It will come as no surprise to those who watched either the Talisker Masters or the World Cup that the West Course at Royal Melbourne has once again been confirmed as Australia’s No. 1 golf course. Its holes played superbly during both events, and in 2014 the course separated itself further from the rest of the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 field.

For several years now we have been answering questions about the volatility in our Top 100 with data on the scoring differences between those towards the top of the ranking and those towards the bottom.

Almost 10 points (out of 50) separate Royal Melbourne (West)(1) from WA Golf Club (50) this year, yet only two-and-a-half points separate Pacific Harbour (51) from Macquarie Links (100).

Clearly there are more opportunities for big jumps or drops down in the bottom half of the list than there are nearer to the top. This is especially true now, with Royal Melbourne and the other top 10-14 courses opening up a commanding lead over the rest of the list.

It’s become more difficult than ever for those courses on the outside to jump back into this elite group. Royal Melbourne (West) itself is now a point-and-a-half clear of Kingston Heath at number two, and two points clear of Ellerston (3) and Barnbougle Dunes (4).

As has been the case for many years, Australian Golf Digest collates its Top 100 ranking by assembling a large and active panel of golf connoisseurs and industry insiders.

These keen and passionate golfers then visit courses across the country and rate them all according to separate design, memorability and conditioning criteria.

The scores are tallied and an average across the panel established. What was pleasing in 2014 was the number of established courses who improved their average rating from 2012. Some, like Metropolitan, National (Moonah) and Barwon Heads, actually went backwards despite scoring higher, because of improvements made at competing clubs.

While we naturally look to the top and celebrate the excellence of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Ellerston, New South Wales and the two Barnbougle courses, there are great stories across the Top 100 this year. On the Mornington Peninsula each of St Andrews Beach and The National (Old) and The National (Ocean) courses have achieved their highest ever ranking.

The St Andrews Beach (21) result will please those who regard this as the Peninsula’s finest course, and lambaste us for its relatively poor showing in the past. Sorrento also improved 13 places in 2014, rounding out a good year in general for Mornington Peninsula golf.

On the other side of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, the Creek Course at Thirteenth Beach, which made its first appearance on the list last ranking, climbed 18 places to 77th.

Of the other 2012 newcomers, pleasingly each of the brand new courses took strides forward this year. Both Kalgoorlie (60) and Sanctuary Cove (Palms) (63) enjoyed double-digit gains after solid debuts, while Hamilton Island improved 2 places to a very credible 37th in Australia.

New arrivals in 2014 include just one brand new golf course, Stonecutters Ridge (67), as well as the completely redesigned East Course at The Grange Golf Club (40) in Adelaide, both designed by Greg Norman’s company.

Despite inferior terrain and a tight site, Norman’s large, flashy bunkers at The Grange made their mark and our panel preferred this redesign work to his original design in the west of Sydney.

Perhaps it was the private club ambience trumping the estate course feel, but either way both Stonecutters and The Grange should be pleased with a solid ranking debut. As should the RACV Club in Victoria, whose Healesville Country Club (80) was recognised several years after its Michael Clayton/Michael Cocking redesign.

Waiting even longer, the Fleurieu golf course (99) in South Australia makes its first appearance on the Top 100, 16 years after opening.

Of course whenever there are winners there are losers as well, and this year’s list is headed by a pair of prestigious private clubs, Yarra Yarra (down 14 to 48) and Royal Canberra (down 12 to 49), who have fallen to new historic lows. Portsea’s fall (down 10 to 54) will have been less unexpected but no less painful for a club now banking on revitalised amenities to attract new members.

St Michael’s (down 14 to 75), Paradise Palms (down 19 to 85), the Henley Course at The Heritage (down 23 to 94) and Riversdale (down 15 to 95) are other courses to take a big tumble in 2014.

Over the past 20 years there have been a number of high ranking courses that have dropped completely off our Top 100 (see page 130) and this year the Lakes Course at The Vines Resort in WA came dangerously close to joining them. When ranked previously as a tournament Composite Course, The Vines was a regular in the Top 30, but since the decision in 2010 to rank individual courses separately the Lakes has crashed from 50th to 69th and now down to 93rd.

While The Vines is in danger of missing the list entirely next time, as with any course in the bottom 20, some minor improvements could lead to a sharp rise back up the list. Equally, those on the fringe and outside the Top 100 should take comfort in the knowledge that similar improvements to their course would lead to inclusion in 2016.

Those nearest the Top 100 and unlucky to miss in 2014 were Arundel Hills, Pymble, Sandhurst Club (Champions), The Sands Torquay, Royal Perth, Palm Meadows, Long Reef, Yering Meadows, North Lakes, Royal Hobart, Flinders, Albany and Tallwoods.

The message to these clubs, and others in Australia, is that the 2016 ranking cycle has begun and our panellists are already on the lookout for the next Top 100 golf course. Perhaps it could be yours.



1 – Royal Melbourne (West) VIC

2 – Kingston Heath VIC

3 – Ellerston NSW

4 – Barnbougle Dunes TAS


5 – New South Wales NSW

6 – Barnbougle Lost Farm TAS

7 – Royal Melbourne (East) VIC

8 – The National (Moonah) VIC

9 – Lake Karrinyup WA

10 – The National (Old) VIC

11 – Victoria VIC

12 – Royal Adelaide SA

13 – Metropolitan VIC

14 – The Lakes NSW

15 – The Australian NSW

16 – The Dunes VIC

17 – Joondalup (Quarry/Dune) WA

18 – Woodlands VIC

19 – Moonah Links (Legends) VIC

20 – Newcastle NSW

21 – St Andrews Beach VIC

st andrews beach


22 – Kooyonga SA

23 – Links Kennedy Bay WA

24 – Royal Sydney NSW

25 – Barwon Heads VIC

26 – Magenta Shores NSW

27 – Royal Queensland QLD

28 – Commonwealth VIC

29 – Thirteenth Beach (Beach) VIC

30 – The National (Ocean) VIC

31 – Moonah Links (Open) VIC

32 – Brookwater QLD

33 – Huntingdale VIC

34 – Peninsula (North) VIC

35 – The Cut WA

36 – Peninsula (South) VIC

37 – Hamilton Island QLD

38 – Elanora NSW

39 – Glenelg SA

40 – Grange (East) SA

41 – Links Hope Island QLD

42 – Bonville NSW

43 – Grange (West) SA

44 – The Grand QLD

45 – The Vintage NSW

46 – Terrey Hills NSW

47 – Palmer Resort Coolum QLD

48 – Yarra Yarra VIC

49 – Royal Canberra ACT

50 – The Western Australian WA

51 – Pacific Harbour QLD

52 – Sanctuary Cove (Pines) QLD

53 – Spring Valley VIC

54 – Portsea VIC

55 – Pacific Dunes NSW

56 – Capricorn (Championship) QLD

57 – Glades QLD

58 – Pelican Waters QLD

59 – Concord NSW

60 – Kalgoorlie WA

61 – Links Lady Bay SA

62 – The Heritage (St John) VIC

63 – Sanctuary Cove (Palms) QLD

64 – Mount Lawley WA

65 – Settlers Run VIC

66 – Avondale NSW

67 – Stonecutters Ridge NSW

68 – Lakelands QLD

69 – Sanctuary Lakes VIC

70 – Meadow Springs WA

71 – Twin Creeks NSW

72 – Sorrento VIC

73 – Port Fairy VIC

74 – Amstel (Ranfurlie) VIC

75 – St Michael’s NSW

76 – Secret Harbour WA

77 – Thirteenth Beach (Creek) VIC

78 – Cottesloe WA

79 – Long Island VIC

80 – RACV Healesville VIC

81 – Eynesbury VIC

82 – Castle Hill NSW

83 – Tasmania TAS

84 – Murray Downs NSW

85 – Paradise Palms QLD

86 – Araluen WA

87 – Cranbourne VIC

88 – Narooma NSW

89 – Indooroopilly (West) QLD

90 – Monash NSW

91 – Kooindah Waters NSW

92 – Alice Springs NT

93 – The Vines (Lakes) WA

94 – The Heritage (Henley) VIC

95 – Riversdale VIC

96 – Palmer Gold Coast QLD

97 – Federal ACT

98 – Horsham VIC

99 – Fleurieu SA

100 – Macquarie Links NSW