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Australia's Top 100 Public Access Courses - 2008

from the Golf Course Guide

Australia's Top 100 Public Access Golf Courses - 2008

2008   COURSE                   2007
2    KENNEDY BAY                2
4    DUNES, THE                      5
6    BROOKWATER                9
8    CUT, THE    21
9    MAGENTA SHORES    new
10    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    8
12    BARWON HEADS    11
13    HOPE ISLAND     10
15    BONVILLE      12
16    PORTSEA     15
17    VINES - LAKES    19
18    GLADES     20
19    CLUB PELICAN    16
20    LAKELANDS     17
21    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    14
22    COOLUM    18
23    CAPRICORN - NEW    22
25    VINTAGE    23
27    LINKS LADY BAY    25
28    MEADOW SPRINGS     26
29    PACIFIC DUNES    33
30    PARADISE PALMS     31
31    CAPE, THE    30
32    MURRAY DOWNS     28
33    ST MICHAEL'S    Top 100
34    HORSHAM    27
35    EYNESBURY    new
36    TWIN WATERS     36
37    KOOINDAH WATERS    Top 100
38    HORIZONS    32
39    SANDS TORQUAY    nr
40    CRANBOURNE    39
41    BONNIE DOON    45
42    ROBINA WOODS     34
43    NOOSA SPRINGS     40
45    SORRENTO    35
46    ALICE SPRINGS     46
47    LONG REEF    43
48    NORTH LAKES    37
49    PORT FAIRY    Top 100
50    ROYAL HOBART    Top 100
Top 100    ALBANY     nr
Top 100    ANGLESEA    Top 100
Top 100    ARALUEN     42
Top 100    BELMONT     Top 100
Top 100    BRIBIE ISLAND     Top 100
Top 100    CAMDEN LAKESIDE    44
Top 100    CAPRICORN - RESORT    Top 100
Top 100    COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD    Top 100
Top 100    COBRAM BAROOGA - WEST    Top 100
Top 100    COLONIAL    Top 100
Top 100    COOLANGATTA - RIVER    Top 100
Top 100    CYPRESS LAKES     Top 100
Top 100    DUNTRYLEAGUE    nr
Top 100    EAGLE RIDGE    Top 100
Top 100    FEDERAL     Top 100
Top 100    FLINDERS    Top 100
Top 100    GAINSBOROUGH GREENS    Top 100
Top 100    GROWLING FROG    Top 100
Top 100    HERITAGE - HENLEY    new
Top 100    INDOOROOPILLY - EAST    Top 100
Top 100    KEPERRA     Top 100
Top 100    KOORALBYN VALLEY     Top 100
Top 100    LAKES ENTRANCE    Top 100
Top 100    LIVERPOOL     Top 100
Top 100    MCCRACKEN    Top 100
Top 100    MILLICENT    Top 100
Top 100    MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP    Top 100
Top 100    MT BROUGHTON     Top 100
Top 100    NAROOMA     47
Top 100    OCEAN SHORES     48
Top 100    PALM MEADOWS     Top 100
Top 100    RANFURLIE    49
Top 100    RICH RIVER - EAST    Top 100
Top 100    RIVERSIDE OAKS    Top 100
Top 100    ROSEBUD - NORTH    Top 100
Top 100    ROSEBUD - SOUTH    Top 100
Top 100    ROYAL PINES - AROONA/WANGARA    Top 100
Top 100    SEATEMPLE  Pt Douglas    50
Top 100    SECRET HARBOUR      Top 100
Top 100    SHEPPARTON    Top 100
Top 100    SUN CITY     nr
Top 100    TALLWOODS    Top 100
Top 100    TASMANIA    Top 100
Top 100    TEWANTIN NOOSA    nr
Top 100    TOCUMWAL - CAPTAINS    Top 100
Top 100    TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS    Top 100
Top 100    TURA BEACH     Top 100
Top 100    VINES - ELLENBROOK    Top 100
Top 100    WATERFORD VALLEY    41
Top 100    YOWANI     Top 100

Barnbougle Dunes easily retained top spot as Australia’s Best Public Access Course, with nearly every judge who played Doak and Clayton’s Tasmanian masterpiece scoring it tops for both design and aesthetics. As the course settled in, it climbed an impressive six places on the “Best Conditions” table – clearly our panel endorse the seamless fescue grass policy for greens and fairways, and recognise that a windswept links cannot have lightning fast putting surfaces and remain playable. There is plenty more of the magnificent dunescape for further golf development, and it is to be hoped that in time the world’s No. 35 course (as recently ranked by Golf Magazine) will have some neighbours to truly make Bridport a world golf destination.

Joondalup, the only non-linksy course to make the top 5 moved up a notch on account of stunning conditioning whilst courses around the nation experienced one of the worst droughts in history and several Queensland courses were affected by frost. The level of overall conditioning served up to Australian golfers under these adverse climatic circumstances has been nothing short of sensational.

Brookwater, the only other top 10 inland course improved its standing as some minor adjustments were incorporated to make it slightly more manageable for the average golfer.

Moonah Links Open Course retained its top spot for Best Conditions, whilst Turtle Point at Laguna Whitsundays, traditionally renowned for its excellent fairways of 328 couch (the grass traditionally used on Queensland greens) disappointed with its course conditioning this time, and fell several spots down the ladder.

The big changes to this year’s list included the dramatic rise up the rankings by The Cut (No.8) as the course matured and its conditioning improved. Our judges this year were clearly impressed with the breathtaking ocean setting and less concerned than previously about the encroachment of the real estate, hence a big improvement in their scores for aesthetics.

Another impressive change within the top 10 was the debut of Magenta Shores at No 9. This new Ross Watson design near The Entrance on the NSW Central Coast is a private club with course access for resort guests. The stunning design features massive sand dunes that appear natural, but were created during course construction, combined with immaculate playing surfaces that may yet improve as the course settles in.

As predicted last year, Pacific Harbour, a further wonderful course by Ross Watson improved its overall ranking jumping from 24th to 14th as more of our judges recognised the quality of the design and the standard of the conditioning, and also marked it significantly higher for aesthetics. This sand based course on Bribie Island features some remarkable bunkering, including a 200m bunker that runs the entire length of the 17th hole, a par 3.

As noted above, there are only two courses in the top dozen or so that are not coastal or links like in character. What a difference this represents from just a few years ago, when the best public access courses were dominated by resort style courses built chiefly to convert low-lying or poor quality land for recreational use. The renaissance of links golf in this country, and the enthusiasm of the public to embrace this pure style, has seen us rewarded with new quality layouts – built purely as a golf course, or to add real golfing value to the residential component of a development. It is also noteworthy that the top -ranked courses are all recent constructions, purpose-built for public play. Prior to this new era of quality course construction, the best public access was provided courtesy of private clubs which permitted green fee play at certain times – Barwon Heads (No. 12), Portsea (No. 16) and others.

Eynesbury, designed by Graham Marsh enters our rankings at a very creditable No. 35 and is destined to move higher, as the course on the western outskirts of Melbourne only opened in May 2007. The centrepiece of the first completely new Victorian township for more than 60 years, Eynesbury is a fully public golf course, set on beautifully undulating fairways with its own supply of recycled water to ensure that it is ‘drought-proof”. The very generous fairways, multiple tee positions and paved cart paths ensure that the layout caters for all golfers.

The Sands, Torquay, now welcomes visiting golfers and so is eligible for inclusion and joins the list at No. 39. Stuart Appleby’s first design commission is well named with impressive bunkering dictating play on most holes on this wind-exposed layout.

Henley, Tony Cashmore’s new course at the Heritage Golf and Country Club in Victoria’s Yarra Valley debuts in this year’s list although it is very young and needs water and time to grow into the rugged hilly site.

Albany and Sun City re-entered the Top 100, whilst Duntryleague and Tewantin Noosa make a first appearance.

This year a total score of greater than 80% was required to rank in the Top 100. Courses to miss out by less than 2% included Corowa, Coffs Harbour, Coomealla, Gold Creek, Kingston Links, Leongatha, Lonsdale, Sanctuary Cove – Palms and Warrnambool.

As always, we recognize the subjective nature of our rankings, and suggest their use as a guide only. In particular, by presentation of essentially three lists, we attempt to guide users to those courses that they will find most pleasing – whether their preferences are for design strategy, immaculate playing surfaces, or simply beautiful surroundings. The choices are many and splendid – enjoy!


To be considered for this list 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. Such additional facilities are NOT considered in ranking the courses, but are described in the course listings in this book.

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. However, since some of our readers qualify to play, we have included the course rankings from Australian Golf Digest (Mar 2006 was the latest available) as a guide. These rankings are based on slightly different criteria from those outlined below, principally with a lower weighting on conditioning, so they are not strictly comparable.


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. 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. They were asked to rank courses in each of the three categories – design, conditions and aesthetics. Colleagues who play certain courses frequently were consulted to more accurately assess year round conditions. The judging period is from August 2006 to July 2007. 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, rough 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.

The Judges

George Begg is the golf writer for Star Newspapers and the Geelong Independent. A member at Altona Lakes and Werribee Park Golf Clubs, handicap 16, he is the Secretary of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

Selwyn Berg is the Managing Editor of ausgolf and the Editor and Publisher of The Golf Course Guide. Handicap of 11 at Commonwealth.

Jeff Blunden leads the Club and Industry Advisory service for Golf Australia. He is a member at Bonnie Doon, playing off a handicap of 8.

Graeme Bond is sports director at Radio 3AW Melbourne and covers golf for the Southern Cross Radio Network. A member of both the National and Riversdale and plays off a handicap of 12.

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

Brendan James is the Editor of Golf Australia Magazine and travels extensively to review and photograph courses. His handicap is 7 at Riverside Oaks.

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 12 at Heidelberg.

Michael King is a member at The Grand and Kingston Heath, handicap 11.

Jonathan McCleery is a golf author and investor who plays off 7 at Riversdale.

Peter Nolan is a keen golfer who plays off 7 at Rosanna.

Bill Parker has traveled and played extensively throughout Australia. Currently based in both SA and WA he retains membership of Kooringal GC VIC playing off 7.

Kevin Pallier has played golf extensively throughout Australia and the British Isles. He 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, NSW with a handicap of 9

Geoff Roach writes for The Advertiser, Adelaide after a career covering golf on radio and TV nationally and internationally since the 1972 US Open at Pebble Beach. A member of Kooyonga playing off 10.

Antony de Vries is a Chartered Accountant traveling extensively throughout Australia, sampling many great golf courses. He is a member at Royal Hobart, TAS and Oatlands, NSW. His current playing handicap is 6.

Nigel Wall was the editor of Golf Australia for 12 years, and is currently the Australian writer for US publication Travel & Leisure Golf. Handicap 8 at Riverside Oaks.

Leon Wiegard is an honorary member of the PGA (Australia) and MD of Sportgard, organisers of corporate golf and tours. Handicap 11 at Commonwealth.

David Worley is a member at Commonwealth, Sorrento and Moonah Links who plays off 11. He has recently written a comprehensive book on British Links.