Australia is often overlooked and some would say forgotten when it comes to golf. Perhaps it’s the relative isolation from the mainstays of the European and PGA Tours. Perhaps it is just a lesser known quantity or just a bit too far to travel for a short golf trip.
What I can assure you is that the courses in the land down under are second to none. They are worthy of rivalling any of the big US or European courses. This is somewhat reflected by a good showing in the world golf course rankings from a number of the big name tracks fairing well.
The courses outlined below don’t necessarily represent the top 4 courses in this part of the Southern Hemisphere, however they are from 4 different states, have very different attributes and hopefully highlight the variety and quality on offer.
No matter where you play, more often than not you will have beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife, course architecture from some of the biggest names in golf – and most importantly have a great time.
Whilst it may not be a place to come for a long weekend, a trip to sample the wonderful courses in this part of the world should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here are 4 of my choices to get you started. Apologies to Western Australia, but I have not sampled your delights thus far.
In no particular order, let’s get stuck in…
Bonville Golf Resort, New South Wales
The course closest to my heart in Australia. As my home course I am probably somewhat biased, however having been voted the Leading Golf Resort in Australia 4 times and also Australia’s Favourite Golf Course, it seems other people quite like it too.
It is a very different experience to the coastal links courses I grew up on in Scotland. The course is set into the beautiful hillside just outside of Coffs Harbour and is a true golfing experience.
The course is set up to make every shot a challenge, there is no such thing as a flat lie. The vistas are unrivalled. The entirety of the course is framed by wonderful tree line and it is no wonder it is known as the “Augusta of Australia”, given the unmistakable resemblance.
I play this course every week and am yet to have the same experience twice. You will never get tired of the views. On every tee box you stand and marvel at your surroundings, whilst wondering what on earth you are going to do next.
It is a true resort set up, with lodges, a Chef’s Hatted restaurant in Flooded Gums and acres of serene golfing land.
Bonville caters for all levels of golfer, with a variety of tee options, however off the Tiger tees, it is not for the faint of heart, it can be a long way to the fairway, with sometimes small and undulating target zones. Certainly not one to walk either, with 6.5km of rolling hills and wonderful scenery between the holes.
From the first tee, golfers are rewarded for their accuracy; errant tee shots can end up in one of two burns (Yes I’m Scottish so it’s a burn, not a stream) and therefore decisions must be made about club selection. With a wonderful variety of dog-legs, attackable Par 4’s, picturesque Par 3’s (especially the 17th) and enticing Par 5’s, this truly is a wonderful test of golf.
If you make it round Bonville with the ball you started with, engage with our plethora of resident wildlife and have had a chance to take in the unrivalled beauty of the place, trust me, you will want for nothing more. It is something everyone should experience. By the way, did I mention I was a bit biased…?
The look and feel are that of a PGA Tour golf course, set in a wonderful part of the world and gives you a different challenge every time you play it.
Definitely one for the bucket list.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club – West, Victoria
Consistently voted the best golf course in Australia, many have waxed lyrical extolling the virtues of this fine piece of property. Sand Belt golf in Victoria, is renowned throughout Australia and the world as a wonderful mix of architecture, natural beauty and a true test of golf. Royal Melbourne is no exception and undoubtedly at the head of the pack.
Royal Melbourne for me has a great sense of being at home. With wide fairways and target golf required at all times, it can be likened to many of the famous courses of my home land.
This is often regraded as the best golf course in the Southern Hemisphere and in the conversation for top courses in the world. It is not the longest track in Australia at just over 6600y, it is famed for it’s Par 3’s, however it cannot really be faulted for any of it’s holes.
With beautiful rolling fairways, often wide, framed with shrubbery and tree line, it is a wonder to behold. The width of the fairways are forgiving for the average golfer, however the strategic positioning of undulation, green work and bunkering, make this a test for even the most skilled of golfers.
This mixture of being seemingly inviting to the eye off the tee, followed by the necessity for pin point accuracy with your approach, makes this a thinking person’s golf course. You pore over every shot, weighing up the pro’s and con’s of hitting it to this spot or that, “what if I miss it here… what if that rolls off there”.
It is a challenge for every level, without being exclusive to any golfer. This is a truly wonderful track, which blends exquisite architecture with excellent routing and manages to engage every golfer, regardless of ability.
Something that RMGC should be very proud of and is very rare in modern day golf.
With Kingston Heath and Metropolitan, Victoria is the “place to be” for top quality golf in Australia. Whether you are a native Melbournian, or holidaying in Victoria, if you love golf then you will not be disappointed with what is on offer. A tour of these courses, plus any of the others in the area, will make for a trip you will never forget and likely want to repeat over and over again.
Sanctuary Cove, Queensland
Sanctuary cove is in the discussion as much for everything it offers as a package as it is for the quality of the golf courses themselves. With the Arnold Palmer signature designed The Pines and the Ross Watson reconstructed The Palms, trust me when I say it is not short on the golf front.
Both courses offer different challenges and very different vistas. The nomenclature of these courses is wildly obvious, with one course almost exclusively lined with wonderful soaring pine trees and the other dotted with century old Cabbage palms.
Though not as highly thought of in official rankings in Australia, this is a bucket list resort in my opinion. The Palms is open to the public, which means day tripper’s can enjoy the beauty of this course and the resort. The Pines is reserved for members and those staying at the InterContinental, increasing the expense required to experience all this wonderful Gold Coast resort has to offer.
The 6 lakes that are in play on the Pines, along with the 101 hectares of dense Pine forest the course is cut into, give an Augusta or Pinehurst-like feeling to your surroundings. Playing second shots off the pine straw and trying to get up and down can be somewhat challenging, especially with the water hazards, in play on 14 of 18 holes. If you make it though the stretch from 8th-11th with your scorecard intact then you can take solace in the fact you have triumphed where many others have capitulated.
The Palms is, dare I say it, more forgiving. Especially on the eye. The less densely populated tree lines and the visibility of other fairways off the tee, make this a less intimidating course to the eye. A good golfing test however, just because it is visually less intimidating does not mean that this course is easy, by any standard. The Palms also offers those with an eye for shot shaping, the chance to show of their skills, with a variety of beautifully designed dog-legs. At circa 6400y off the Championship tees, it is not the longest test, especially off the more forward tees, however makes up for it with water hazards and shaping, to try and penalise any errant attempt to overpower it.
With a circa 300 berth marina, 4.5-5 star InterContinental Resort, exclusive residential living and every amenity one could hope for, there is little left for the heart to desire.
Catering to any budget from the casual golfer whom is staying in the near by Surfer’s or Broadbeach, to those who want to immerse themselves in luxury in the resort itself. Sanctuary Cove has a lot to offer and is well worth a visit if you are planning to sample the Gold Coast.
Royal Adelaide, South Australia
In my opinion no list is complete without a Links Course. Call me old fashioned, maybe it’s my inherent bias being Scottish, call it what you will, I have been called a lot worse in my time. Links golf is beyond compare. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Parklands course as much as the next person, but nothing will have my heart like Links Golf. It is a different beast, a different sport some say.
In Australia, true Links Golf means Royal Adelaide, simple. With rolling links, intimidating fescue, blind shots and views over large areas of the track off many a tee, it is Links Golf at it’s finest. There is even a railway line along the side, a feature that many of you will know is a firm fixture of many famous Scottish Links.
The contrast of the rolling green fairways with the burnt orange and pale strawy fescue, lined with dunes and wasteland, it is a sight to behold. For many the delineation of fescue and rough from fairway with be unusual and new. For me, it reminds me of home.
At first people will be relieved to see so many of the holes with adjacent fairways or wide gathering places, however before long the teeth of Links Golf will be sunk in. There is nothing like it. Simple as that. If you ever want to be brought crashing down to earth regardless of your ability or handicap, then play a Links Course in the wind. A 160y Par 3 can suddenly play like 190-200y, easily. Your shots can be blown 20y, 30y or more off line in a crosswind gust.
Links golf can be so rewarding, it is a battle between golfer and the elements, the truest test of shot making, decision making and often a hint of luck here or there for good measure.
The run offs, the fierce and unforgiving greens, the abundance of bunkers, you name it and it is there for all to see at Royal Adelaide. Hitting the fairway here does not always mean a simple approach to the green. Hitting the green does not always mean simply striding up with putter in hand… as your ball may well have come to rest in the fringe, rough or an unseen bunker.
This is about managing the course but moreover managing your expectations. If you are new to Links Golf and walk off with your handicap and thus your pride intact then you can walk with your head held high. For many of your counterparts will have been beaten and bruised by the course. In gambling they say the house always wins, well in Links Golf it is the course that is always the winner, standing strong and maintaining it’s defences throughout time.
I may wax lyrical about Links Golf and many of you may wonder why. For those among you who have not had the pleasure of sampling the virtues of the Links for yourself, please visit Royal Adelaide or another such fine example of Links Golf and put yourself to the ultimate test. You will not be sorry and you will be thankful you did.