Cape Wickham links on King Island, Tasmania has held top spot on our rankings list since first opening three years ago, and with conditioning continuing to improve might seem secure. All our judges awarded top marks for visuals, but interestingly judges were evenly split between Barnbougle Dunes #2 and Cape Wickham for best design with Barnbougle narrowly taking the coveted honour in this category. Lost Farm remained at #3, so Tasmania is once again home to our top 3 public access courses. In fact, Lost Farm took over the best conditioning spot from Barnbougle Dunes, our judges continuing to enjoy the firm, fast running fescue surfaces.
The next three courses all retained their 2018 rankings - The Dunes and St Andrews Beach on the Mornington Peninsula and Kennedy Bay in WA. Barwon Heads moved up one spot overall to #7, our judges noting a significant improvement in conditioning (from #12 to #4 in this category) as new works settle in.
Ocean Dunes moved up three places to #9. We ranked this seaside links on King Island at #6 for design and #5 for visuals, but our judges felt that conditioning still has some way to go.
Other significant changes within our top 20 were Portsea #19 up from 24 and Sanctuary Cove – Pines #20 also up 5 places, each course judged more favourably for conditioning than last year. Similarly our panel noted improved grooming at Meadow Springs which made an impressive jump of 11 places to #21.
Port Fairy, a small budget course on Victoria’s coastline moved up 6 slots to #23. The course is well regarded for its design and the beautiful coastal setting.
Riverside Oaks – Bungool recorded an impressive jump to #26 this year as more of our judges were able to visit and appreciate the Bob Harrison design and improvements in course conditioning.
Links Lady Bay up 13 places to #37, Cranbourne up 9 spots to #43, Sun City jumping a mammoth 50 places to #45 and Black Bull up 17 places to #46 all benefitted from our judges taking the opportunity to evaluate and appreciate their design strengths this season.
New entrants to our Top 100 this year included Maroochy River, a new Graham Marsh design on the Sunshine Coast #74, and the Rosebud South course at #99 whilst Duntryleague #88, Mollymook Hilltop #95 and Tocumwal Presidents #96 returned after narrow misses last year.
Mona Vale, Wirrina Cove, Gardiners Run, Patterson River and Growling Frog were the unlucky courses to drop from the 2018 list.
Minor changes to our judging panel, the courses they visited through the year or the timing of their visits all affect the outcome, so as always we recommend that our readers use these lists for guidance only.
HOW THE LISTS WERE COMPILED
The GOLF Course Guide established a numerical course ranking system in 1998 and was the first Australian publication to do that.
The Guide’s criteria are
Course Design (40% weighting): How each hole presents an enjoyable, even thrilling challenge to golfers of all abilities from scratch markers to high handicappers and shorter hitters. The variety of different holes that make up the course, and the variety of shots that they require to test every facet of your game. The strategic design of each hole - where hazards come into play, reward for risk takers that is in proportion to the degree of risk, with an easier subsequent shot as a reward, and a more difficult shot or possibly an additional stroke for those who choose not to take the risk.
Courses that offer higher handicappers an exciting yet manageable test will find themselves rated better in this Guide, and courses that are really only playable by low markers will be ranked lower. Courses with two separate 18s considered as two courses; where 27 holes available, the “best” 18 selected.
Course Design (40% weighting): How each hole presents an enjoyable, even thrilling challenge to golfers of all abilities from scratch markers to high handicappers and shorter hitters. The variety of different holes that make up the course, and the variety of shots that they require to test every facet of your game. How well the course exploits the ‘best’ set and sequence of holes the land offers, and how well the routing takes the golfer on a journey of discovery. The strategic design of each hole - where hazards come into play, reward for risk takers of an easier subsequent shot, with a more difficult shot or possibly an additional stroke for those who choose to play safely.
Courses that offer higher handicappers an interesting yet manageable test will find themselves rated better in this Guide, and courses that are really only playable by low markers will be ranked lower. Courses with two separate 18s considered as two courses; where 27 holes available, the “best” 18 selected.
Course Conditions (40% weighting): Year round playing conditions (from best to worst season) and course maintenance of greens (greatest weighting), fairways, tees, roughs and hazards.
Course Aesthetics (20% weighting): The obvious beauty of the setting and also that very subjective quality of ambience and tranquillity that allows the golfer to lose himself in his environment.
Judges scores are mathematically adjusted to account for any particular harshness or leniency and spurious results are eliminated.
Panellists were asked to score only courses they had played. Colleagues who play certain courses frequently were consulted to more accurately assess year round conditions. The judging period is from September 2017 to September 2018.
Where we really deliver on our objective to ‘guide’ readers to courses they will enjoy is by publishing three distinct lists – rankings by Design, Conditions and Aesthetics – allowing readers effectively to select their own criteria and weightings. For some golfers, the thrill of playing golf in a stunning environment can far outweigh lacklustre design strategy, and even mediocre fairway conditions. For these players, our allocation of only 20% weighting will seem inadequate, and they should seek out courses from our Best Aesthetics list, rather than the overall rankings.
The GOLF Course Guide would like to thank long serving judge George Begg. This is the first year since our inaugural Course Rankings that the dedicated former Secretary/Treasurer of the Australian Golf Media Association has not contributed. George resigned from our panel due to ill health and we gratefully acknowledge his many years of contributions.
The Managing Editor of ausgolf and the Editor and Publisher of The Golf Course Guide. Handicap 13, member at Commonwealth.
A member at Spring Valley and The National, current handicap is 5. He enjoys golf travel in Australia, New Zealand and internationally.
Reported golf on Fairfax/Macquarie Radio for 20 years, finally finishing up at the end of 2016. He has played a huge amount of golf on courses both here in Australia and overseas – particularly in the USA (Nevada is a favourite destination). A member at the National, handicap 7.
Handicap 15, a member at Howlong and a writer and panelist for several golfing publications.
A member at Commonwealth and Royal Hobart, handicap 8. He travels the world extensively playing golf.
Handicap 5, member at Royal Queensland and has played at many international courses during extensive work travel.
Has worked in the golf media for the past 18 years and is the only golf writer to ever work on-staff at both Australian Golf Digest and Golf Australia. Currently the associate editor at Australian Golf Digest, his handicap is 6 at Stonecutters Ridge Golf Club.
The General Manager of The GOLF Course Guide and Editor of Hacker Golf Magazine. Member at Howlong, current handicap 16.
Member of Southport and Arundel Hills, handicap 15. Has played extensively in most states of Australia, USA and Asia. Keen student of the rules and lover of natural environment courses.
Plays off a handicap of 6. Golfing author, golf course investor and former Riversdale Club captain.
A keen golfer handicap 9, member at Rosanna. He maintains his love for the game, despite the fact that the game steadfastly refuses to love him back!
Handicap 13, enjoys playing new and different golf courses and fortunately, has been aided in this by living in every state in Australia. He's also travelled and golfed in over 50 different countries.
A panellist for a number of golfing publications, playing golf extensively throughout every Australian State and Territory. He is a member at Wollongong Golf Club with a handicap of 12.
Handicap 5, is a member of Brisbane Golf Club and has travelled extensively nationally and internationally playing great golf courses.
A Life member Portsea, Patron Clifton Springs, member Commonwealth, and international golf tour organiser. Handicap has blown to 17 (lowest was 8).
A member at Commonwealth, Sorrento and Moonah Links, handicap 11. Author of comprehensive books on British Links.