Blog 231 – Public Course Awards

A couple of my pre-caravan trip ‘public course’ experiences, both in 2019. Cape Wickham, King Island, Tasmania above and The Old Course, St Andrews below. It will be tough to top those two.

Nomadic_golfer : 3 year stocktake

My Favourite Courses

Taking stock – the best of the last 3 years

Of the 220 courses I’ve played over the last 3 years, more than 200 have been public access. There is a lot of quality, and great variation in our public access tracks, and I have only scratched the surface. I’ve covered from the most southern golf course in Australia (Dover, Tas) to the most northern course on the East Coast (Cooktown, Qld). I’ve also sampled the most immaculate of playing surfaces at the likes of Peninsula Kingswood, through to many wild and woolly tracks, and oil/ sand scrapes in the more remote areas of our travel.

I can vouch for the fact that just because a course is not listed in any ‘best’ or favourites list, doesn’t mean its poor. I have been surprised by the fact that I have found something intriguing out of every course that I’ve played, whether it be the incorporation of some natural feature, or some quirky design piece etc. Many of the courses that I have played are run on very small budgets but that doesn’t prevent you having a positive golfing experience or mean there are a lack of redeeming features. To the contrary in fact – I have derived as much pleasure in some of these low budget, country courses that have super designs (Junee, Harden, Rosebery (photo above), Tarraleah) as I have on some of the big city tracks. That’s the beauty of this game and the wonder of this trip.

Nevertheless, we live in an era where people want statistics and information, and to know what’s best etc to prioritise their time. To meet this appetite, I have had a crack at ranking my favourite 7 public access courses from the pool that I played from 2020 – 2022. In batting order:

1. Bonville NSW 2. Links Lady Bay, SA 3. Mt Compass, SA 4. Magenta Shores, NSW 5. Murray Downs, NSW 6. Federal, ACT 7. Tasmania GC, Tas

1. Bonville GC, NSW
Continually voted Oz’s most beautiful, this track was carved out of a forest of monstrous Tallwood, Blackbutt & Ironbark trees. The Watson, Stirling layout (1992) is gettable with generous, soft fairways and 5 par5s. It has multiple elevation changes among plenty of water and sand but those ‘sky-reaching’ borders of trees are the defining (and spectacular) feature. Refer Blog 76 for my full review

2. Links Lady Bay, SA
A serious test of links-like golf; long & exposed with large greens surrounded by mounds and run-offs, lots of sand and multiple pin options dictating the level of the test. It’s a Newton (Jack), Grant & Spencer design (1998). Refer Blog 117 for my full review

3. Mount Compass GC, SA
Defined by superb, undulating green complexes & decisions to be made off the tee due to the many ‘narrowing’ fairways, this is a Crafter family (Brian & Neil) design (1998) Refer Blog 112 for my full review

4. Magenta Shores, NSW
This 2006 Central Coast, Ross Watson layout set on a narrow neck of sand dunes is tough, spectacularly contoured and bunkered and is penal on any misses. Condition on my Anzac Day ‘22 visit cost it a couple of places on my list (Refer Blog 206 for the full review)

5. Murray Downs GC, NSW
The best conditioned of the lot on my visit, this oasis near the Murray, just out of Swan Hill (Vic) is a beautiful contrast of green, red sand and blue water on a sporty layout. Designed by Ted Parslow (1991)(Refer blog 15 for my full review)

6. Federal GC, ACT
Quintessential Australia. The bush setting and strategic layout designed by Prosper Ellis (1933), on bent greens and santa-anna fairways, screams “oi oi oi” (Refer blog 92 for my full review)

7. Tasmania GC, Tas
Al Howard design (1971) on a spectacular undulating site overlooking Barilla Bay in Hobart. Defined by large undulating greens, hilly lies, deep bunkers and rough, sandy wasteland (Refer blog 183 for my full review)

Next in line – Others that I considered for this list were (in no order): Royal Hobart, Tanunda Pines, Palmer Sea Reef, Ulverstone, Millicent, Tuncurry, Duntryleague, Bairnsdale, Leongatha, Ocean Shores, Murwillumbah & Kooindah Waters