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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 two decades, and coined the term 'public access' to describe these courses.

Golf Australia magazine now publishes a similar list every two years, so here we compare the 2019 results:

PUBLIC ACCESS COURSE 2019
GCG
2019
GA
CAPE WICKHAM 1 1
BARNBOUGLE DUNES 2 2
BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM 3 3
THE DUNES 4 9
ST ANDREWS BEACH 5 6
KENNEDY BAY 6 8
BARWON HEADS 7 5
JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 8 12
OCEAN DUNES 9 4
BONVILLE   10 10
THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 11 7
NEWCASTLE 12 13
MAGENTA SHORES 13 hotel
MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 14 15
HAMILTON ISLAND 15 14
LINKS HOPE ISLAND 16 20
THE CUT 17 16
MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 18 23
PORTSEA 19 19
SANCTUARY COVE - PINES 20 hotel
MEADOW SPRINGS 21 18
GLADES 22 28
PORT FAIRY 23 21
KOORALBYN 24 nr
BROOKWATER 25 11
RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL 26 39
PACIFIC DUNES 27 32
KALGOORLIE 28 36
PACIFIC HARBOUR 29 24
STONECUTTERS RIDGE 30 26
PELICAN WATERS 31 25
ARUNDEL HILLS 32 nr
LAKELANDS 33 31
CAPE SCHANCK 34 58
THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK 35 27
SANCTUARY COVE - PALMS 36 48
LINKS LADY BAY 37 56
NOOSA SPRINGS 38 60
ST MICHAEL'S 39 30
CAPRICORN  40 79
SANCTUARY LAKES 41 29
SETTLERS RUN 42 38
CRANBOURNE 43 nr
TASMANIA 44 47
SUN CITY 45 34
BLACK BULL 46 55
MURRAY DOWNS 47 46
THE VINTAGE 48 17
THE VINES - LAKES 49 41
ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD 50 44
CURLEWIS 51 37
NAROOMA 52 22
BALLARAT 53 70
RANFURLIE 54 40
TWIN WATERS 55 43
MT COMPASS (FLEURIEU) 56 59
HERITAGE - ST JOHN 57 hotel
HORSHAM 58 94
CLUB MANDALAY 59 99
SANDHURST - CHAMPIONS 60 76
PARADISE PALMS 61 67
PALMER GOLD COAST (ROBINA)  62 Top 125
SECRET HARBOUR   63 68
LEONGATHA 64 61
KOOINDAH WATERS 65 53
MURWILLUMBAH 66 71
FLINDERS 67 81
ALICE SPRINGS 68 85
HERITAGE - HENLEY 69 hotel
EYNESBURY 70 42
ROSEBUD - NORTH 71 69
ROYAL HOBART 72 nr
PORTARLINGTON 73 Top 125
MAROOCHY RIVER (HORTON PARK) 74 65
LONG REEF 75 33
SHEPPARTON 76 Top 125
WARRNAMBOOL 77 45
COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD 78 87
PALMER SEA REEF 79 62
FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY 80 Top 125
PALM MEADOWS 81 52
SANDS TORQUAY 82 82
YARRAWONGA - MURRAY 83 51
HORIZONS 84 nr
FEDERAL 85 49
PALMER COOLUM 86 Top 125
COPPERCLUB at the DUNES 87 nr
DUNTRYLEAGUE 88 96
YERING MEADOWS - NURSERY 89 Top 125
THE VINES - ELLENBROOK 90 100
ARALUEN 91 Top 125
CAMDEN LAKESIDE 92 nr
OCEAN SHORES 93 88
ULVERSTONE 94 nr
MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP 95 72
TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS 96 Top 125
SANDHURST - NORTH 97 93
EAGLE RIDGE 98 97
ROSEBUD - SOUTH 99 nr
WOLLONGONG 100 Top 125
BELMONT nr 54
THE COAST nr 57
EASTLAKE nr 63
MONA VALE nr 64
COOLANGATTA - RIVER nr 66
CYPRESS LAKES nr 73
YARRAWONGA - LAKES nr 74
INDOOROOPILLY - EAST nr 75
COOLANGATTA - WEST nr 77
MACQUARIE LINKS nr 78
BRIBIE ISLAND nr 80
BYRON BAY nr 83
MORNINGTON nr 84
SHELLY BEACH nr 86
LAKESIDE nr 89
ALBANY nr 90
NORTH LAKES nr 91
RIVERSIDE OAKS - GANGURRU nr 92
GROWLING FROG nr 95
COFFS HARBOUR nr 98
BUNBURY nr Top 125
GARDINERS RUN nr Top 125
LAUNCESTON nr Top 125
RICH RIVER - WEST nr Top 125
SANDRINGHAM nr Top 125
TURA BEACH nr Top 125
VICTOR HARBOUR nr Top 125
WATERFORD VALLEY nr Top 125

Comment

Little difference at the top of the lists except that The GOLF Course Guide ranks THE DUNES and JOONDALUP more highly and GA judges like OCEAN DUNES better. GA does not include several courses where a hotel stay is required in order to play.

The glaring differences commence with the Guide's #24 course KOORALBYN - ignored by GA despite being open with new management for over two years now. ARUNDEL HILLS #32 in the Guide is similarly omitted by GA who also did not mention CRANBOURNE, ROYAL HOBART (although both are available for green fee play), HORIZONS or COPPERCLUB.

GA favour BROOKWATER, considered too penal by the Guide, but rank RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL, KALGOORLIE, CAPE SCHANCK, LINKS LADY BAY, NOOSA SPRINGS, CAPRICORN, HORSHAM, CLUB MANDALAY, PALMER GOLD COAST, PORTARLINGTON, SHEPPARTON, FOSTER-TUNCURRY, PALMER COOLUM and ARALUEN well down, whilst scoring THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK, ST MICHAEL'S, SANCTUARY LAKES, THE VINTAGE, CURLEWIS, NAROOMA, RANFURLIE, EYNESBURY, LONG REEF, WARRNAMBOOL, PALM MEADOWS, YARRAWONGA - MURRAY and FEDERAL more highly.

Commencing with BELMONT, GA Magazine ranks quite a number of courses that do not appear in The GOLF Course Guide list - either because they were overlooked or considered unworthy.

The Criteria

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

GA Criteria: 50% Design, 40% Conditions, 10% Visual   (WAS 60%, 20%, 20% 2 years ago so now very similar to The Guide)

2018 Public Access Rankings Compared

Here we compare the Public Access Rankings from The GOLF Course Guide 2018 with Golf Australia Magazine and Golf Digest  respective Top 100 rankings for 2018, from which we are able to extract the Public Access courses - see table below.

The Criteria

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

GA Criteria: 60% Design, 20% Conditions, 20% Visual - but see comment below

GD Criteria (Updated this year): 25% Shot Values, 12.5% each - Resistance to Scoring, Design Variety, Memorability, Aesthetics, Conditioning, Ambience.

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. Even more strangely, Golf Australia mentions a second 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!

 

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

Comment

Right at the top of the list it is noteworthy that GA have Barnbougle Dunes ahead of Cape Wickham whilst the other publications have the latter a clear winner, as did GA in 2017.

GA ranks The Dunes lower than the others, and The Guide judges looked more favourably on Kennedy Bay and Bonville.  Both magazines ranked the new Ocean Dunes at #4 and perhaps the small number of GCG judges able to visit in time for our rankings and the earlier conditioning issues worked against the course. The Guide traditionally penalises tough layouts such as Brookwater and Newcastle. With criteria geared towards green fee players, the Guide judges ranked Arundel, Kooralbyn, Cape Schanck and Noosa Springs more favourably than the magazines. By contrast, Guide judges were harsh or failed to note improvements at Links Lady Bay, Riverside Oaks - Bungool, Black Bull, Curlewis and Sun City.

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2017 Comparisons

Recently, Golf Australia Magazine has published a bi-annual Top 100 ranking of its own, based largely on readers' input and using very similar criteria:

GCG Criteria: 40% Design, 40% Conditions, 20% Aesthetics
GA Criteria: 50% Design, 40% Conditions, 10% Visuals

Interestingly, GA include 'memorability' under Design, whereas GCG would consider this aesthetic. Importantly, for golfers who do not necessarily agree with the above weightings, The GOLF Course Guide publishes separate lists for each criteria.

Here are the recent lists with our comments below:

2017 GCG COURSE 2017
GA
1 CAPE WICKHAM 1
2 BARNBOUGLE DUNES 2
3 BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM 3
4 THE DUNES 11
5 ST ANDREWS BEACH 5
6 KENNEDY BAY 7
7 JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 10
8 BARWON HEADS 6
9 THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 8
10 BONVILLE   9
11 MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 13
12 NEWCASTLE 12
13 MAGENTA SHORES hotel
14 HAMILTON ISLAND 15
15 LINKS HOPE ISLAND 17
16 MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 23
17 THE CUT 16
18 KALGOORLIE 43
19 BROOKWATER 14
20 GLADES 30
21 THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK 24
22 PORTSEA 18
23 PACIFIC HARBOUR 28
24 PELICAN WATERS 21
25 PACIFIC DUNES 26
26 SANCTUARY COVE - PINES hotel
27 STONECUTTERS RIDGE 22
28 LAKELANDS 27
29 CAPE SCHANCK 64
30 CAPRICORN - CHAMPIONSHIP 50
31 PORT FAIRY 25
32 MEADOW SPRINGS 20
33 NOOSA SPRINGS 66
34 SANCTUARY COVE - PALMS 44
35 TASMANIA 59
36 LINKS LADY BAY 58
37 THE VINTAGE 19
38 HORSHAM 94
39 ST MICHAEL'S 36
40 CRANBOURNE excluded
41 THE VINES - LAKES 34
42 SETTLERS RUN excluded
43 SANCTUARY LAKES 31
44 MURRAY DOWNS 52
45 CLUB MANDALAY 93
46 ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD 69
47 PARADISE PALMS 63
48 RANFURLIE 47
49 HERITAGE - ST JOHNS hotel
50 TWIN WATERS 39
51 PALMER GOLD COAST (ROBINA)  98
52 RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL 35
53 BALLARAT 73
54 ALICE SPRINGS 87
55 EYNESBURY 37
56 BLACK BULL 57
57 NAROOMA 29
58 PALMER COOLUM 53
59 MURWILLUMBAH 79
60 HERITAGE - HENLEY hotel
61 PALMER SEA REEF (SEATEMPLE) 60
62 KOOINDAH WATERS 48
63 FLEURIEU nr
64 CURLEWIS 42
65 LONG REEF 33
66 CAMDEN LAKESIDE nr
67 ROYAL HOBART 90
68 FEDERAL 46
69 SECRET HARBOUR   56
70 ROSEBUD - NORTH 71
71 EAGLE RIDGE 68
72 FLINDERS 84
73 ARALUEN nr
74 PALM MEADOWS 61
75 SANDS TORQUAY hcp reqd
76 SHEPPARTON nr
77 WIRRINA COVE nr
78 YARRAWONGA - MURRAY 55
79 YERING MEADOWS - NURSERY prefer Homestead - 95
80 WARRNAMBOOL 54
81 COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD 88
82 GROWLING FROG 82
83 OCEAN SHORES 86
84 PORTARLINGTON nr
85 GARDINERS RUN nr
86 WOLLONGONG nr
87 DUNTRYLEAGUE 89
88 MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP 81
89 FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY nr
90 MONA VALE 67
91 TALLWOODS nr
92 ULVERSTONE nr
93 PATTERSON RIVER nr
94 COPPERCLUB at the  DUNES nr
95 LEONGATHA 65
96 TOCUMWAL - PRESIDENTS nr
97 CYPRESS LAKES 97
98 THE VINES - ELLENBROOK 78
99 THE COAST 49
100 NORTH LAKES 83

Whilst the Top three courses are undisputed, the most obvious difference at the top of the lists is that GA ranked Ocean Dunes at #4, whereas the course was not fully playable when the GCG ranking period closed in August 2016.

As with previous comparisons the GCG judges regard THE DUNES more highly, and likewise JOONDALUP, KALGOORLIE, NOOSA SPRINGS,  LINKS LADY BAY and HORSHAM.  GA have excluded MAGENTA SHORES, SANCTUARY COVE and HERITAGE as a hotel stay is required to play, but strangely also CRANBOURNE and SETTLERS RUN where there is plenty of Public Access and SANDS TORQUAY where a handicap is a requirement.

Highly ranked by GA but not included in The Guide's list include SUN CITY (#45), SANDHURST - CHAMPIONS (#62) considered as Private by GCG, BELMONT (#70), WATERFORD VALLEY (#72), INDOOROOPILLY – EAST (#74), EASTLAKE (75), COOLANGATTA – RIVER (76), YARRAWONGA – LAKES (77), BRIBIE ISLAND (80), ALBANY (85), COOLANGATTA – WEST (91), BYRON BAY (92), RIVERSIDE OAKS – GANGURRU (96), SANDRINGHAM (99)