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Australia's Top 50 Golf Courses - Golf Australia 2004

The following is a list of Australia's Top 50 Golf Courses according to Golf Australia magazine in their January 2004 rankings. Judges were Tom Ramsey, Michael Clayton, Craig Parry, Darius Oliver, Bob Harrison, Trevor Grant, Nigel Wall and Brendan James.


1. Royal Melbourne West, Vic     26. Barwon Heads, Vic
2. Kingston Heath, Vic                 27. The National, (Old Course) Vic
3. Royal Melbourne East, Vic     28. Lake Karrinyup, WA
4. Royal Adelaide, SA                 29. Royal Canberra, ACT
5. New South Wales                     30. Joondalup, (Quarry/Dunes Course) WA
6. Ellerston, NSW                         31. Pelican Waters, QLD
7. Metropolitan, Vic                     32. Port Fairy, VIC
8. Victoria                                     33. The Grand, QLD
9. The National, (Moonah) VIC     34. The Vines, (Lakes Course) WA
10. Brookwater, QLD                     35. The Vintage, NSW
11.  Kennedy Bay, WA                 36. The National, (Ocean Course) Vic
12. Newcastle, NSW                     37. Moonah Links, (Leviathan Course) VIC
13. Kooyonga, SA                         38. The Grange, (West Course) SA
14. Thirteenth Beach, VIC             39. Amstel, (Ranfurlie Course) VIC
15. The Dunes, VIC                     40. Hope Island, QLD
16.Commonwealth, VIC                 41. Concord, NSW
17. The Australian, NSW                42. Terrey Hills, NSW
18. Peninsula (North), VIC             43. The Heritage, VIC
19. Yarra Yarra, VIC                     44. Peninsula (South), VIC
20. Royal Sydney, NSW             45. Horsham, VIC
21. Woodlands, VIC                    46. Capricorn International, (New) QLD
22. The Lakes, NSW                 47. Hyatt Regency Coolum, QLD
23. Portsea, VIC                         48. Sanctuary Cove (pines), QLD
24. Turtle Point, Laguna Whitsundays, QLD 49. Bonville, NSW
25. The Glades, QLD                 50. Lakelands, QLD

Golf Australia Magazine Top 50 comment - by Darius Oliver
Dec 17, 2003

The golf course rankings season continues with the Golf Australia Top 50 list released this week. As one of the eight judges used by the magazine I was part of the compilation process and assure all readers that listing the 50 best courses in Australia was indeed a difficult task.

My first 12 courses or so picked themselves as did the next dozen which just needed to be arranged in order to suit my preferences. The bottom half however was another matter with courses shuffled up and down constantly until I was as comfortable as possible with the final make-up of the list. What makes ranking all the way to 50 difficult is that virtually nothing separates the bottom 20 or so tracks.

The magazine’s final compiled ranking (based on the 8 individual lists) may not be everyone’s ideal but I believe the methodology used in this case is highly commendable. Rather than hiding behind a large panel of ‘experts’ here each judge’s score is printed in the magazine (and on ausgolf) in order for readers to see and identify any bias they feel may exist. While my task was difficult I must say it paled by comparison to that of designers Bob Harrison and Michael Clayton who not only had to compare their own courses with the country's finest but also faced an inevitable backlash from golfers who assumed they were not capable of impartiality. The truth however is that all designers are passionate about their work and these two guys are probably the best credentialed to comment on quality golf design, having produced fine work themselves and also having travelled extensively throughout the world and demonstrating a solid understanding of golf course architecture.

My own preferences are evident for all to see, I tend to favour the classics over the modern courses and I also don’t particular enjoy resort golf. For me lush lines of green fairway, golf carts, water features and refreshment carts do not necessarily add to the enjoyment of the actual golf course. Some resort courses are well designed but in general the compromise needed to cater for areas outside the playing field, for me, tends to diminish their quality. Each to their own however and where I leave a course like Lakelands off my list others will have it high among their own list of favourites and with their own good reason.

The criteria recommended by the magazine to rank the courses was in this case just a guide with the final compilation of each judges list reflecting their own tastes and preferences. Each panellist was allowed to define and judge "best" on his own terms, making the issue of criteria and judgment a highly individual matter. As my Canadian friend George Bedard once told me ‘what your compatriots express about your courses at home is read by aficionados globally.’ I therefore took my rankings seriously and tried to ensure that the courses I listed highly were courses I would be comfortable recommending to any international visitor.

A few quick points
Despite some drastic alterations over the years and the destruction of several classic holes, the Melbourne Sandbelt remains the best place to play golf in Australia and is home to a large number of my top choices. While many believe courses like Commonwealth and Yarra Yarra are no longer the mighty venues they once were, for me there is still enough quality in both to rank inside the Top 25. Personally I can only count a handful or so of courses in Australia that are superior to Commonwealth.

I also believe the gulf in class between the best golf in Sydney (NSW Golf Club aside) and the best in Melbourne is quite large which explains my ranking of traditional favourites like The Lakes and The Australian, which although fine courses have both, in my mind anyway, long been over rated.

Having played it countless times in my youth, I am particularly pleased to be able to rank the North course at Peninsula so highly this year. Situated on a terrific piece of land, the course had always possessed tremendous potential and the superb recent changes have helped transform Peninsula's poorer sister into the club's leading light.

Apologies - I pass on my apologies to the following courses that I did not see but which I suspect would/could have made my Top 50 - Horsham, Long Island, Tasmania and Royal Hobart.

Australia's Top 50 Golf Courses - Golf Australia January 2004
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