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.
2021 Public Access Rankings Compared
Here we compare the Public Access Rankings from The GOLF Course Guide 2022 (published Nov 2021) with Golf Australia Magazine Jan 2022 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.
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.
nr = not ranked in overall Top 100 (includes Private courses)
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.