1 Mar 2016

1. Royal Melbourne (West) (no change)

Averaging close to 46 points out of 50, and a full two points clear of its nearest competitor, the West Course at Royal Melbourne is once again Australia’s undisputed Number 1. As evidence of its supremacy, more than 85% of judges who played the Dr Alister MacKenzie masterpiece rated it the best course in the country. It will be interesting to see whether the gap between #1 and the rest narrows in 2018, as Cape Wickham matures.

 

2. Kingston Heath (no change)

Highest ranking - 1 (2010)

Always among our most consistent performers across the ranking criteria, Kingston Heath remains in 2nd place, and much loved by the Australian Golf Digest panel for its wonderful bunkering, exquisitely contoured green sites and superb overall ambience and conditioning.

 

3. Cape Wickham Links (NEW)

The most anticipated new arrival since Barnbougle Dunes ten years ago, Cape Wickham debuts at number 3 with a bullet. The King Island gem scored high marks for design and memorability, and finished less than 0.3 of a point (out of 50) behind Kingston Heath. Not bad considering its infancy, and the fact the all-fescue links ranked outside the Top 100 in Australia for conditioning. Expect improvement with two years additional turf growth.

 

4. New South Wales (up 1)

Highest ranking - 2 (2006/08/10)

One of the best performers among our Top 10, New South Wales improved around half a point (out of 50) from 2014 and was praised almost universally by the panel for its continued turf excellence and fantastic coastal golf. Under pressure from a number of Tasmanian upstarts, the course maintains a presence inside our Top 5 – where it has been a fixture now for the past 22 years.

 

5. Barnbougle Dunes (down 1)

Highest ranking - 4 (2010/12/14)

One of the world’s finest coastal links, the Tom Doak–designed Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania dropped a place this year upon the arrival of Cape Wickham and the rise of New South Wales. Proof of how close things are near the top of the list, Barnbougle finished less than a point (out of 50) from 2nd place. Remains a genuine favourite among our panel, and about the best value public access golf in Australia.

 

6. Ellerston (down 3)

Highest ranking - 3 (2012/14)

Now partly owned by the Packer Family and the Crown Casino Group, Ellerston is an elusive golfing treasure tucked away in a beautiful riverside valley within the Upper Hunter Valley. The Harrison-Norman design is noted for its daring, its bold sand-splashed bunkering, fast greens and impossibly perfect grooming. You can throw a blanket over courses ranked 2nd to 7th this year, they all finished within a point of each other.

 

7. Royal Melbourne (East) (no change)

Highest ranking - 7 (2014/16)

Arguably the most under-appreciated of the great courses in Australia, the East at Royal Melbourne tends to live in the shadows of its mighty Big Brother. This is much better than a support act, however, with a bunch of world-class golf holes on the main paddock and some real fun and charm on the eastern parcels of land. The average score for Royal Melbourne East improved more than one point (out of 50) from 2014, and has the course knocking on the door of the Top 5 for 2018.

 

8. Victoria (up 3)

Highest ranking - 6 (1996/98)

The mix of old-school MacKenzie style bunkers and greens together with more sandy areas and fewer internal trees than a decade ago make Victoria a must-play track for anyone visiting Melbourne, and the next-best option after Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath. Staying on-site in one of the club’s guestrooms is the perfect base for those planning their next Sandbelt getaway.

 

9. Lost Farm (down 3)

Highest ranking - 6 (2012/14)

The most frequently visited course by our ranking panel, Bill Coore’s terrific companion to Barnbougle Dunes fell three spots this year largely because of a fall in its conditioning score. Some minor turf and bunker problems have apparently been resolved, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Lost Farm jump back up toward the Top 5 in 2018. The best holes here, such as the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th, are as good as any in the country.

 

10. The National (Old) (no change)

Highest ranking - 10 (2014/16)

One of the most polarising courses on our Top 100, the Old Course at The National Golf Club attracts wildly conflicting scores with the panel divided on whether it’s a near perfect golf experience or an over-the-top oddity. Most appreciate the views, and love the audaciousness and thrill of holes like the par three 7th and downhill par five 17th. The Old Course finished ahead of the Moonah for the very first time.

 

11. The National (Moonah) (down 3)

Highest ranking - 6 (2010)

Since its debut at 9 in 2002, the Moonah Course at The National has been entrenched inside Australia’s Top 10. The course dropped for the first time this year to number 11, not because of any deterioration or fall in its own score, bur rather improvement elsewhere. Our judges still admire the Harrison–Norman design and generally terrific year-round condition of its couch/fescue fairways.

 

12. The Australian (up 3)

Highest ranking - 2 (1989/91)

On the back of conditions described by Geoff Ogilvy as the “BRAD INSERT QUOTE HERE” The Australian improved its average score (out of 50) by nearly 2 points and its subsequent position on our list by three places. The recently redesigned greens and bunkers impressed our judges and have successfully played host to the past two Australian Open’s, both producing exciting finishes and worthy winners. The redesign work was carried out by Jack Nicklaus and his design associates, more than 30 years after the Golden Bear first tinkered with The Australian for the late Kerry Packer.

 

13. Metropolitan (no change)

Highest ranking - 3 (1994/96/98)

A much loved Sandbelt classic, Metropolitan is renowned worldwide for its flawless couch fairways and bent greens, its sand-flashed bunkering and charming old-school design. The outward nine is the superior half here, thanks to more interesting terrain and gems like the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th. Architects Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford were recently engaged to advise the club, who had previously used club member Michael Clayton as its design consultant for many years.

 

14. Royal Adelaide (down 2)

Highest ranking - 5 (1989/2000/02/04/06)

Royal Adelaide might be the most charming golf club in Australia, and it certainly owns one of our most important golf courses. Originally designed by club members and altered by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the layout has great variety, terrific greens and a wonderful mix of long/short holes. Conditioning has been excellent in recent years and the much-debated 17th hole improved after a redesign by American Tom Doak.

 

15. Lake Karrinyup (down 6)

Highest ranking – 6 (1994)

The best in the West, Lake Karrinyup is the hard-luck story of the Top 20 having maintained its average score from 2014 but falling back six positions because of new arrivals and the improved performance of other courses. Originally designed by Alex Russell, the changes made by Michael Clayton, Michael Cocking and their partners through the mid-to-late 2000s reversed a long period of design neglect and helped re-establish Karrinyup among Australia’s elite. Generally presented in superb condition, the course is hilly but fun and strategic to play.

 

16. The Lakes (down 2)

Highest ranking - 6 (2002)

Redesigned in the 1960s by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin and again in the 2000s by Michael Clayton and Michael Cocking, The Lakes is one of Sydney’s premier clubs and among the most exciting to play. Known for the large lake that dominates the entire back nine, and its natural sandy topography, the course is ideal for both tournaments and regular member play.

 

17. Joondalup (Quarry/Dune) (no change)

Highest ranking - 16 (1989)

A fun resort course north of Perth, Joondalup was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in the 1980s and remains one of this country’s most distinctive golfing tests. The Quarry holes are the standout and extremely memorable, but there are highlights on both the Dune and Links nines as well. Was ranked as low as 28 in 2002, but seems settled now in the high teens and as the clear runner-up in Western Australia.

 

18. The Dunes (down 2)

Highest ranking - 14 (2010)

Well established inside our Top 20, the Dunes Golf Links was designed by Tony Cashmore and developed by Duncan Andrews, owner of the new Cape Wickham Links on King Island. Cashmore’s course has always been noted for its firm, bouncy surfaces and fun links style design. The fairways and greens are superb at the moment, with judges impressed by both conditioning and the maturation of the new 15th and 16th holes. The Dunes does an enormous number of rounds every year, and is arguably the most popular course on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

 

19. Newcastle (up 1)

Highest ranking - 10 (2004)

A real panel favourite, Newcastle seems to have arrested a slide that took it from 10th place in 2004 to outside the Top 20 in 2012. The course scores best in the design and memorability stakes, with the likes of the wild tumbling 5th and 10th holes among those that attract favourable comments from our judges. The short 7th and sidehill 6th are also very good. Will be interesting to see how the club performs in the years ahead, should they proceed with additional fine-tuning planned for its bunkers and greens.

 

20. St Andrews Beach (up 1)

Highest ranking - 20 (2016)

Designed by Tom Doak on rolling duneland near The National Golf Club, St Andrews Beach was conceived as a very private golf club but has become one of the finest and most popular public access courses anywhere in the country. Some on our panel would push it closer to the Top 10, but for the majority it belongs somewhere in the 15-25 range. Either way, in terms of value for money and the joy of holes like the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 17th and 18th, it comes highly recommended.

 

21. Woodlands (down 3)

Highest ranking - 18 (2014)

A consistent Sandbelt performer, Woodlands lacks the profile of more esteemed neighbours but is recommended for its wonderful bunkering and clever short par fours. Home to some of the most dangerous green sites in Melbourne, this understated and beautifully organic golf course should be part of any Sandbelt golf escape.

 

22. Commonwealth (up 6)

Highest ranking - 12 (1994)

After steadily falling for a number of years, Commonwealth’s score (out of 50) improved by more than 1 point in 2016 resulting in a jump of six spots. Cerebral golfers have long admired the strategic nature of the greens and bunkers here, and some subtle re-planting and tree clearing appear to have pleased the panel. What’s clear anytime you visit Commonwealth, is that its best holes remain as good as most on the Sandbelt.

 

23. Magenta Shores  (up 3)

Highest ranking - 23 (2016)

Enjoying its best ever result on the Australian Golf Digest Top 100, Magenta Shores improved three places this year on the back of superior turf conditions during the ranking window and the softening of some of its harsher areas. Designed by Ross Watson, Magenta remains his most satisfying work and most enjoyable course to play.

 

24. Royal Queensland (up 3)

Highest ranking - 18 (1989)

The poster child for sensible redevelopment, Royal Queensland has now improved its ranking every year since being redesigned by Michael Clayton and Michael Cocking in 2006/07.  On a flat piece of ground the design team were able to craft a terrific members course with plenty of fun and strategic variation. The low-set rugged bunkering is particularly distinctive. The course has improved more than 35 places since 2006.

 

25. Brookwater (up 7)

Highest ranking - 19 (2004/06)

Brookwater has been a yo-yo in recent times, falling or rising at least seven spots in each of the last five rankings. Judges just can’t seem to make up their minds on this demanding test, designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison through a heavily wooded estate outside Ipswich. Some on the panel love the precise nature of the challenge while others find the course a little constrictive and unkind. Perhaps the fluctuations are the result of differing groups of judges visiting every two years.

 

26. Kooyonga (down 4)

Highest ranking - 10 (1989/91) 

A lovely private club near the Adelaide airport, Kooyonga’s average score barely changed from 2014 to 2016 but the layout was passed by four courses as it settled back in 26th position. Were the holes and general design ideals a little more consistent Kooyonga would likely return to somewhere in the mid-to-high teens. Until then, the course remains a fine test for the membership and a treat for visitors lucky enough to secure a game while in town.

 

27. Barwon Heads (down 2)

Highest ranking - 20 (1991)

An almost permanent fixture within the 20 to 30 bracket, Barwon Heads is a genuine coastal charmer that has done well to remain both popular and relevant in the face of rapid advancements in the modern game. Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford have modernised certain aspects of the course in recent times, but the appeal of Barwon Heads remains the timeless nature of its architecture and the fact that it still provides a stiff test at under 6,000m.

 

28. Thirteenth Beach (Beach) (up 1)

Highest ranking - 24 (2012)

Designed by Tony Cashmore, and home to one of the finest collections of par threes in the country, the Beach Course at Thirteenth Beach played host to the unique Men’s and Women’s Victorian Open tournament in February. The course is popular with good players and amateurs alike, and best recommended for a number of tremendous holes along the coastal dunes.

 

29. Moonah Links (Legends) (down 10)

Highest ranking - 13 (2010)

After falling several places in 2014, the Legend Course at Moonah Links dropped further in 2016 to what seems a sustainable position on the ranking. There are too many fine holes and fun green complexes to see it drop much further moving forward. As with the Open Course next door, the Legends is built upon attractive duneland and was designed with true links characteristics. For green-fee golfers visiting the Mornington Peninsula it’s the perfect companion to The Dunes and St Andrews Beach.

 

30. The Links Kennedy Bay (down 7)

Highest ranking - 10 (2002)

Once the highest ranked course in Western Australia, The Links Kennedy Bay has fallen steadily from a high of 10 achieved back in 2002. Despite the drop the layout remains popular with most judges for its uncomplicated links design and well-positioned bunkering. The shorter and longer holes stand out as the most exceptional.

 

31. Hamilton Island (up 6)

Highest ranking - 31 (2016)

Despite being criticised by some judges as being too penal and tough on the average player, Hamilton Island is a compelling golf course with some of most spectacular views anywhere in the country. Even those who complained about the severity of certain holes had to admire the overall island ambience. It may not be perfect, but Hamilton Island is a terrific holiday golf course.

 

32. Royal Sydney (down 8)

Highest ranking - 4 (1989/91)

Royal Sydney has ridden a Top 100 roller coaster in recent times – from 10th in 2000 to 22nd in 2006 and from 10th again in 2008 back to 32nd this year. The course has its fans but clearly its detractors as well, and several judges noted that the club experienced turf problems during the ranking window. We are certain that conditioning will improve as we approach the Australian Open, due to be hosted at Royal Sydney later in the year.

 

33. Bonville (up 9)

Highest ranking - 27 (1994)

Hit by some poor weather during the previous ranking cycle, Bonville continues to improve and remain among the more popular courses that our judges visit. Its ranking of 33 is the highest since the turn of the century and proof that the operators are on track with regards conditioning and the subtle refinements made in recent times. Architecturally Bonville is no Royal Melbourne, but from an ambience, fun and memorability standpoint it rates very highly.

 

34. Huntingdale (down 1)

Highest ranking - 14 (1991)

Back in the spotlight as host of last year’s Masters Tournament, Huntingdale was once ranked among the world’s Top 100 courses but has finished in the 30s in each of the past four Australian Golf Digest Top 100 lists. The club’s average score improved slightly this year, and members have enjoyed both excellent turf standards as well as a beautiful new clubhouse redeveloped in 2014.

 

35. The Grand (up 9)

Highest ranking - 35 (2016)

Queensland’s most exclusive golf club, The Grand also owns one of the state’s most challenging courses. Designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison, it hosted the 2001 Australian Open and attracted controversy for unconventional features like having trees in the middle of fairways. These controversies overshadowed a successful event, and a very fine course with slick greens and plenty of variety.

 

36. Moonah Links (Open) (down 5)

Highest ranking - 13 (2004)

Like the Ocean Course at The National Golf Club, the nearby Open Course at Moonah Links occupies land that is really too good for a course ranked in the mid-30s. The Open has never been seen as fun to play, but a sensible alteration or two and an easing up on difficulty could do wonders from both a rankings and a patronage perspective. Perhaps the resort’s new owners will invest in a little modification over the next few years.

 

37. Links Hope Island (up 4)

Highest ranking - 8 (1994)

The pick of the Gold Coast resort courses, Hope Island is a fun links-like test known for its humps, bumps, pot bunkers and non-traditional water hazards. It’s regarded by many as the best Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett course from the 1980s and 90s, their most prolific period. An improvement of more than 1 full point (out of 50) lifted Hope Island four places back into the 30s.

 

38. The National (Ocean) (down 8)

Highest ranking - 30 (2014)

Described previously as the bronze medallist in The National family, the Ocean Course falls several places and continues to trail well behind the Old and Moonah courses. Rumour has it the club has engaged Tom Doak to provide some advice on how best to improve the layout, with a view to perhaps hiring Doak to carry out a major redesign in the years ahead. Will be fascinating to watch developments, and see whether the club is able to elevate the standard of the golf here to something like the standard of the virgin terrain.

 

39. Glenelg (no change)

Highest ranking - 36 (1994)

A superbly maintained course, Glenelg remained steady at 39 this year after improving every ranking since 2004 when it was languishing down in 93rd position. The routing was mostly the work of H.L. Rymill in the 1920s and Vern Morcom in the 1950s, but most of the design was altered during the late 1990s and early 2000s by Neil Crafter and Bob Tuohy. Though a little tight in places, this is an excellent test and particularly popular with better players.

 

40. Peninsula (North) (down 6)

Highest ranking - 25 (2004/10)

Due to undergo alterations later this year, the North Course at Peninsula will likely be an entirely new layout come the 2018 rankings. The South Course is currently under the knife and was not considered for the Top 100 this year. South occupies far less interesting terrain than the North, which is beautifully undulating and more intimately routed. Firmer Sandbelt greens and subtle refinements to a handful of holes would lift this course significantly. In some ways, the test for Peninsula will be whether a club flush with cash has the self-control necessary to resist making gratuitous change.

 

41. Terrey Hills (up 5)

Highest ranking - 20 (2000)

After being stuck on 46 since 2010, Terrey Hills jumped five spots on our ranking this year with judges impressed by the standard of presentation during the two-year ranking cycle and the continued strength of a Watson and Marsh design that dates from the 1990s. Though far from the best course in Sydney, Terrey Hills has some very fine holes and is an excellent member facility.

 

42. The Cut (down 7)

Highest ranking - 16 (2008)

The Cut could crudely be described as somewhat schizophrenic, as it boasts some of the finest coastal views in Australian golf but also some less inspired holes around an integrated housing estate. As always, there are judges that look beyond the low spots and admire the views and others who mark the course down because of its inconsistencies. We recommend golfers try for themselves, because although the seaside holes are not quite of the La Perouse, Cape Wickham or Barnbougle standard, they are attractive and most golfers enjoy playing within sight of the ocean.

 

43. The Vintage (up 2)

Highest ranking - 40 (2008)

Set in the wine country of the Hunter Valley, the Vintage is another Norman / Harrison course with tight fairways, sharp greens and bold, flashed-up bunkering. The residential estate here has grown over the past few years, but the course has matured nicely and doesn’t feel too badly hemmed in by the housing.

 

44. Grange (West) (down 1)

Highest ranking - 19 (1991)

Marginally out-ranked by its upstart younger brother in 2014, the West at The Grange extracts revenge this year with an almost imperceptible rise in average score enough to nudge it back in front of the East Course. The West is the more subtle test, and a nice contrast for members who can now choose from two good quality layouts.

 

45. Sanctuary Cove (Pines) (up 7)

Highest ranking - 13 (1989/91)

After sinking to an all-time low of 58 back in 2012, two sizeable jumps have Arnold Palmer’s Pines Course at Sanctuary Cove back inside Australia’s Top 50. One of the pioneers of Gold Coast resort golf, the course feels a little dated in areas but has some excellent risk-reward golf and exciting heroic challenges. Several judges noted a renewed focus on presentation.

 

46. Elanora (down 8)

Highest ranking - 38 (2014)

Left out of the Top 100 altogether a decade ago, Elanora returned in 2008 on the back of a redevelopment project undertaken by designer James Wilcher. The course climbed three successive rankings before dropping back this year to the mid-40s. Sydney harbour views and excellent turf standards are Elanora’s strengths, together with a couple of good short holes.

 

47. The Grange (East) (down 7)

Highest ranking - 28 (1994)

You could throw a blanket over all the courses ranked in the 40s, as little separates them in any category. So it is with the two Grange Courses, the East marginally behind the West in 2016 after finishing a nose in front last time. This Greg Norman redesign occupies relatively flat ground and is noted for its large, flashy bunkers and strongly contoured greens. Judges enjoyed the contrast between the two courses, and were almost split 50/50 on which layout they preferred. With Peninsula South out of commission this year, The Grange joins Royal Melbourne and The National as the only private clubs with multiple courses inside the Top 50.

 

48. Sanctuary Cove (Palms) (up 15)

Highest ranking - 48 (2016)

Another two years of maturity and another large leap up the Top 100 for the Ross Watson redesigned Palms Course at Sanctuary Cove. After a 14 place rise in 2014, the Palms goes one better in 2016 climbing 15 places to break into the Top 50 for the very first time in its history. Judges clearly see this as a greatly improved golf course, and some have suggested it’s actually superior now to the Pines Course at Sanctuary Cove.

 

49. Western Australian (up 1)

Highest ranking - 49 (2016)

After years in the wilderness, the attractive Western Australian Golf Club re-entered our Top 100 in 2006 and has been steadily climbing ever since. This on the back of a re-bunkering program that unquestionably made the course more aesthetically appealing.  The golf here is very pleasant, with raters appreciating the nice views of the Perth CBD as well as the excellent couch fairways and bent greens.

 

50. Yarra Yarra (down 2)

Highest ranking – 13 (1998)

One of Melbourne’s premier Sandbelt golf clubs, Yarra Yarra drops two places this year to finish in the once-inconceivable position of 50th. As always with this club, the conditioning scores were fine and it was instead design and memorability that held it back. With some strong leadership and sensitive design alterations, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Yarra start climbing back into the Top 20 or 30. The bare bones are still present; the facility itself is terrific, the site beautiful and individual holes like the 5th, 11th, 13th and 15th are outstanding.

 

51. Glades (up 6)

Highest ranking - 17 (2002)

A popular Queensland resort course, The Glades debuted back in 2002 at number 17 on our list and had slipped back every ranking until this year. The Norman/Harrison layout is known for its solid bunkering, its well-contoured greens, attractive wetland areas and for being one of only two Gold Coast courses with bent grass greens. The course improved a full point and a half (out of 50) from two years ago, on the back of what judges found to be improved greens and fairways.

 

52. Concord (up 7)

Highest ranking - 33 (2004)

One of Sydney’s premier private golf clubs, Concord has made regular changes over the past 15 years or so but watched as its ranking has gradually fallen. The rise this year will please most, but likely confound those who are opposed to the appointment of Tom Doak to redesign the layout. Always presented in excellent condition, it will be fascinating to watch progress as Doak tackles the redevelopment of this classic parkland Kikuyu golf course. Expect it to look very different in a few years time.

 

53. Spring Valley (no change)

Highest ranking - 36 (1998)

Courses like Spring Valley and Long Island are proof what a terrific golf city Melbourne really is, given they are often overlooked and somehow exist in relative anonymity – despite their obvious qualities. Spring Valley isn’t perfect by any means, but it has a really nice collection of holes, a solid routing, some excellent green sites and is generally presented in great condition. What more could golfers want?

 

54. Pacific Dunes (up 1)

Highest ranking - 54 (2016)

Half an hour from Newcastle, Pacific Dunes is an integrated residential-golf community with a James Wilcher course as its centerpiece. Cut mostly through an attractive native woodland, the front nine occupies flat terrain and is dominated by expansive and abundant bunkering while the back incorporates a series of water hazards. The conditioning here is generally very good.

 

55. Bonnie Doon (NR)

Highest ranking - 54 (1989/1991)

Part-way through a major redevelopment, Bonnie Doon continues to polarise our panel with some feeling the disparity between the new Michael Clayton/Michael Cocking holes and the older Ross Watson design makes it unworthy of a place back on the Top 100 list. What is clear is that the new holes have been reasonably well received and once the remainder have been finished we would expect this course to reach an all-time high inside the Top 50.

 

56. Lakelands (up 12)

Highest ranking - 29 (2002)

The first full Jack Nicklaus course to open in Australia, Lakelands has bounced around the Top 100 since a strong showing back in 2002 when it was ranked 29th. Usually well presented, it’s a fairly uncomplicated test that is best recommended for those on the Gold Coast simply looking for a decent game of golf on superior turf.

 

57. Links Lady Bay (up 4)

Highest ranking - 43 (2006)

With its beautiful ocean views and tumbling links terrain, Lady Bay is an enjoyable resort course located on the western side of the Fluerieu Peninsula. It hasn’t quite managed to win the hearts and minds of Aussie golfers like a Barnbougle Dunes or a Lost Farm, but for a quick and easy, affordable break from Adelaide, it’s a pretty good option. Designer Graeme Grant is currently building the Ocean Dunes course on King Island, expected to feature on our 2018 ranking.

 

58. Capricorn (Championship) (down 2)

Highest ranking - 39 (1996)

An incredibly consistent performer on our Top 100, the Karl Litten-designed Championship course at Queensland’s Capricorn Resort was first ranked 43 in 1994 and has managed to remain almost permanently locked in the 40s and 50s ever since. This is a fun resort course, that judges seem to admire for both its character and its daring. The bunkering is good as are some of the more difficult driving holes.

 

59. Pelican Waters (down 1)

Highest ranking - 36 (2004)

Another fine Norman/Harrison resort course in Queensland, Pelican Waters is known for its plentiful lakes, its solid short fours and its large, sprawling sand bunkers. It’s also the home course of Greg Norman’s parents. Plans exist to refresh some of the bunkering and relocate the challenging 8th and 9th holes in the future. Will be interesting to see whether such changes affect the course’s ranking.

 

60. Pacific Harbour (down 9)

Highest ranking - 51 (2014)

A heavily bunkered resort-style golf course on Bribie Island, Pacific Harbour was designed by Ross Watson and continues to score well across all ranking criteria. Judges noted that it was a well-balanced test that houses a variety of solid holes and good greens. They also praised its conditioning, which has continued to improve since the opening in 2006. Despite the positives, the course dropped this year largely on the back of improvements made elsewhere.

 

61. Kalgoorlie (down 1)

Highest ranking - 60 (2014)

An interesting development back-story, the Kalgoorlie golf course was partly funded by the Kalgoorlie city in order to provide recreation for a mostly itinerant workforce. Designed by Graham Marsh, the course does extremely well in a hostile environment to present golfers with lush couch fairways and firm bentgrass greens. One of the more difficult sites Marsh has worked with, Kalgoorlie is nonetheless a very solid golf course that most readers will enjoy tackling.

 

62. Portsea (down 8)

Highest ranking - 28 (2000)

Since opening a new clubhouse in 2013 and re-routing parts of its much-loved golf course, Portsea has dropped back 18 places on our list, to 62nd position. As the club has found out, you really can’t lessen quality holes like the old 1st and 6th and expect to head anywhere but south. There is talk of a course masterplan and redesign of a few problem holes here, which might arrest the slide if handled sensitively. Despite the drop, Portsea remains a fantastic place for golf and a charming course on a pleasant Peninsula day.

 

63. The National Golf Club – Long Island (up 16)

Highest ranking - 39 (2000)

Long regarded as one of Melbourne’s real sleepers, Long Island merged with The National Golf Club in 2015 and our judges have noted significant improvement since in terms of course presentation and upkeep. Situated next door to the Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club, the course occupies a similarly undulating tract of sandbelt land and has always been blessed with a terrific set of par threes and short par fours. The greens and bunkers are generally first-rate. Although some of the playing corridors remain a little tight in places, Long Island provides a great test of your ball striking and is a course that more golfers should seek out when visiting Melbourne.

 

64. Cottesloe (up 14)

Highest ranking - 49 (1989)

A well-liked course in the suburbs of Perth, Cottesloe jumps 14 places this year following a successful redevelopment project by Graham Marsh and his team. Aside from the improvement of a couple of key holes, it was the continued turf excellence at Cottesloe that helped contribute to an overall rise of more than 2 points (out of 50) in its average score.

 

65. Avondale (up 1)

Highest ranking - 59 (2012)

A prestigious northern Sydney golf club, Avondale dropped completely off our Top 100 list prior to a redesign by Ross Watson around 2008. The course is now back firmly entrenched within the 100, thanks chiefly to these changes and what our judges described as a series of fun and attractive golf holes.

 

66. Sorrento (up 6)

Highest ranking - 44 (1989)

Conditioning isn’t everything in golf, but a pampering at Sorrento is a treat and the course continues to rise on our list after bouncing around near the bottom of the Top 100 a few years ago. There is much this club could do to improve its holes from a design standpoint, but from a maintenance perspective the fairways and greens have been terrific for several years now. Sorrento’s conditioning scores rival any course on the Mornington Peninsula.

 

67. Stonecutters Ridge (no change)

Highest ranking - 67 (2014/2016)

After being the only new course to debut on our list in 2014, Stonecutters Ridge has remained steady in 67th position. Designed by Greg Norman’s company with trademark sand-splashed bunkers and high-quality couch fairways and bent greens, the course features a number of strong par fours and fives. For golfers in western Sydney, and members of the relocated Ashlar Golf Club, this is a nice addition to the region and a big improvement on where most were previously playing.

 

68. St Michael’s (up 7)

Highest ranking - 48 (2008)

After some disappointing drops in recent years, it’s nice to see the St Michael’s Golf Club heading back in the right direction. Set immediately adjacent the New South Wales Golf Club at La Perouse, this is one of the best located metropolitan golf courses in Australia and worthy of a place much higher on our list. There are some nice holes here and good views of the water, but the overall design lacks coherency. The course has the potential to climb further if design issues are addressed sensitively.

 

69. Mount Lawley (down 5)

Highest ranking - 16 (2000)

One of the curiosities of the ranking system, is how courses can improve their average score yet end up falling backwards on the list. Such is the case with Mount Lawley, whose average score (out of 50) increased by almost half a point this year but who fell back 5 spots because of new arrivals and stronger climbs elsewhere. Despite the fall, this private Perth club, a short drive from Lake Karrinyup, remains a strong test and a pleasant place to play golf.

 

70. Palmer Resort Coolum (down 23)

Highest ranking - 27 (2000)

The biggest loser across the 2016 ranking, the Palmer Coolum Resort might be considered lucky to remain on the list given its problems with course closures and a lack of direct investment into the golfing facility. Judges noted poor conditions throughout the ranking cycle, and disputes with surrounding homeowners that led to the golf course being closed for a period leading into summer. The name change (from Hyatt Regency) and inclusion of dinosaurs around the golf course have failed to impress our judges, and we only hope the slide can be reversed over the next two years to prevent Coolum disappearing altogether like Laguna Whitsundays.

 

71. Riverside Oaks (Bungool Course) (NEW)

Former host of the Australian PGA Championship during the 1980s, Riverside Oaks on the outskirts of Sydney added a second course in 2014 when Bob Harrison’s new Bungool layout was finally ready for play. Unlike the cramped, tree-lined original course, Bungool is more spacious and strategic, and brings golfers hard against the banks of the Hawkesbury River. Harrison’s greens and bunkers are a real feature. Off fairway native areas are still a little severe on the average golfer, but as the turf improves and the surrounding landscape matures this is one course sure to become more enjoyable and more manageable for a range of skill levels.

 

72. Settlers Run (down 7)

Highest ranking - 64 (2010)

One of the last major projects completed by Greg Norman’s Australian design office before its closure, Settlers Run has had its issues over the years but remains a strong and enjoyable challenge. It doesn’t have as many great holes as some of the other Norman courses in Australia and is perhaps a touch too long, but the bunkering is attractive and the greens well suited to the approach shots demanded.

 

73. Twin Creeks (down 2)

Highest ranking - 63 (2012)

Another residential layout designed by Graham Marsh, Twin Creeks in Sydney’s greater west provides golfers and members with a pleasant experience and a number of solidly bunkered golf holes. This is a very fair test of golf, with undulating greens and broad fairways that are often littered with large, floral sand traps. There are some holes that seem a little overdone, but the best par threes and short fours make it well worth a visit.

 

74. Thirteenth Beach (Creek) (up 3)

Highest ranking - 74 (2016)

After making its first appearance on our Top 100 list in 2012, the Creek Course at Thirteenth Beach improves again this year on the back of what our judges noted was continued turf and tree maturity. The Creek has a different look and feel to the Beach Course, and has taken time to distinguish itself from the more rugged nature of its elder sibling. There are some good holes here and for those who enjoy trees, smoother fairways and clean bunker lines it’s a popular alternative to the Beach.

 

75. Amstel (Ranfurlie) (down 1)

Highest ranking - 72 (2012)

The first new golf course project by Michael Clayton and his original design partners, Ranfurlie is a solid layout in the southeastern suburbs of Melbourne that has continued to mature in the decade or so since opening. On a compact and gently leaning property, the holes here are mostly straight but the greens are arranged to open up for those approaching from alongside the fairway bunkers. The course has few standout holes, but no obvious black spots either. Fun for regular, member play.

 

76. Secret Harbour (no change)

Highest ranking - 27 (2002)

Steady at number 76, Secret Harbour south of Perth is an interesting residential golf development built on what some have described as genuine links land. The front nine certainly does occupy good golf ground, with a number of holes built across larger sand dunes and with pleasant water views. The back nine, by contrast, gets down among the homesites more and feels less like an authentic, bouncy links experience. Both nines have a number of original features and some fun green complexes.

 

77. Sanctuary Lakes (down 8)

Highest ranking - 66 (2010)

Arguably the poorest site the Norman group were ever given for a golf project, the success of Sanctuary Lakes is entirely due to their ability to turn a flat, rocky salt farm into a believable and attractive golf course. There are some nice, strategic holes here and the wetland areas and large lakes have matured nicely over the last decade or so. It’s unlikely to ever feature in the top half of our list, but a Top 100 ranking on a site like this is quite an achievement.

 

78. Meadow Springs (down 8)

Highest ranking - 26 (1996)

Probably the most under-appreciated of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. courses in Australia, Meadow Springs is very pleasant golf played on excellent surfaces and in peaceful, tranquil surrounds. The undulating greens and large bunkers are a feature here, as are the giant Tuart gum trees toward the end of the round.

 

79. Port Fairy (down 6)

Highest ranking - 60 (2010)

One of our more popular holiday courses, the Port Fairy Golf Club is located just outside the quaint fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road. The back nine here is especially memorable, with its ocean views and a handful of holes that get down into the seaside dunes close to the water. The strong par four 14th and redesigned par three 15th are very good. Great fun and great value for money, Port Fairy rarely disappoints.

 

80. The Heritage (St John) (down 18)

Highest ranking - 32 (2004)

The original course at the Heritage Golf & Country Club, St John was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2000 and has fallen sharply this year to an all-time low of 80. Ownership disputes and an apparently deliberate lack of investment into the golf amenity left our judges marking the course down across a range of ranking criteria. Although holes like the par five 9th and short 11th are still very good, in many ways the Nicklaus design relies on quality grooming to impress.

 

81. Murray Downs (up 3)

Highest ranking - 53 (2000/02)

A fixture on the Top 100 the last decade or so, according to our panel Murray Downs is the premier golf course along the mighty Murray River. Generally presented in excellent condition, the holes here are challenging, well bunkered and with enough variety to hold most golfers attention.

 

82. RACV Healesville (down 2)

Highest ranking - 80 (2014)

The shortest course on our top 100, RACV Healesville is a fun track to play and recommended for its beautiful bunkering and tantalising half-par holes. The drivable par fours and short-to-medium length par threes are a particular feature, along with the sharply contoured green sites. As much as we love recommending courses like this, the operators do need to keep an attentive eye on general presentation to ensure that visitors aren’t disappointed and to help the individual holes reach their potential.

 

83. Eynesbury (down 2)

Highest ranking - 79 (2010)

A solid residential golf course in Melbourne’s outer west, Eynesbury opened in 2008 and has gradually improved and matured ever since. There are problems with some of the greens and bunkers here being too difficult, but mostly the holes are good and the high conditioning standards ensure that visitors, in particular, will enjoy their round.

 

84. Indooroopilly (West) (up 5)

Highest ranking - 53 (1996)

After the tragic Brisbane floods of 2011 it was great to get the West Course at Indooroopilly back onto our Top 100 list in 2014, and even better to see it rise a few spots this time around. Indooroopilly is a fine golf club and its West Course clearly the superior of the two layouts. That said, some judges remain critical of the recent re-bunkering by Ross Watson, and the sense that some holes were altered to become harder rather than more fun. Still recommended for those visiting Brisbane for a game.

 

85. Narooma (up 3)

Highest ranking - 56 (1989)

A popular holiday course on the NSW South Coast, Narooma will always be best remembered for its famous Hogan’s Hole, the par three 3rd played partly across the Pacific Ocean. There is more to Narooma than just this one hole, but even if there weren’t it would still be a course to recommend as a fun, interesting test.

 

86. Kooindah Waters (up 5)

Highest ranking - 84 (2012)

Situated on the NSW Central Coast between Sydney and Newcastle, Kooindah Waters is a popular public access course designed by Ross Watson, who also designed the nearby Magenta Shores. Lacking the natural sandy dunes and beautiful ocean views of Magenta, Kooindah makes up for it with manufactured lakes and big, bold bunkers, some even with sleepered faces.

 

87. Federal (up 10)

Highest ranking - 36 (1989)

With Royal Canberra under redevelopment and not considered for this years Top 100, Federal is the sole representative from the nation’s capital. A big jump in conditioning scores has lifted the course ten places up the list and seemingly out of that 90-100 danger zone. Judges have always enjoyed the attractive bushland setting at Federal, as well as the views of the Brindabella Ranges. The golf itself is also good, with the back nine boasting a number of memorable holes.

 

88. Castle Hill (down 6)

Highest ranking - 53 (1989)

One of Sydney’s premier private clubs, Castle Hill has hosted a number of professional events over the years and is the proud owner of a solid golf course cut through an attractive, established bushland. The course has traditionally scored high marks from our judges in the conditioning category, but this year dropped its average by around half a point (out of 50) and subsequently fell back six places. Some judges noted that the course could use a little refreshing.

 

89. Cranbourne (down 2)

Highest ranking - 74 (2002)

Designed by Sam Berriman in the 1950s, Cranbourne is a solid tree-lined layout with a number of interesting Sandbelt-style golf holes. The course always scores well in the conditioning criteria, with the bunkers generally well presented and greens kept firm and quick. Although it now shares a postcode with a couple of modern Top 100 courses, for many this is still the pick of the Cranbourne area.

 

90. RACV Royal Pines (NR)

Highest ranking - 28 (1991)

Last ranked in 97th position back in 2004, Royal Pines has changed significantly since that period. Purchased by the RACV group and converted from a 36-hole facility to 27, the championship 18 was completely redesigned by Graham Marsh and showcased for the first time during the Australian PGA in December. The course has some maturing and softening to do, but seems to have been reasonably well received by our panel.

 

91. Monash (down 1)

Highest ranking - 66 (2004)

A delightful club in the northern suburbs of Sydney, Monash improved its average score (out of 50) marginally from 2014 but dropped down one position on the ranking list thanks to the inclusion of a couple of new courses. The club has had drainage issues in the past, but is working through a redevelopment masterplan with architect Bob Harrison and looking to address some of its problem areas. Harrison’s most significant design changes to this point have been to the mid-length par four 8th and to the bunkers and green on the par three 3rd.

 

92. Macquarie Links (up 8)

Highest ranking – 58 (2004)

After falling on every ranking between its a strong debut (58) back in 2004 and its 100th place finish last time, Macquarie Links has reversed the trend and jumped forward 8 places this year. Designed by Robin Nelson in Sydney’s southwest, this is a stern test of golf dotted with plenty of bunkers, water hazards and mounding. The course has its admirers among our panel and they, along with the club, will be hoping to continue heading forward in 2018.

 

93. Paradise Palms (down 8)

Highest ranking - 29 (1994)

Designed by Graham Marsh and Ross Watson in 1990, Paradise Palms has unfortunately fallen 8 places on our Top 100 this year, after also slipping backwards in 2014. Concerns have been raised over the conditioning of the course, but despite issues this remains Far North Queensland’s premier track and a course that we strongly recommend for those visiting the area with their golf clubs.

 

94. Alice Springs (down 2)

Highest ranking - 53 (2008)

The premier golf course of the Northern Territory, Alice Springs has been falling on our list ever since reaching a high of 53 back in 2008. Designed by Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge in the 1980s, the track has plenty of fans and is particularly memorable when presented in tip-top condition.

 

95. Araluen (down 9)

Highest ranking - 58 (2006)

Designed by Michael Coate and Roger Mackay, Araluen is a secluded resort/residential course located in the hills to the east of Perth. Built on a clay base of limestone and granite, the fairways are lined by outcrops of dusty red rock and dotted with large, floral bunkers. Although there are pleasant views of the surrounding hills from many parts of this course, much of it is too steep for sensible golf. As a result few of the uphill or downhill holes impress. Fortunately there is enough quality elsewhere at Araluen for it to occupy a place inside the Top 100.

 

96. Brisbane (NR)

Highest ranking – 66 (1996) 

Absent from the Top 100 for nearly twenty years, Brisbane is one of the oldest golf clubs in Queensland and last featured on our Australian Golf Digest ranking list in 1998, in 77th position. The course is back in 96th position this year, thanks largely to the success of a greens resurfacing project that involved converting all 21 greens – yes 21 – to a new Champion Ultra Dwarf grass, popular in the USA but untried here. Several judges commented on the state of the greens, and that they were now the envy of most other courses in the state. The club potentially has further improvement still left in it, with consultant Ross Watson to undertake several key design tweaks in the years ahead.

 

97. Riversdale (down 2)

Highest ranking - 51 (1989)

One of the oldest golf clubs in Victoria and host to one of the oldest Amateur championships in the country, Riversdale is an attractive parkland course in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Set on a tightly treed parcel of land, the course lacks the space and sandy base of those on the Sandbelt but does enjoy a pleasant setting and nice golfing undulations.

 

98. The Vines (Lakes) (down 5)

Highest ranking - 50 (2010)

Highest ranking - 15 * (1998) * Composite Course ranked.

The Vines was once a star of WA golf, with its tournament hosting Composite Course regularly listed among our Top 20 or 30. Those heady days are long gone, and the Lakes Course is now at risk of falling out of the Top 100 altogether. As with 2014, scores received for conditioning and memorability were down on previous years, the Lakes just doesn’t seem to excite our panel anymore.

 

99. Tasmania (down 16)

Highest ranking - 20 (1989)

Sadly a shadow of its former self, the Tasmania Golf Club was once a shining light of Tasmanian golf but has fallen dramatically from its Top 25 highs back in the 1980s and 90s. The bare bones of this course are still intact, but the club appears to have fallen on difficult times financially and neglected some of the tree clearing work and design tweaking required. There are some good natural holes here, and Australian Golf Digest will be looking, and hoping, for improvement in the years ahead.

 

100. Horsham (down 2)

Highest ranking - 37 (2000)

Horsham is the first course to ever be ranked 100th on the Australian Golf Digest list more than once. It achieved the ranking first back in 2010, and was one of only 3 courses during a 20 year period that managed to avoid dropping from 100 off the list entirely. Club members will be hoping for more of the same in 2018, as this popular country Victorian course looks for refinements suggested by Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford to elevate the layout and safeguard its Top 100 future. Horsham’s fall this year was more a result of other courses jumping ahead than any concerns our judges had with the state of the golf course. This remains a fun, challenging test of your golfing game.

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