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Australia's Top Public Access Courses

The GOLF Course Guide has featured a list of courses available for Green Fee Play for over two decades, and coined the term 'public access' to describe these courses.

Although other publications publish rankings that include all the best Private Golf Clubs, we think it's important to focus on those layouts where everyone can get a game.

2022 Public Access Rankings Compared

Here we compare the Public Access Rankings from The GOLF Course Guide 2022 with Golf Australia Magazine Jan 2022 and Golf Digest May 2022 Top 100 rankings, from which we are able to extract the Public Access courses - see table below.

The Criteria

GCG Criteria: 40% Design, 40% Conditions, 20% Aesthetics

Golf Australia has introduced a method of ranking that appears to us quite unscientific - they state that each judge's top course is given 100 points, second course 99 and so on, and then the final rankings are the number of points awarded divided by the number of judges scoring that course!

Golf Digest Criteria (Updated 2022): 20 points Shot Options, 10 points each each - Challenge, Layout Variety, Distinctiveness, Aesthetics, Conditioning, Character. Total score out of 80.

The Guide process always adjusts for a particular judge's harshness/leniency and also discards 'spurious' numbers that are well out of line with the consensus. There is no mention of these factors in either magazine. 

PUBLIC ACCESS COURSE GOLF Course Guide 2022 Golf Australia Mag Jan 2022 Golf Digest May 2022 
CAPE WICKHAM 1 1 1
BARNBOUGLE DUNES 2 2 2
BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM 3 3 3
BARWON HEADS 4 6 6
THE DUNES 5 9 7
OCEAN DUNES 6 5 4
ST ANDREWS BEACH 7 4 8
JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 8 17 5
THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 9 8 10
MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 10 19 18
BONVILLE   11 16 13
MAGENTA SHORES 12 12 15
NEWCASTLE 13 11 9
HAMILTON ISLAND 14 18 11
LINKS HOPE ISLAND 15 24 22
MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 16 33 20
THE CUT 17 28 16
SANCTUARY COVE - THE PINES 18 30 17
PORTSEA 19 14 21
KALGOORLIE 20 31 27
BROOKWATER 21 13 12
PORT FAIRY 22 10 24
THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK 23 23 34
PACIFIC DUNES 24 54 30
KOORALBYN 25 nr nr
ST MICHAEL'S 26 26 26
THE VINTAGE 27 22 23
LINKS LADY BAY 28 35 29
MEADOW SPRINGS 29 25 42
MOUNT COMPASS 30 46 40
RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL 31 nr nr
PACIFIC HARBOUR 32 51 39
STONECUTTERS RIDGE 33 37 38
LAKELANDS 34 nr 33
SANCTUARY COVE - THE PALMS 35 53 37
BLACK BULL 36 43 36
GLADES 37 39 31
CAPE SCHANCK 38 49 35
SETTLERS RUN 39 38 45
CURLEWIS 40 20 32
NOOSA SPRINGS  41 nr nr
CRANBOURNE 42 27 41
PELICAN WATERS 43 nr nr
SUN CITY 44 44 nr
LONSDALE 45 7 14
HERITAGE - ST JOHN 46 nr 53
MURRAY DOWNS 47 47 nr
PALMER GOLD COAST 48 nr nr
NAROOMA 49 40 44
TASMANIA 50 42 nr
THE VINES - LAKES 51 nr nr
ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD 52 52 nr
RANFURLIE 53 29 nr
SANCTUARY LAKES 54 32 46
TWIN WATERS 55 nr nr
CLUB MANDALAY 56 nr nr
CYPRESS LAKES 57 nr 47
ARUNDEL HILLS 58 nr nr
CAPRICORN 59 nr nr
BALLARAT 60 nr nr
FLINDERS 61 nr nr
YARRAWONGA - MURRAY 62 nr nr
ROSEBUD - NORTH 63 nr 43
LEONGATHA 64 nr nr
SECRET HARBOUR   65 nr 50
MAROOCHY RIVER 66 nr 54
FEDERAL 67 nr nr
HERITAGE - HENLEY 68 nr nr
SANDHURST - CHAMPIONS 69 nr nr
WARRNAMBOOL 70 nr 51
PALMER COOLUM 71 nr 52
LAKESIDE CAMDEN 72 nr nr
LONG REEF 73 nr nr
FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY 74 nr nr
EYNESBURY 75 nr nr
HORSHAM 76 nr nr
PORTARLINGTON 77 nr nr
HORIZONS 78 nr nr
MURWILLUMBAH 79 nr nr
YERING MEADOWS - NURSERY 80 nr nr
SANDS TORQUAY 81 nr nr
PALM MEADOWS 82 nr nr
ROYAL HOBART 83 nr 49
DUNTRYLEAGUE 84 nr nr
MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP 85 nr 48
SANDHURST - NORTH 86 nr nr
KOOINDAH WATERS 87 nr nr
COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD 88 nr nr
BUNBURY 89 nr nr
PALMER SEA REEF 90 nr nr
ALICE SPRINGS 91 nr nr
GROWLING FROG 92 nr nr
SHEPPARTON 93 nr nr
COPPERCLUB 94 nr nr
GARDINERS RUN 95 nr nr
PORT MACQUARIE 96 nr nr
OCEAN SHORES 97 nr nr
BELMONT 98 nr nr
TWIN CREEKS 99 nr nr
ARALUEN 100 nr nr

nr =  not ranked in overall Top 100 (includes Private courses)

Comments

All publications named the same top 3 - all new Tasmanian links.

The GCG judges placed BARWON HEADS and THE DUNES next, Golf Mag favoured ST ANDREWS BEACH whilst Digest had OCEAN DUNES at #4 and JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES at #5 (GCG #8) - Golf Mag judges marked this thrilling layout well down, presumably finding 'pure design' flaws that we feel are not so important on a course that is so much fun to play.  The Guide favours MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS and BONVILLE for just those reasons. The magazines penalised LINKS HOPE ISLAND for recent work whilst The Guide still likes the overall experience and the grooming at this well established favourite. Golf Mag also elevated PORTSEA and PORT FAIRY well above MOONAH LINKS - OPEN, THE CUT and SANCTUARY COVE - THE PINES, and also placed both CURLEWIS and RANFURLIE far higher than the other lists. It is interesting that the OCCM design team were involved with these courses. As a Public Access course, The Guide judged BROOKWATER a little too penal. The Guide placed KOORALBYN at #25 yet this iconic masterpiece failed to enter the rankings for either magazine. Golf Mag also omitted LAKELANDS, and NOOSA SPRINGS. Digest judges scored ROSEBUD - NORTH, MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP and ROYAL HOBART higher than the other publications.

Both magazines were far more impressed with the new LONSDALE LINKS (#7 and #14 cf GCG #45) and also SANDRINGHAM GOLF LINKS, ranked #21 and #25 amongst Public Access Courses  in their top 100 (including all private courses). PELICAN WATERS was not considered due to construction work, and for this reason no publication considered KENNEDY BAY. The magazines omitted RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL due to flood damage, and included rankings (#15 Golf Mag, #28 Digest) for the 14 hole BOUGLE RUN at Barnbougle - we'll be sure to get our judges there before the next GOLF Course Guide is published.