CAPE WICKHAM links on King Island, Tasmania has held top spot on our rankings list since first opening four years ago, and with conditioning continuing to improve this stunning design by Mike DeVries and Darius Oliver still commands great respect. All our judges again awarded top marks for visuals, the course also took out best design award, but BARNBOUGLE DUNES #2 and OCEAN DUNES #7 (up two places and now judged #2 for visuals and #3 for design) also received individual judges’ votes for best design. With plenty of scope to improve its ranking for conditions (ranked #35 this year), could Ocean Dunes one day challenge its King Island neighbor for top honours overall? BARNBOUGLE LOST FARM #3 remained on top of the Conditions list. Tasmania is once again home to our top 3 public access courses and the top 3 in each category, our judges continuing to enjoy the architecture, the firm, fast running fescue surfaces and stunning coastal views.
THE DUNES retained fourth spot and BARWON HEADS across Port Philip Bay rose another two places to #5 as new works settled in. ST ANDREWS BEACH on the Mornington Peninsula dropped a few places to #8 with a slightly lower rank for conditions, but largely as the result of improved scores by the top seven.
There were only minor ranking changes from last year down to #27 THIRTEENTH BEACH - CREEK Course up 8 places with an improved design score from this year’s panel. ST MICHAEL'S also moved up 6 spots to #33 based on an improved design score. RIVERSIDE OAKS - BUNGOOL dropped 10 places to #36 as the panel ranked the design slightly less favourably than in the past.
The biggest jump amongst the Top 50 was CURLEWIS (pictured left) up 14 spots to #37 with improved rankings in all three categories. This hidden gem just outside Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula has benefitted from recent design work and is in fine condition year round thanks to its sandy base.
BLACK BULL, the late Peter Thomson’s final contribution to the Murray River golfing paradise improved 7 spots to #39 with our judges noting improved conditioning although awarding a slightly lower score for design. THE VINTAGE likewise moved up 8 places to #40 due to a better score for conditions and also for design. We typically penalize this tough layout a little as it is more suited to lower markers.
MOUNT COMPASS #42 on the Fleurieu Peninsula outside Adelaide may have escaped our panel’s attention in the past, but has climbed 14 places this year with great conditioning and improved appreciation of the design and visuals by our judges.
CLUB MANDALAY (pictured right) a recent Thomson Perrett course just north of Melbourne improved its rank to #54 thanks to better design and conditioning scores this year. LONG REEF jumped 20 places to #55, suggesting that its typical linksy seaside design and ocean views may have been under-acknowledged by our panel in the past.
PORTARLINGTON, another low profile course on the Bellarine Peninsula moved up 11 spots to #62; EYNESBURY just west of Melbourne up 7 places to #63; LAKESIDE CAMDEN yet another Peter Thomson contribution outside Sydney gained 16 places to #76, and CYPRESS LAKES re-entered our Top 100 after a few years’ absence at #78 thanks to work by new owners to improve the course including new green designs. Other new entrants this year are BELMONT #92, NEW TERRY (Wirrina COVE) #93 and MACQUARIE LINKS #99.
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 and acknowledge the subjectivity of all opinions. In fact, with our panel reduced to 12 members this year we’d love to hear from you if you feel you could contribute. Email email@example.com
(pictured below - The Dunes)
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 2018 to September 2019.
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 Managing Editor of ausgolf and the Editor and Publisher of The Golf Course Guide. Handicap 14, 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.
Member of Glenelg, represented the club from junior through to senior pennant, Handicap 7. His awakening to golf course architecture was 1992 playing many of the great links of Scotland and fondest memories include caddying in professional tournaments seeing close up how the game is supposed to be played.
Handicap 15, a member at Howlong and a writer and panelist for several golfing publications.
A member at Commonwealth, handicap 8. He travels the world extensively playing golf and organizing trips especially to Thailand.
Handicap 7, member at Royal Queensland and has played at many international courses during extensive travel to 60+ countries. Top 100 panelist for various publications in Australia, NZ and the USA, and has been to the USA and UK over 80 times.
Has worked in the golf media for the past 20 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 9 at Launceston Golf Club.
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 65 different countries.
A panelist for a number of golfing publications, playing golf extensively throughout every Australian State and Territory. He is a member at Russell Vale Golf Club with a handicap of 13
Handicap 10. Panellist for another golfing publication and member of various social golf clubs. Regular regional or interstate trips are not complete without golf clubs in tow.
Plays out of Drouin currently off 16. Being retired gets to over 30 different courses each year and has clocked almost 200 across Australia to date.
A Life member Portsea, Patron Clifton Springs, member Commonwealth, and international golf tour organiser. Handicap has blown to 17 (lowest was 8).
Currently a member of Kwinana in WA and Romford in England. Has played a large variety of courses in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. His golf clubs go with him whenever he travels and every now and then he plays to his handicap of 7.
A member at Commonwealth, Sorrento and Moonah Links, handicap 11. Author of comprehensive books on British Links.
For our 2022 Edition, we welcome new judges David Chantrell, Craig Seckold, Ian Urquhart and Peter White to the Panel.
Our thanks to our judges who submitted scores and comments based on play during this difficult period, all changes will be reflected in our next edition.
VALE George Begg 19-11-19
George Begg was a member of our judging panel since the GOLF Course Guide began, resigning in 2018 due to health problems. George was a long-time, hard working secretary of the Australian Golf Writers Association (now Australian Gold Media Association) and a golf writer for the Star News Group for many years. Cheers to a good mate and a long-time colleague!