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Australia's Top 100 Golf Courses - Golf Digest 2008

March 2008 Ranking List - Golf Digest Magazine

Described by some industry insiders as Digest's most controversial ranking list in years, we present users with the latest Top 100 ranking of Australia's Best Golf Courses as rated by Australian Golf Digest magazine. Notable among this year's changes is the slide on the list by classics such as Commonwealth, Grange West and the two Peninsula courses, each a substantially finer golf experience than the same period two years ago. Commonwealth's conditioning has improved markedly and the design is still one of the best in the nation, even with its obvious faults, yet the club has now slipped out of the Top 25. (above, NSW Golf Club #2)

The other big news was the arrival of Magenta Shores (24), which edged out St Andrews Beach (30) as the highest newcomer, and the massive leap forward of the Legends Course at Moonah Links, which rocketed up the list from 37 to 14.

Read further comments from Selwyn Berg by clicking here.

Enjoy this years list, always a great source of healthy debate and controversy, and please send any feedback to

1 Royal Melbourne (Composite) -
2 New South Wales -
3 Kingston Heath -
4 Ellerston -
5 Barnbougle Dunes +2
6 Royal Adelaide -1
7 Metropolitan -1
8 The National (Moonah) -
9 The Australian -
10 Royal Sydney +12
11 Victoria -1
12 The National (Old) +2
13 Kooyonga -2
14 Moonah Links (Legends) +23
15 Newcastle -2
16 The Cut +5
17 Moonah Links (Open) -
18 Royal Canberra -6
19 Lake Karrinyup -4
20 Kennedy Bay -4
21 Laguna Whitsundays (Turtle Point)
22 Joondalup (Quarry-Dune) -2
23 The Lakes -5
24 Magenta Shores New
25 The Dunes +4
26 Brookwater -7
27 Commonwealth -4
28 Huntingdale +5
29 Barwon Heads +3
30 St Andrews Beach (Gunnamatta) New
31 Hope Island -7
32 Woodlands -6
33 Thirteenth Beach (Beach) +8
34 Concord +4
35 Sanctuary Cove (Pines) +4
36 Peninsula (North) -8
37 Yarra Yarra -3
38 Coolum (Hyatt Regency) -7
39 The Vines (Composite) -12
40 The Vintage +4
41 Terrey Hills -11
42 Bonville -6
43 The Heritage (St John) -8
44 The Grand +7
45 The Glades -5
46 Glenelg +23
47 The National (Ocean) -1
48 St Michael's +9
49 Portsea -2
50 Club Pelican -8
51 Elanora   New
52  Links Lady Bay
53 Alice Springs
54 Capricorn (New) -
55 Grange (West) -7
56 Peninsula (South) -6
57 Royal Queensland +3
58 Pacific Dunes +3
59 Pacific Harbour New
60 Grange (East) -5
61 Lakelands -2
62 Tasmania -17
63 Mount Lawley -11
64 Secret Harbour -15
65 Port Fairy +25
66 Paradise Palms +1
67 Macquarie Links -2
68 Narooma +14
69 Sanctuary Lakes +18
70 The Western Australian +4
71 Horsham -7
72 Spring Valley -2
73 Indooroopilly (West) -2
74 Royal Hobart -18
75 Araluen -17
76 The Heritage (Henley) New
77 Twin Creeks New
78 Meadow Springs -25
79 Twin Waters -11
80 Riversdale -4
81 Arundel Hills +8
82 Southern +11
83 Kooralbyn Valley New
84 Ocean Shores -7
85 Royal Pines (Aroona-Binnowee) New
86 Horizons -23
87 Noosa Springs -3
88 Bonnie Doon -3
89 Murray Downs -23
90 Pymble New
91 Albany -8
92 Castle Hill -6
93 North Lakes -20
94 Camden Lakeside -22
95 Amstel (Ranfurlie)
96 Robina Woods
97 Mollymook (Hilltop)  -
98 Cottesloe  -7
99 Sorrento  -4
100 Tallwoods  -22

Australian Golf Digest Top 100 Golf Courses, March 2008
Comment from Selwyn Berg

Course Ranking lists are always controversial, and Australian Golf Digest’s 2008 Top 100 is certain to whip up the usual debates at clubs around the country.

This year’s greatly expanded panel of judges is quite a departure from two years ago, when only single figure players were represented and the panel was considerably smaller, and they’ve produced some interesting results.

There’s not much change in the Top 10, except that Royal Sydney has jumped 12 spots to reclaim No. 10 – the spot it held 8 years ago, well before Ross Watson’s work to rebuild the bunkering, greensites and improve general course conditioning.

I might argue that Metropolitan (7) has once again been treated a little kindly, courtesy of its magnificent manicuring and its historic role as a host to major championship events – it never hurts to have judges see your layout in tournament condition. The Australian (9) also seems to benefit from its tournament profile. The National – Old at No. 12 seems a little generous too. Others question whether Barnbougle (5) is really as good as that, or whether the ‘hype’ might be short-lived – it seems not.

Moonah Links - Legends, up 23 spots to No. 14 is undoubtedly a surprise. It has certainly been better received than its famous Open sister, but to rank it ahead of other new linksy courses such as The Dunes (25), Kennedy Bay (20), Thirteenth Beach – Beach (33) and St Andrews Beach – Gunamatta (30) is a big statement indeed.

To my mind, Gunamatta belongs just outside the top 10, with The Dunes, Kennedy Bay and Thirteenth Beach not far behind.

I wonder about the influence of course conditioning on the overall results.

Digest score 40% for “Shot Values; how well does the course pose risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse? And how difficult, yet fair, is the course?”
20% for “Design Variety; how varied are the holes in length, terrain, hazard placements and green contours?”
20% for “Memorability; how well do features provide individuality to each hole yet a collective continuity to the entire 18? And how well do scenic values add to your enjoyment?”
20% for “Conditioning; in what shape were the tees, fairways and greens when you last played?”

Effectively this means 60%+ for the design layout, somewhat less than 20% for scenic values and 20% for conditioning. It is well known that golfers generally favour a course where they score well and enjoy their round, and there is little doubt in my mind that superb conditioning (Metropolitan, The National and Legends) can impress many a player – perhaps resulting in a more favourable points allocation for Design or Memorability?

Perhaps this may partly explain the astonishing demise of Commonwealth at No. 27. Here is a course that consistently ranks in the Top 10 of noted architects Greg Norman, Bob Harrison and Mike Wolveridge (see p 112 Golf Digest Mar 2008). A course that was ranked No. 23 by Golf Digest and No. 16 by Golf Australia in 2006 and has since then made dramatic strides forward in course presentation. The members (myself included) know that the new Legend fairways are now amongst the best on Melbourne’s Sand Belt (having been so poor a few years ago that preferred lies were in play during summer) and that dense undergrowth has been almost eliminated and significant tree clearing undertaken. Since the layout has not been altered in any way over this period surely the majority of Digest judges have not seen the course recently enough to take account of these improvements.

It would seem that unless a modified course hosts a big tournament, it can take several years for enough judges to recognise the changes. Witness Glenelg, where Crafter and Tuohy's work in 2004 sees the course jump to No. 46 in the 2008 list vs No. 69 in 2006.

Also quite bewildering are the poor rankings of Yarra Yarra (37) and Woodlands (32).
Mike Clayton will not be impressed to see that his work at Peninsula has been judged so harshly with the North Course slipping 8 spots to No. 36 and the South 6 spots to 56.  All these courses would be in my Top 20. And Bonville (42), The National – Ocean (47), Portsea (49) and Pacific Harbour (59) not far behind. Equally baffling is the drop of 5 places by Grange - West (55) which has been the beneficiary along with Peninsula of some thoughtful Clayton input that most members applaud warmly.

At least Clayton's efforts at Port Fairy (65) saw the course leap 25 places up the table - fair enough in my mind as the linksy seaside holes are undoubtedly great golf, but the weaker inland holes are not good enough to support the much higher ranking that Clayton himself has always controversially accorded it.

The Golf Course Guide was the first Australian publication to spell out clear numeric criteria for course rankings, and remains the only publication that provides separate lists for each component of the overall score (viz. Design, Conditions, Aesthetics). Digest now follows a similar numerical process, surely an improvement from the days when judges' favourite courses were sourced from State-based panels, and then somehow massaged into a National list. I understand that Digest also discards 'spurious' results that appear to display an individual judge's unfounded prejudices, but it does not standardise scores from each judge (as does The Guide) to eliminate over-lenient or over-harsh influences in that judge's particular subset of courses played (since no judge will have seen every course on the list). These statistical adjustments could well be adopted in future.

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Click here for the 2006 List of Australia's Top 100 Golf Courses