22 Jul 2020 | Golf Australia |
Golf trips without a passport
- By Richard Allen, Australian Financial Review
The gnashing of teeth from Australia’s passionate, peripatetic golfers reached a crescendo as the COVID pandemic forced the postponement or cancelation of international golfing trips, many of which had been years in the making.
Hundreds of Australian golfers typically attend the US Masters at Augusta in Georgia each April, and most plan golf trips before or after, often in Florida or the Carolinas. This tournament has been postponed until November this year. Thousands more visit Ireland and Scotland each northern summer, playing legendary links courses like Kingsbarns, Royal Dornoch, Royal Portrush, Lahinch and Tralee.
For those still keen for a golf trip when things open up – without requiring a passport – there is an increasing choice of thrilling seaside courses in Australia, all of which welcome visitors. Here are five destinations worth hopping on a plane to play. 1. Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm, Tasmania
Barnbougle Dunes, designed by Tom Doak and Mike Clayton, and its cousin course next door, Lost Farm, designed by Bill Coore, are must-visit destinations for any serious golfer. Both sit near the seaside town of Bridport in Tasmania’s north, and the courses complement each other well. The fairways at Barnbougle Dunes are surrounded by tough-as-wire marram grass, so accuracy from the tee is paramount. Lost Farm is more generous off the tee – and therefore better suits the wilder golfer – but the dunes around which Lost Farm is fashioned, and its green complexes, are easily the equal of its more illustrious neighbour. The world-class short par-4s at Barnbougle Dunes (particularly 3, 4 and 15) are worth the trip alone. Accommodation at both is first-class. Fly either to Launceston and drive 90 minutes, or land next to Barnbougle Dunes’ second fairway in a charter plane and be on the first tee 30 minutes later. barnbougle.com.au
2. Barwon Heads Golf Club, Victoria
Ninety minutes’ drive from Melbourne via Geelong is – as the local golfers like to say – ‘the nearest thing to Scotland south of the Tweed’. The venerable par-70 links at Barwon Heads is not the longest course in Australia, but when the wind blows off the Southern Ocean, which it does more often than not, the small, fast greens can become diabolical. On the fifth tee, a reachable par-5 with the prevailing wind behind, you’ll see dramatic views of Point Nepean on the Mornington Peninsula and the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, as well as the odd lighthouse. Standout holes are the majestic par-four 3rd with a dunescape on the right ready to gobble up a weak slice, the strong dog-leg ninth and the tiny – and bunkerless – par-three 13th. Five par-3s are a delightful rarity. Recent alteration work by Paul Mogford and Neil Crafter has only strengthened the course. Accommodation in the dramatic wooden clubhouse is welcoming and warm, a sofa in front of a blazing log-fire the ideal place to recount heroic shots. The Dunes Course at neighboring Thirteenth Beach Golf Club is also worth a visit. barwonheads.golf 3. Cape Wickham, King Island
Although only five years old, Cape Wickham was ranked Australia’s second-best course (after Royal Melbourne’s West Course) in the most recent Australian Golf Digest rankings. The course – at the north end of King Island in the middle of Bass Strait – continues to attract superlatives (one panelist described the layout as ‘peerless’). Set among high sand dunes, the course’s rumpled fairways track the beach of Victoria Cove and the rocky inlets of Cape Farewell, with sea-views on every hole. But beware; with the sea views inevitably comes the wind. There are few windier courses on earth, so bring your a-game. If a mutton bird burrow interferes with your stance, relief must be taken (without penalty). It would be a shame to bring your clubs to King Island and not leave time to play nearby Ocean Dunes. capewickham.com.au
4. The Cut, Western Australia
With many holes only a sand wedge from waves of the Indian Ocean, The Cut – at Mandurah, south of Perth – is both a striking and challenging links course, particularly in a stiff onshore wind. The better holes wind their way along natural fairways, between dunes covered with stunning native plants and wildflowers. One judge at Australian Golf Digest called The Cut ‘Australian golf’s roller-coaster ride’. Flat lies are a rarity, while several greens are perched high in the dunes, infinity beyond. While several holes on the front nine are lined with houses – the bane of many modern courses – there are enough brilliant holes among the dunes on the back nine to more than make up for this, including the par-4 10th, the par-4 12th and the par-3 16th. the-cut.com.au 5. Hamilton Island, Queensland
Strangely, Hamilton Island Golf Club isn’t actually on Hamilton Island. It’s on neighboring Dent Island, a short boat ride away. Designed by five-times British Open winner Peter Thomson of Thomson Perrett Design (now Perrett Webb), the course winds its way around the island, each hole surrounded by native bush including hoop pines, pandanus and grass trees, the sparkling waters of the Coral Sea and jagged peaks of the Whitsunday Islands providing an inspiring backdrop. The front nine holes are set in a more compact layout, while the bank nine make the most of the island’s topography, running along dramatic ridges to the south of the island. hamiltonislandgolf.com.au
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