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Australia's Top 100 Public Access Golf Courses - 2011

from the Golf Course Guide

Australia's Top 100 Public Access Golf Courses - 2011


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.

2011 RANK*            COURSE            2010 RANK

1            BARNBOUGLE DUNES                    1

2            MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS            2

3            THE DUNES                                    5

4            JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 3

5            KENNEDY BAY                            4

6            MAGENTA SHORES                   6

7            MOONAH LINKS - OPEN            7

8            BARWON HEADS                         8

9            THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH            9

10            ST ANDREWS BEACH            nr

11            PACIFIC HARBOUR                 10

12            PORTSEA                                 12

13            THE CUT                                11

14            HAMILTON ISLAND             nr

15            BROOKWATER                 14

16            BONVILLE                        13

17            HOPE ISLAND             15

18            COOLUM                         19

19            CLUB PELICAN                   18

20            HERITAGE - ST JOHNS            23

21            GLADES                                   17

22            CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP            16

23            LAKELANDS                         20

24            VINES - LAKES                     21

25            VINTAGE                               22

26            PACIFIC DUNES                     31

27            SANCTUARY COVE - PINES            30

28            PORT FAIRY                         26

29            THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK            24

30            HORSHAM                         32

31            EYNESBURY                       27

32            MEADOW SPRINGS             25

33            SORRENTO                        36

34            CAPE SCHANCK            34

35            ST MICHAEL'S              28

36            LAGUNA  - TURTLE POINT            37

37            PARADISE PALMS             35

38            ROBINA WOODS              33

39            RANFURLIE                      29

40            MURRAY DOWNS             39

41            ALICE SPRINGS                46

42            HERITAGE - HENLEY            48

43            NOOSA SPRINGS             40

44            TWIN WATERS                 41

45            ROYAL HOBART            45

46            LINKS LADY BAY            38

47            BONNIE DOON                 47

48            LONG REEF                       43

49            NAROOMA                      49

50            CRANBOURNE                 50


Next 50 alphabetic


Top 100    ALBANY     Top 100
Top 100    ARALUEN     Top 100
Top 100    BELMONT     Top 100
Top 100    BRIBIE ISLAND     Top 100
Top 100    CAMDEN LAKESIDE    Top 100
Top 100    CAPRICORN - RESORT    Top 100
Top 100    COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD    Top 100
Top 100    COLONIAL    Top 100
Top 100    COOLANGATTA - RIVER    Top 100
Top 100    COROWA     Top 100
Top 100    CRESWICK FOREST    nr
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    GAINSBOROUGH GREENS    Top 100
Top 100    GOLD CREEK     Top 100
Top 100    GROWLING FROG    Top 100
Top 100    HORIZONS    Top 100
Top 100    INDOOROOPILLY - EAST    Top 100
Top 100    KEPERRA     Top 100
Top 100    KINGSTON LINKS    Top 100
Top 100    KOOINDAH WATERS    44
Top 100    LAKES ENTRANCE    Top 100
Top 100    MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP    Top 100
Top 100    MT BROUGHTON     Top 100
Top 100    NORTH LAKES    Top 100
Top 100    OCEAN SHORES     Top 100
Top 100    ROSEBUD - NORTH    Top 100
Top 100    ROSEBUD - SOUTH    Top 100
Top 100    ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD    Top 100
Top 100    SANDS TORQUAY    42
Top 100    SEATEMPLE      Top 100
Top 100    SECRET HARBOUR      Top 100
Top 100    SHEPPARTON    Top 100
Top 100    TALLWOODS    Top 100
Top 100    TASMANIA    Top 100
Top 100    THE COAST    Top 100
Top 100    TOCUMWAL - CAPTAINS    Top 100
Top 100    TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS    Top 100
Top 100    TUGGERAH LAKES     Top 100
Top 100    TURA BEACH     Top 100
Top 100    VINES - ELLENBROOK    Top 100
Top 100    WARRNAMBOOL    nr
Top 100    WATERFORD VALLEY    Top 100
Top 100    YARRAWONGA - MURRAY    Top 100
Top 100    YERING MEADOWS    Top 100
Top 100    YOWANI     Top 100

Little changed in our course rankings for 2011. Few courses underwent major design surgery, climatic conditions generally eased slightly and many courses completed work to ensure ongoing water availability making for an overall improvement in course conditioning.

Welcome newcomers to our list this year are the re-opened St Andrews Beach on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula and the Hamilton Island Golf Club on Dent Island.

St Andrews Beach (10) is simply a wonderful tour through the towering sand dunes of the Peninsula’s famed Cups region designed by internationally renowned Tom Doak, and exemplifies the architect’s minimalist approach with virtually no earth moved during construction. The course was ranked at No. 3 in our Design table, and is destined to move further up the overall rankings list as the new owners restore the playing surfaces to their former glory.

Thomson Perrett’s Hamilton Island golf course (14) boasts wonderful ocean views from almost every one of its elevated tees and when more of our judges have had the opportunity to visit the course it may well challenge for top honours in our Aesthetics table where it debuts this year at No. 3. The design is somewhat compromised by severe fairway slopes combined with blind tee shots that make play difficult, especially with the wind, and lost balls common. Conditioning is set to improve as the new course settles in.

Firmly entrenched at No. 1 again this year is Doak’s second Australian commission – Barnbougle Dunes on Tasmania’s northern coastline. This world class links layout just gets better and better with the maturing pure fescue playing surfaces for tees, fairways and greens now ranked No. 4 for Conditions by our panel, who generally accept that the greens cannot be ultra fast given the brutal winds that typically confront the player in this genuine links setting. The fairways are appropriately wide to account for the wind factor, and with multiple tee options the course truly provides something for players of every ability – the most important factor in assessing a Public Access Design.

Ross Perrett’s Legends Course at Moonah Links retains 2nd place overall, ranking No. 2 for conditions (just behind its Leviathan neighbour the Open Course) and No. 4 for design – again so ranked because it can provide an enjoyable challenge for all rather than a brutal and often penal test such as that imposed by its neighbour which was constructed to host the Australian Open and be a fitting challenge for elite golfers.

Perennial favourite, Tony Cashmore’s The Dunes also on the Mornington Peninsula moved up two places to No. 3 this year, with just a marginal improvement in Conditions, demonstrating once again just how close is the scoring of our top courses. The Dunes set the benchmark for upscale daily fee (public access) courses when it was constructed 16 years ago, and at the same time marked the re-emergence of links like golf in Australia. As many other high quality coastal layouts followed, our list is now dominated by this style, with only Joondalup (4) amongst the top ten not set in seaside sand dunes.

Kennedy Bay (5), another stunning links on the coast south of Perth dropped just one spot, despite our panel this year demoting its design rank from 3 to 6 and its conditions from 5 to 7, again just demonstrating that the scoring is so close that these moves are not significant. No golfing visit to WA is complete without a game at Kennedy Bay plus another at Joondalup which also moved down one place this year with slightly poorer placings for design and quite a drop down the aesthetics list – perhaps the most subjective of our lists as beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

Ranfurlie at No. 39 will be considered harshly dealt with by lovers of Mike Clayton’s work, but our group of judges could rate the design no higher than No. 23 and were not overly impressed by Conditions nor Aesthetics.


BEST DESIGN

2011     COURSE    2010 RANK*
1    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    1
2    THE DUNES    2
3    ST ANDREWS BEACH    nr
4    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    6
5    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    5
6    KENNEDY BAY    3
7    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    4
8    MAGENTA SHORES    7
9    PORTSEA     8
10    BARWON HEADS    11
11    PACIFIC HARBOUR    12
12    THE CUT    9
13    CLUB PELICAN    17
14    HOPE ISLAND     14
15    GLADES     16
16    BROOKWATER    13
17    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    18
18    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    19
19    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    15
20    LAGUNA  - TURTLE POINT    10
21    VINES - LAKES    20
22    COOLUM    24
23    RANFURLIE    Top 50
24    PACIFIC DUNES    Top 50
25    EYNESBURY    22

Next 25 alphabetic

Top 50    BONVILLE      21
Top 50    CAPE SCHANCK    Top 50
Top 50    HAMILTON ISLAND    nr
Top 50    HERITAGE - HENLEY    Top 50
Top 50    HORIZONS    Top 50
Top 50    HORSHAM    Top 50
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    OCEAN SHORES     Top 50
Top 50    PARADISE PALMS     Top 50
Top 50    PORT FAIRY    Top 50
Top 50    ROBINA WOODS     Top 50
Top 50    ROYAL HOBART    Top 50
Top 50    SANCTUARY COVE - PINES    25
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    WATERFORD VALLEY    Top 50
Top 50    YERING MEADOWS    23

BEST CONDITIONING

2011
    COURSE    2010 
RANK
1    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    1
2    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    2
3    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    3
4    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    6
5    LAKELANDS     4
6    THE DUNES    7
7    KENNEDY BAY    5
8    HOPE ISLAND     13
9    PACIFIC HARBOUR    8
10    BARWON HEADS    9
11    MAGENTA SHORES    12
12    BROOKWATER    21
13    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    10
14    THE CUT    11
15    COOLUM    15
16    HAMILTON ISLAND     nr
17    PORTSEA     16
18    GLADES     14
19    ST ANDREWS BEACH    nr
20    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    24
21    CLUB PELICAN    18
22    VINTAGE    19
23    BONVILLE      17
24    VINES - LAKES    22
25    SANCTUARY COVE - PINES    Top 50

Next 25 alphabetic

Top 50    ALICE SPRINGS     nr
Top 50    BONNIE DOON    25
Top 50    CAPE SCHANCK    Top 50
Top 50    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    Top 50
Top 50    CRANBOURNE    nr
Top 50    EAGLE RIDGE    Top 50
Top 50    EYNESBURY    Top 50
Top 50    HORSHAM    Top 50
Top 50    MEADOW SPRINGS     23
Top 50    MURRAY DOWNS     Top 50
Top 50    NOOSA SPRINGS     Top 50
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    ST MICHAEL'S    Top 50
Top 50    THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK    20
Top 50    TWIN WATERS     Top 50
Top 50    WATERFORD VALLEY    Top 50
Top 50    YARRAWONGA - MURRAY    nr

BEST AESTHETICS

2011
    COURSE    2010
 
RANK
1    BARNBOUGLE DUNES    1
2    BONVILLE      2
3    HAMILTON ISLAND    nr
4    THE DUNES    4
5    KENNEDY BAY    3
6    BARWON HEADS    6
7    ST ANDREWS BEACH    nr
8    MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS    9
9    MAGENTA SHORES    7
10    PORTSEA     13
11    JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES    5
12    PACIFIC HARBOUR    11
13    MOONAH LINKS - OPEN    12
14    CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP    14
15    LAGUNA  - TURTLE POINT    10
16    THE CUT    8
17    NAROOMA     17
18    COOLUM    18
19    THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH    16
20    PORT FAIRY    19
21    ALICE SPRINGS     15
22    BROOKWATER    20
23    CAPE SCHANCK    21
24    HERITAGE - ST JOHNS    nr
25    HOPE ISLAND     23

WHAT ARE PUBLIC ACCESS COURSES?

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 ranked separately in our tables to enable readers to select just what they require for their stay.

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. 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 August 2009 to July 2010 in order to print the Guide and have it on sale well before Christmas. This unfortunately penalizes 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, 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



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 is the Director of JBAS, an independent advisory company offering dedicated, professional advice to the golf and leisure industries.
He is a member at Bonnie Doon, playing off a handicap of 8.


Graeme Bond is Sports presenter on 3AW Fairfax Radio network where he has covered all the major Australian golf events for the past 14 years
A member at the National and Settlers Run, he plays off a handicap of 12.

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 Heidelberg.



Jonathan McCleery is a golf author and investor who plays off 7 at Riversdale where he is presently Captain.

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


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 11

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.



This year a few of our regular panel are absent due to travel or other commitments or had seen too few courses through the judging period. We have used some past Design and Aesthetics scores where no changes have been made on course provided by George Begg, Rohan Clarke, Brendan James and Leon Wiegard.