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2022 Guide

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Golf Course Guide Top 100 Courses 2021*

The GOLF Course Guide presents the most comprehensive assessment of where to play golf in Australia – with separate lists showing how our judges ranked the candidates in each of three key criteria: Design, Conditions and Aesthetics. "As always, courses must be available for green fee players most of the year. The list includes all Public Courses; all Resort Courses (with accommodation on site - ranked separately), and many Private Members Clubs.

Overall Rankings - see below

Design Rankingsclick here
Conditions Rankings - click here
Aesthetics Rankingsclick here


2021 RANK COURSE 2020 RANK
1 CAPE WICKHAM 1
2 BARNBOUGLE DUNES 2
3 BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM 3
4 BARWON HEADS 5
5 THE DUNES 4
6 OCEAN DUNES 7
7 ST ANDREWS BEACH 8
8 JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 9
9 THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 10
10 MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 12
11 BONVILLE   11
12 MAGENTA SHORES 14
13 NEWCASTLE 13
14 HAMILTON ISLAND 15
15 LINKS HOPE ISLAND 17
16 MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 18
17 THE CUT 16
18 SANCTUARY COVE - THE PINES 20
19 PORTSEA 19
20 KALGOORLIE 30
21 BROOKWATER 22
22 PORT FAIRY 21
23 THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK 27
24 PACIFIC DUNES 25
25 KOORALBYN 24
26 ST MICHAEL'S 33
27 THE VINTAGE 40
28 LINKS LADY BAY 38
29 MEADOW SPRINGS 23
30 MOUNT COMPASS 42
31 RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL 36
32 PACIFIC HARBOUR 28
33 STONECUTTERS RIDGE 29
34 LAKELANDS 32
35 SANCTUARY COVE - THE PALMS 35
36 BLACK BULL 39
37 GLADES 26
38 CAPE SCHANCK 41
39 SETTLERS RUN 43
40 CURLEWIS 37
41 NOOSA SPRINGS  34
42 CRANBOURNE 46
43 PELICAN WATERS 31
44 SUN CITY 44
45 LONSDALE new
46 HERITAGE - ST JOHN 56
47 MURRAY DOWNS 47
48 PALMER GOLD COAST 60
49 NAROOMA 52
50 TASMANIA 45
51 THE VINES - LAKES 49
52 ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD 51
53 RANFURLIE 57
54 SANCTUARY LAKES 50
55 TWIN WATERS 53
56 CLUB MANDALAY 54
57 CYPRESS LAKES 78
58 ARUNDEL HILLS 58
59 CAPRICORN 48
60 BALLARAT 59
61 FLINDERS 64
62 YARRAWONGA - MURRAY 82
63 ROSEBUD - NORTH 67
64 LEONGATHA 71
65 SECRET HARBOUR   61
66 MAROOCHY RIVER 73
67 FEDERAL 98
68 HERITAGE - HENLEY 70
69 SANDHURST - CHAMPIONS 65
70 WARRNAMBOOL 75
71 PALMER COOLUM 79
72 LAKESIDE CAMDEN 76
73 LONG REEF 55
74 FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY 87
75 EYNESBURY 63
76 HORSHAM 74
77 PORTARLINGTON 62
78 HORIZONS 86
79 MURWILLUMBAH 68
80 YERING MEADOWS - NURSERY 85
81 SANDS TORQUAY 81
82 PALM MEADOWS 84
83 ROYAL HOBART 66
84 DUNTRYLEAGUE 91
85 MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP 88
86 SANDHURST - NORTH 90
87 KOOINDAH WATERS 69
88 COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD 72
89 BUNBURY nr
90 PALMER SEA REEF 80
91 ALICE SPRINGS 77
92 GROWLING FROG nr
93 SHEPPARTON 83
94 COPPERCLUB 89
95 GARDINERS RUN nr
96 PORT MACQUARIE nr
97 OCEAN SHORES 96
98 BELMONT 92
99 TWIN CREEKS nr
100 ARALUEN 94
   

golf guide 2022 cover

Last year with courses closed or play restricted we made the reluctant decision not to update our annual course rankings. Although some Covid-related restrictions on golf continued through 2021, especially in Victoria, our judges throughout the country have managed to visit almost all candidates (we received scores for over 170 courses seen during the two-year period from October 2019 to September 2021) and so we are pleased to present our updated rankings to help you decide where to play golf in Australia and to stimulate appreciation and discussion of our great golfing assets.

As always, to be ranked, courses must be listed in this Edition as available for green fee players most of the year. We include all Public Courses (whether Council or privately owned); all Resort Courses, and many Private Clubs which offer access to green fee players. Some Clubs may require an overnight stay in their accommodation in order to access the course.

We present the most comprehensive assessment of these courses – our judges’ separate rankings for Design, Conditions and Aesthetics.

* Although this is the 2022 Guide we have chosen to label our rankings Top 100 – 2021 as this better reflects the period during which our judges saw the courses.

CAPE WICKHAM links on King Island, Tasmania has held top spot on our rankings list since first opening six years ago, and with yet another slight improvement in conditioning this stunning design by Mike DeVries and Darius Oliver commands great respect worldwide. All judges to play this course awarded top marks for visuals, the course also took out best design award.

cape wickham

Above - #1 again, Cape Wickham

BARNBOUGLE DUNES #2 and BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM #3 remained on top of the Conditions list. In fact, with generally good rainfall throughout the period, conditioning standards typically improved since our last rankings.

OCEAN DUNES also on King Island rose just one spot to #6 with a marked improvement in turf conditioning, yet with scope for even more – ranked #18 this time. Ranked #2 for aesthetics and #3 for design, this meant that Tasmania is once again home to our top 3 public access courses and the top 3 in each category, our judges continuing to enjoy the architecture, the firm, fast running fescue surfaces and stunning coastal views.

BARWON HEADS on Melbourne’s Bellarine Peninsula moved up one spot to #4, its highest ever ranking, switching places with THE DUNES #5 across Port Philip Bay on the Mornington Peninsula where nearby ST ANDREWS BEACH moved back up one place to #7.

barwon heads

Above - A big mover, Barwon Heads rises to #4

There was very little movement in our Top 20 courses, dominated by seaside links styles, both traditional and newly constructed. The exceptions, inland courses, being the ever-popular resort JOONDALUP #8 – where we select the QUARRY/DUNES combination as being the best, and the stunning resort course BONVILLE #11 near Coffs Harbour which has ranked as the most beautiful mainland course for five straight years. The big mover in our Top 20 is the remarkable desert course KALGOORLIE which jumped 10 places to #20. The Graham Marsh design was lauded by our panel who also appreciated the pure playing surfaces and the stunning visual contrasts with the red desert earth.

ST MICHAEL’S on Botany Bay continued its rise up our list, gaining another 7 places to #26 based mainly on an improved aesthetics score. THE VINTAGE in the Hunter Valley moved up 13 spots to #27, with improved scores in each category, but principally because the judges were less critical of the challenging Greg Norman/Bob Harrison design that certainly tests the better golfer. LINKS LADY BAY, yet another seaside course, rose 10 places to #28 with improved rankings in each of our three categories, whilst its Fleurieu Peninsula neighbour MOUNT COMPASS jumped another 12 spots to #30 after its rise of 14 places two years ago, courtesy of our judges’ opinions on the Neil Crafter designed links style and its visual appeal. The predominance of seaside golf continues.

RIVERSIDE OAKS – BUNGOOL recovered 5 places to #31 as the panel noted considerable improvement in conditioning over the ranking period.

Sadly, THE GLADES on the Gold Coast, once firmly established in our top 20, fell another 11 spots to appear at #37 as we felt the conditioning was nowhere near its previous peak. On the Sunshine Coast, PELICAN WATERS, also a Greg Norman design, tumbled 12 places to #44 and nearby NOOSA SPRINGS dropped a few spots too.

The only entirely new course to appear in these rankings is the Ogilvy Cocking Mead LONSDALE LINKS, #45, a redesign of the old Point Lonsdale course set in wonderful coastal dunes besides Lake Victoria on the Bellarine Peninsula. Ranked #22 for visuals, the course plays firm and bouncy in the traditional seaside sporty links style.

lonsdale

Above - Lonsdale links reenters the Top 100 at #45

PALMER GOLD COAST entered our Top 50 for the first time courtesy of ongoing improvements with playing conditions. This classic Graham Marsh/Ross Watson collaboration from the late 1980s has certainly stood the test of time without design interference or tinkering.

Outside the Top 50, significant changes included CYPRESS LAKES up 21 spots to #57 thanks to a huge improvement noted in conditions, and YARRAWONGA MURRAY up 20 places to #62 with better scores in each category. This classic tribute to the late Peter Thomson is always a popular destination. FEDERAL in Canberra moved up an impressive 31 spots to #67, also thanks to perceived improvements in each of the three criteria. After climbing to #55 last time, LONG REEF dropped 18 places to #73 although our panel admired the visuals.

The TUNCURRY course of Club FORSTER-TUNCURRY improved by 13 places to #74, with better scores for design and conditioning. A little off the beaten track (although the road in is now fully paved) this course is one we truly regard as a hidden gem.

With significantly improved scores since our previous rankings, the following new entrants appear: BUNBURY at #89 last appearance 2016; GROWLING FROG #92 last appearance 2018; GARDINERS RUN #95 also last listed in 2018 and PORT MACQUARIE  #96 last featured in 2016.

Courses from our 2020 rankings that missed the cut this time are MACQUARIE LINKS, ULVERSTONE, THE VINES – ELLENBROOK and NEW TERRY. Saddest of all, KENNEDY BAY, ranked #6 in 2020 is undergoing major works and won’t be back to 18 holes until late 2022.

We’ve had some significant changes to our judging panel. The courses they visited through the year and the timing of their visits affect the outcome, so as always we recommend that our readers use these lists for guidance only and we acknowledge the subjectivity of all opinions.

* Although this is the 2022 Guide we have chosen to label our rankings Top 100 – 2021 as this better reflects the period during which our judges saw the courses.


HOW THE LISTS WERE COMPILED

The GOLF Course Guide established a numerical course ranking system in 1998 and was the first Australian publication to do that.

The Guide’s criteria are

Course Design (40% weighting): How each hole presents an enjoyable, interesting 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. How well the course exploits the ‘best’ set and sequence of holes the land offers, and how well the routing takes the golfer on a journey of discovery. The strategic design of each hole - where hazards come into play, reward for risk takers of an easier subsequent shot, with a more difficult shot or possibly an additional stroke for those who choose to play safely.

Courses that offer higher handicappers a manageable test (from appropriate tees) will find themselves ranked better in this Guide, and courses that are really only playable by low markers will be ranked lower. 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.


Judges scores are mathematically adjusted to account for any particular harshness or leniency and spurious results are eliminated.
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 was from October 2019 to September 2021 (two years since previous ranking due to Covid).

Where we really deliver on our objective to ‘guide’ readers to courses they will enjoy is by publishing three distinct lists – rankings by Design, Conditions and Aesthetics – allowing readers effectively to select their own criteria and weightings. For some golfers, the thrill of playing golf in a stunning 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

We recognise the subjective nature of our rankings and suggest their use as a guide only. If you’d like to have your say about any of our lists go to www.ausgolf.com.au/course-rankings

Selwyn Berg
The Managing Editor of ausgolf and the Editor and Publisher of The Golf Course Guide. Handicap 15, member at Commonwealth.

Scott Blair-West
A member at Spring Valley and The National, current handicap is 5. He enjoys golf travel in Australia, New Zealand and internationally.

David Chantrell
Member of Glenelg, represented the club from junior through to senior pennant, Handicap 7. His awakening to golf course architecture was 1992 playing many of the great links of Scotland and fondest memories include caddying in professional tournaments seeing close up how the game is supposed to be played.

Steve Davis
Handicap 17, currently a member at Beerwah Golf Club on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Steve has golfed extensively across Australia and New Zealand and has played 53 of the 2021 Top 100 and over 150 courses in total

Tony Ellis
Tony holds a handicap of 2 at The National and is currently on a 5-year tour around Australia, both things the rest of the panel just dream about. He played 100 different courses in 2021.

Tyson Flynn
Handicap 15, a member at Howlong and a writer and panelist for several golfing publications.

Graham Holmes
Commonwealth member, single figures last 30 years (except couple of wayward games to see what double digits are like!) Travelled and played golf in over 30 countries. Loves the challenge every course presents. Current handicap 9.

Loren Justins
Handicap 7, member at Royal Queensland and has played at many international courses during extensive travel to 60+ countries. Top 100 panelist for various publications in Australia, NZ and the USA, and has been to the USA and UK over 80 times.

Steve Keipert
Has worked in the golf media for the past 21 years and is the only golf writer to ever work on-staff at both Australian Golf Digest where he is currently associate editor, and Golf Australia. Handicap is 8 at Launceston Golf Club.

Jonathan McCleery
Plays off a handicap of 6. Golfing author, golf course investor and is Riversdale Golf Club President and former Captain.

Peter Nolan
A keen golfer handicap 9, member at Rosanna. He maintains his love for the game, despite the fact that the game steadfastly refuses to love him back!

Steve O'Hara
Handicap 13, enjoys playing new and different golf courses and fortunately has been aided in this by living in every state in Australia. He's also travelled and golfed in 65 different countries.

Kevin Pallier
A panelist for a number of golfing publications, playing golf extensively throughout every Australian State and Territory. He is a member at Russell Vale Golf Club with a handicap of 13

Chris Parry
Member at Palmer Gold Coast, handicap 15. Chris has managed to complete a road trip around Australia largely avoiding Covid restrictions over the past 12 months. Fortunate to have a golfing wife and a golfing life.

Craig Seckold
Handicap 10. Panellist for another golfing publication and member of various social golf clubs. Regular regional or interstate trips are not complete without golf clubs in tow.

Ian Urquhart
Plays out of Drouin currently off 16. Being retired gets to over 30 different courses each year and has clocked almost 200 across Australia to date.

Leon Wiegard
A Life member Portsea, Patron Clifton Springs, member Commonwealth, and international golf tour organiser. Handicap has blown to 17 (lowest was 8).

Peter White
Currently a member of the Perth Golf Network in WA and Romford GC in England. Has played a large variety of courses in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. His golf clubs go with him whenever he travels and every now and then he plays to his handicap of 7.