most readily appeal to their own preferences.


Panellists were asked to score only courses they had played. Colleagues who play certain courses frequently were consulted to more accurately assess year round conditions. The judging period is from September 2010 to August 2011 in order to print the Guide and have it on sale well before Christmas. This unfortunately penalises courses that have made improvements too late to be judged. All scores were standardised to compensate for any particular harshness or leniency, and spurious high or low results were rejected.

Course Design (40% weighting): How each hole presents an enjoyable, even thrilling challenge to golfers of all abilities from scratch markers to high handicappers and shorter hitters. The variety of different holes that make up the course, and the variety of shots that they require to test every facet of your game. The strategic design of each hole - where hazards come into play, reward for risk takers plus the existence of a safer/easier option, maybe with an additional stroke, for those who choose not to take the risk.

Courses with two separate 18s considered as two courses; where 27 holes available, the “best” 18 selected.


Course Conditions (40% weighting): Year round playing conditions (from best to worst season) and course maintenance of greens (greatest weighting), fairways, tees, roughs and hazards.

Course Aesthetics (20% weighting): The obvious beauty of the setting and also that very subjective quality of ambience and tranquillity that allows the golfer to lose himself in his environment. For some golfers, the thrill of playing golf in a stunning (eg coastal clifftop) environment can far outweigh lacklustre design strategy, and even mediocre fairway conditions. For these players, our allocation of only 20% weighting will seem inadequate, and they should seek out courses from our Best Aesthetics list, rather than the overall rankings.

Accommodation: The quality of the rooms, the range of suite sizes, appointments, room service and in-room facilities; accessibility to golf and dining.

Food and Beverage: Quality, choice and service in restaurants/clubhouse/on course (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Resorts that do not offer full meal service 7 days were penalized, even where there were nearby restaurants.

Other: Quality and range of on site activities - tennis, pool, spa, beach, gym, barbecue, gaming, shopping, walking, fishing etc. For resorts featuring more than 18 holes of golf a small bonus was applied in this category. Services that may be available from nearby providers were NOT considered. Golf practice facilities were NOT rated.

Each element was weighted equally (ie one third of total score for each).

We recognize the subjective nature of our rankings, and suggest their use as a guide only.


The Judges

George Begg is Secretary of the Australian Golf Writers Association and writes for several publications. Handicap 20 at Sanctuary Lakes, also a member at Corowa, Eagle Ridge and Altona Lakes.


Selwyn Berg is the Managing Editor of ausgolf and the Editor and Publisher of The Golf Course Guide. Handicap of 13 at Commonwealth.



 


Graeme Bond is Sports presenter on 3AW Fairfax Radio network where he has covered all the major Australian golf events for the past 15 years. A member at the National and Settlers Run, handicap 11.


Rohan Clarke is a Senior Writer for Australian Golf Digest, handicap 8 at Beverley Park.

Steve Keipert is the Editor of Australian Golf Digest, a role that takes him to golf courses across Australia. His handicap is 9 at Ashlar Golf Club, Sydney.


Garry Kennedy is Editor and Publisher of Hacker Golf Quarterly and General Manager of The Golf Course Guide. His current handicap is 14 at Howlong.

 
 
Peter Nolan is a keen golfer who plays off 10 at Rosanna.


Kevin Pallier is a panellist for a number of golfing publications including Australian Golf Digest and Golf World (UK). He is a member at Wollongong Golf Club with a handicap of 10.


Leon Wiegard OAM is a member at Commonwealth, handicap 14. Ambassador for Heritage  and  Moonah Links, Hon Life member Portsea and Patron at Clifton Springs.

David Worley is a member at Commonwealth, Sorrento and Moonah Links who plays off 11. Author of comprehensive books on British Links.



We gratefully acknowledge the input of all judges and additional contributions by Jeff Blunden, Darius Oliver, Bill Parker and Graham Holmes.

 Click Here for our 2012 Stay Play rankings