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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. Golf Australia Magazine now also publishes their list of Public Access Rankings, and the criteria (this year) are very similar to The GOLF Course Guide's, allowing direct comparison.

Latest Public Access Rankings Compared

Here we compare the Public Access Rankings from The GOLF Course Guide 2023 with Golf Australia Magazine Jan 2023 and Golf Digest May 2022 Top 100 rankings for ALL courses, from which we are able to extract the Public Access courses - see table below.

The Criteria - also see Comments below

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

Golf Australia Criteria: 50% Design, 40% Conditions, 10% Aesthetics

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 2023 GOLF Course Guide Nov 2022 Golf Australia Mag Jan 2023 Golf Digest
May 2022
CAPE WICKHAM 1 1 1
BARNBOUGLE DUNES 2 2 2
BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM 3 3 3
OCEAN DUNES 4 5 4
BARWON HEADS 5 rpa 6
THE DUNES 6 7 7
JOONDALUP - QUARRY/DUNES 7 11 5
ST ANDREWS BEACH 8 4 8
THIRTEENTH BEACH - BEACH 9 6 10
BONVILLE   10 rpa 13
MOONAH LINKS - LEGENDS 11 14 18
NEWCASTLE 12 rpa 9
MAGENTA SHORES 13 rpa 15
LONSDALE LINKS 14 8 14
THE CUT 15 19 16
LINKS HOPE ISLAND 16 20 22
HAMILTON ISLAND 17 13 11
BOUGLE RUN 18 18 28
MOONAH LINKS - OPEN 19 16 20
PORTSEA 20 12 21
PORT FAIRY 21 9 24
SANCTUARY COVE - THE PINES 22 rpa 17
BROOKWATER 23 10 12
PACIFIC DUNES 24 40 30
ST MICHAEL'S 25 17 26
THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK 26 23 34
KALGOORLIE 27 24 27
THE VINTAGE 28 30 23
SANDY LINKS 29 29 25
GLADES 30 26 31
CURLEWIS 31 21 32
LINKS LADY BAY 32 31 29
SANCTUARY COVE - THE PALMS 33 rpa 37
MOUNT COMPASS 34 38 40
PACIFIC HARBOUR 35 34 39
BLACK BULL 36 52 36
SETTLERS RUN 37 rpa 45
KOORALBYN 38 nr nr
CRANBOURNE 39 rpa 41
CAPE SCHANCK 40 44 35
NOOSA SPRINGS  41 58 nr
TASMANIA 42 41 nr
STONECUTTERS RIDGE 43 32 38
MEADOW SPRINGS 44 22 42
SUN CITY 45 37 nr
LAKELANDS 46 35 33
NAROOMA 47 15 44
THE VINES - LAKES 48 nr nr
CLUB MANDALAY 49 nr nr
PALMER COOLUM 50 89 52
FEDERAL 51 43 nr
MURRAY DOWNS 52 39 nr
MAROOCHY RIVER 53 42 54
FLINDERS 54 57 nr
SANCTUARY LAKES 55 25 46
QUEENSCLIFF 56 nr nr
CYPRESS LAKES 57 64 47
ROSEBUD - NORTH 58 27 43
YARRAWONGA - MURRAY 59 46 nr
CAPRICORN 60 nr nr
TWIN WATERS 61 50 nr
ROYAL PINES - GREEN/GOLD 62 53 nr
RANFURLIE 63 rpa nr
BALLARAT 64 65 nr
LEONGATHA 65 60 nr
SECRET HARBOUR   66 76 50
HORSHAM 67 74 nr
LAKESIDE CAMDEN 68 nr nr
PORTARLINGTON 69 63 nr
FORSTER-TUNCURRY - TUNCURRY 70 77 nr
ULVERSTONE 71 81 nr
LONG REEF 72 28 nr
WARRNAMBOOL 73 36 51
SANDHURST - CHAMPIONS 74 72 nr
EYNESBURY 75 51 nr
SHEPPARTON 76 nr nr
ROYAL HOBART 77 nr 49
BELMONT 78 45 nr
ALBANY 79 49 nr
SANDS TORQUAY 80 nr nr
OCEAN SHORES 81 78 nr
PALMER GOLD COAST 82 97 nr
SANDHURST - NORTH 83 82 nr
MOLLYMOOK - HILLTOP 84 69 48
LANG LANG 85 nr nr
DUNTRYLEAGUE 86 100 nr
COPPERCLUB 87 nr nr
HORIZONS 88 92 nr
PALM MEADOWS 89 59 nr
YERING MEADOWS - NURSERY 90 nr nr
COBRAM BAROOGA - OLD 91 90 nr
ARALUEN 92 nr nr
ALICE SPRINGS 93 87 nr
GROWLING FROG 94 75 nr
ROSEBUD - SOUTH 95 56 nr
GARDINERS RUN 96 nr nr
MURWILLUMBAH 97 70 nr
PALMER SEA REEF 98 86 nr
BUNBURY 99 98 nr
TORQUAY 100 nr nr
MORNINGTON nr 47 nr
EASTLAKE nr 48 nr
THE COAST nr 54 nr
COOLANGATTA - RIVER nr 61 nr
KOOINDAH WATERS nr 62 nr
YARRAWONGA - LAKES nr 66 nr
COOLANGATTA - WEST nr 67 nr
RICH RIVER - EAST nr 68 nr
MONA VALE nr 71 nr
BRIBIE ISLAND nr 73 nr
NUDGEE nr 79 nr
BYRON BAY nr 80 nr
TURA BEACH nr 83 nr
SHELLY BEACH nr 84 nr
COFFS HARBOUR nr 85 nr
LAKES ENTRANCE nr 88 nr
CLUB CATALINA OLD nr 91 nr
BRIGHTON LAKES nr 93 nr
TEVEN VALLEY (9 holes) nr 94 nr
BLACKWOOD nr 95 nr
PAMBULA MERIMBULA RED/YELLOW nr 96 nr
TOOWOOMBA (MIDDLE RIDGE) nr 99 nr

rpa = In 2023 Golf Australia Magazine excluded these courses that had reduced their Public Access tee times

nr =  not ranked. NB for Golf Digest this is in overall Top 100 (including Private courses) hence their list of Public Access rankings is shorter.

Comments

Golf Australia Magazine previously ranked all courses by asking each judge to award 100 points to the top course, 99 to the next, etc. and to place primary importance on design, followed by conditioning and visual appeal. We were critical of the unscientific nature of this method. Their new criteria for public access courses aligns well with the GOLF Course Guide, but their definition of CONDITION includes:

  • "The overall condition of playing surfaces. Take into consideration elements out of control of course staff like drought, bushfire and flood."  The Guide does not suggest this to judges, we ask them to judge on what they see, and hope to present a fair assessment of year-round conditions since our judges visit throughout the year.
  • "Are the fairways cut to be well-defined from semi-rough and rough?" The Guide does not consider this a desirable feature at all. We dont believe in 'prescriptive' mowing patterns. We like the fairways to blend naturally into the roughs, and feel that a distinct 'first cut' is often penal for the golfer who 'just misses' the closely mown fairway edge.

All three publications named the same top 3 - all new Tasmanian links. There is little significant difference in the top 20 courses, with GA Mag favouring ST ANDREWS BEACH and LONSDALE LINKS more than Digest or The Guide – allowing for the fact that GA Mag excluded some top tracks based on reduced public tee times. PORT FAIRY and CURLEWIS are also GA Mag favourites. The Guide marks BROOKWATER down a little as we find it penal for many public players. We remain baffled that our #38 KOORALBYN, the re-opened Gold Coast Icon has yet to be ranked by either magazine. NAROOMA jumped into #15 spot for GA Mag whilst others rank this seaside course in the 40s. We were a little baffled to find courses such as THE VINES - LAKES, CLUB MANDALAY, QUEENSCLIFF, CAPRICORN, LAKESIDE CAMDEN and SHEPPARTON missing from the GA Mag list, whilst MEADOW SPRINGS, SANCTUARY LAKES, ROSEBUD – NORTH, LONG REEF and WARRNAMBOOL fared better. There are another 22 courses from MORNINGTON #47 to TOOWOOMBA #99 on the above list that were ranked by GA Mag but not by The Guide.

We’ll be sure to have our judges check out all these courses before the GOLF Course Guide for 2024 is published.

Sadly, ARUNDEL HILLS on the Gold Coast closed its doors last year. PELICAN WATERS and KENNEDY BAY were not considered due to ongoing reconstruction works. HERITAGE Golf and Country Club elected not to offer Public Access to its HENLEY and ST JOHN courses so these are not listed. Both courses at RIVERSIDE OAKS were closed due to the floods until mid-July 2022, preventing many of our panel from visiting.