Identifying golf courses with the most value isn’t simply about finding the cheapest rounds. For most golfers, rounds of golf that scream value are ones we can’t wait to tell others about. To us, there’s an unwritten formula, including some combination of price, amount of fun, level of intrigue with the design, conditioning, overall experience and history. We all have our own barometers of what makes a valued round of golf.
Here are our 20 Top-Value Courses, nominated by readers, our Top 100 course-ranking panellists and our editors.
“Tambo Valley Golf Club – Victorian high country where you can camp on course and play all day for $25!” – Brett Wyllie
NOWADAYS people know the price of everything and the value of nothing, so said legendary poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.
Unless, of course, you’re a golfer … then you know everything there is to know about value. Such knowledge stems from regularly handing over your hard-earned for a memorable day on the fairways.
As disposable household income becomes as limited as the time we have to spend it, the battle for green fees has pit Aussie clubs against one another in a battle of who can offer the most, with the most justifiable price tag.
But how do you know you’re on a winner?
“A great-value round of golf is one that ensures you leave not questioning what you paid for the privilege, but how much more you’d be prepared to hand over for the same experience next time,” says Australian Golf Digest editor-in-chief and Top 100 Courses rater Brad Clifton.
Yet before a club can even qualify for a bang-for-your-buck experience, it must first meet some fundamental criteria, according to fellow Australian Golf Digest Top 100 course rater Jayden Lawson.
“Often my non-golfing friends pass up an offer to play on courses because of dress-code concerns, personal lack of skill, and investment of time and money,” he says. “A club that smashes these barriers and offers unmatched value is a short, nine-hole public course called Bulimba Golf Club, tucked away in a quiet suburban pocket beside the Brisbane River. While it won’t win any design or conditioning awards, its casual charm lends itself to a characteristic that is often lacking from many a golf club in the modern world: a welcoming sense of non-judgemental fun.”
Drinks are welcomed at Bulimba, and often eskies are seen being wheeled around. Most holes are about the 100-metre mark, so you can easily get around nine holes in an hour. While a host of elevated, postage-stamp greens pose a challenge for the most seasoned of golfers, it’s the casual or first-time golfer that will most appreciate the aforementioned nuances. Those without clubs can hire them for $6, which comes bundled with your very own ‘carry tube’ – a seemingly home-built contraption that basically resembles a PVC pipe with a handle, and a sharp spike on the end for ramming it in to the turf. No wonder thongs are not permitted!
“With non-member green fees at $18, it has my pick for the course with the most bang for your buck – and sense of unbridled, welcoming fun,” Lawson adds.
Boomerang Farm at Nerang is one of my favourites. Small little golf course, everyone who plays there raves about it afterwards. The kangaroos, the trees, the elevation, etc. Play after 2:30pm, and it’s $12. Yep, TWELVE DOLLARS! – Loren Justins
Melbourne-based Top 100 rater Rahim Lalani is always on the lookout for top-value tracks. “It’s imperative when you run a golf tour company,” says the owner of Fairway Golf Tours. But Lalani can’t look past the two famous seaside gems on the north-east coast of Tasmania.
“The two best courses in the country that offer the most bang for your buck have to be Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm,” he says. “If you are a golf tragic, where else can you play two courses ranked inside the top-50 in the world for less than $100 per round? The place is built for golfers and the world-class restaurant, TAB facilities and spectacular views all add to the experience and overall feel of the place. I don’t know anyone that has been there that wouldn’t recommend the place.”
Loren Justins – who plays arguably more golf abroad than anyone on AGD’s esteemed Top 100 panel, agrees.
“I still tell people overseas the best value golf is Barnbougle, where for under $70 per round (all-day rate, two rounds) you can play two of the top courses in the country and some of the best in the world,” he says. “It really is astonishing how cheap it is when you play in the USA a lot and guest rates are $US200, and green fees at multiple courses I have played are $US500, plus mandatory caddie tips, etc. So $US50 to play Barnbougle is an absolute steal.”
Many Australian Golf Digest Facebook fans agree. “At $99 it’s a course you won’t ever forget,” says Alan Cox.
“It’s $75 if you live in Tassie. I played both for $150 and it is the best two days of my life,” adds Matt Butler.
Staying on the links theme and it’s an underrated showstopper in south-western Victoria that polled extremely well among our raters and online poll. Port Fairy Golf Links, 28 kilometres from Warrnambool, is a classic-style links layout that winds its way through unspoilt sand dunes and offers spectacular views of the Southern Ocean. After managing to keep a low profile for so long, it would appear the secret’s out.
“It’s hard to go past Port Fairy, one of the only true links courses in Australia and definitely the cheapest Top-100 links course at $49,” says AGD rater David Chantrell. “Its remoteness, much like with Barnbougle, increases the anticipation. There’s nothing better than playing old-fashioned golf on a raw, unpretentious links with the sound and smell of the ocean whipped up by a stiff breeze. Playing Port Fairy takes me back to a dream holiday playing some of the great links in Scotland.”
Another popular choice for top-value golf is the legion of courses running along the Murray River.
“I spent some time in the Murray region this year – principally playing at Tocumwal, which has two courses of equal merit,” says rater James Ponder. “We were playing in a tournament but the green fees were only about $30. Condition-wise, the fairways were as good a couch as you will find anywhere, including the Melbourne Sandbelt, and both are very well-designed courses with true, fast-running putting surfaces. Forget bang-for-buck, this place should be a Top-100 contender.”
Ponder also played at Yarrawonga and Black Bull. “Again, great value for money – it’s almost worth classifying the entire Murray region as offering the best bang for your buck compared with the everyday resort-type courses.”
Such a broad range of options and responses fits with the very concept of ‘value’, according to AGD associate editor and Top-100 courses co-ordinator Steve Keipert.
“Value is such an intrinsically personal judgement,” Keipert says. “I’ve paid green fees in the multiple hundreds of dollars and thought it to be tremendous value – and I’ve felt ripped off paying $50 to play a ‘goat track’ in substandard condition. One of the most beautiful aspects of this game is how every shot, every hole and every layout lies in the eye of the beholder. Whether a course represents great value falls into this same category.”
“The Rock Golf Club – $7 for 18 holes, $5 cart hire, $5 for two stubbies, $2.50 for a pie with sauce and a 50c tip. No change out of a twenty for a great day with good company!” – Steven Taylor
20 Top-Value Courses
Barnbougle/Lost Farm, TAS
Port Fairy, VIC
The Dunes, VIC
Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort, NSW
Coral Cove Resort, QLD
Curlewis Golf Club, VIC
Black Bull Golf Club, VIC
Mount Compass Golf Club, SA
Links Lady Bay, SA
The Coast Golf Club, NSW
Federal Golf Club, ACT
Tanunda Pines, SA
Long Reef Golf Club, NSW
Cabramatta Golf Club, NSW
Paradise Palms, QLD
Wembley Golf Course, WA
Club Mandalay, VIC
Links Shell Cove, NSW
[*Compiled from reader polls and contributions from Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses panel]