This content is for subscribers only.
Join our club! Become a subscriber to get access to the latest issue of Australian Golf Digest, plus exclusive content and videos only available with a digital subscription.
Australia's Top 100 Golf Courses 2024/25 - Australian Golf Digest Australia's Top 100 Golf Courses 2024/25 - Australian Golf Digest

Australia’s Top 100 Golf Courses 2024/25

Brought to you by

Our judging criteria

A snapshot of how this ranking differs from the ones before it

Three phenomenal numbers highlight how our 2024 ranking of Australia’s Top 100 Courses has evolved – even from the most recent list two years ago. Most significant was the volume of courses polled. Our much larger national panel of 277 avid golfers voted on 809 different courses – that’s more than half the 1,603 courses in Australia – and lodged 7,026 total evaluations. Last time, those numbers were: 140 panellists, 321 courses and 2,952 scores.

The data went far deeper this time. While the judging panel almost doubled in size, they collectively worked far harder, as the number of courses visited and scores lodged far exceeded mere doubling. Three panellists ‘raised the bat’ and visited more than 100 courses, while special mention must go the way of Cam Hart, who saw 164 different courses in the two-year ranking cycle.

For their time, input and dedication, we thank our national panel [see page 82]. They visit and score courses out of 10 based on seven criteria:

Shot Options: How well does the course present a variety of options involving risks and rewards and require a wide range of shots? (Shot Options counts twice in our formula, because a survey of panellists 30 years ago felt it was by far the most important aspect of a course design and should be double-weighted.)

Challenge: How challenging, while still being fair, is the course for a typical scratch golfer playing from the tees designated as back tees for everyday play (not from seldom-used championship tees)?

Layout Variety: How varied is the physical layout of the course in terms of differing lengths (long, medium and short par 3s, 4s and 5s), configurations (straight holes, doglegs left and right), hazard/‘penalty area’ placements, green shapes and green contours?

Distinctiveness: How individual is each hole when compared to all others on this course? Additionally, how fun and enjoyable for all levels of golfers would this course be to play on a regular basis?

Character: How well does the course design exude ingenuity and uniqueness and possess profound characteristics that you would consider outstanding for its era?

Aesthetics: How well do the scenic values of the course (including landscaping, vegetation, water features and backdrops) add to the pleasure of a round?

Conditioning: How firm, fast and rolling were the fairways? How firm yet receptive were the greens? How true were the rolls of putts?

To arrive at a course’s final score, we total its averages in the seven categories, doubling Shot Options (from 10 to 20) to create a score out of 80.

Our Judging Panel

Keipert, Wayne James, Colin Bloomfield, Craig Seckold, Ross Hildebrand, Rob Henschke, Tyson Flynn, Ian Greenwood, Jonathan Roennfeldt, John Renshaw, John Fox, Jamie Woodhill, Robert Mead, Ru Macdonald, Tony Moore, Andrew Lamble, James Gribble, Chris Francis, Tom Catoggio, Nick Birbas, Fletcher Ivey, Luke Gallant, Levi Cameron, Geoff Steer, Steve Bray, Joseph Kahn, Drew Hallam, Ben Tullipan, David Chantrell, Rod Holmes, Chris Peckett, Jason Paterson, Damian Grace, Tristan Heath, Steve Thomas, Dean Jennings, Scott Newman, Trent Pilgrim, Adam Wallace, Greg White, Joseph Crabtree, Luke Clark, Craig Gallie, Jacqui Morgan, Nick White, Andrew Coghlan, Wayne Moriarty, Grant Naylor, Peter Sherry, David Bishop, Paul Burgin, Mark Panopoulos, Glen Barker, Simon Appleby, Loren Justins, Rahim Lalani, Wesley Milsom, Scott Muller, Chris Perry, Raphael Jose, Paul Bittar, Gary Shaw, Nick Shute, Damien Tarbox, Rod McLeod, John Zelenjak, Mandy Lee, Daniel Adams, William Park, Graeme Elgie, Ben Bell, Michael Chapman, Michael Caridi, Shane Hooton, Tom Pearce, Roger Prentice, Mark Henricks, Zoee Dolling, Paul Smerdon, Richard Crago, Tony Bradley, Chris Dugan, Robert Shakeshaft, Patrick Davoren, Adam Brennan, Gerard Wild, Stewart Woodhill, Peter Ellison, Marcus Lancaster, Andrew Whitaker, Grant Gerber, Chris Ninopoulos, Matt Davies, Dale Walton, Shane McPhee, Ben Martin, Lachlan Miller, Kevin Pallier, Jason Van Vliet, Paul Watts, James Prineas, Scott Campbell, James Howes, Ben Martin-Henry, Chris Moyle, Tim Browne, Glenn Domigan, Peter Phillips, Trevor Roberts, Frank Gurren, Scott Hannah, Susan Brooker, David Bailey, Luke Collins, Simon Ovenden, David Cuda, Edward Dowling, Richard Maxwell, Rey Saballa, Jeynelle Wilcox, Robert Law, Raj Narayan, Josiah Trinder, Simon Anderson, Luke Bolden, Greg Fraser, Tony Hicks, Karen Van Vliet, Anthony Hackland, Jeremy Peck, Chris Ryan, Rod Doak, Jason Gullaci, George Kidman, Margaret Potter, David Raymond, Matthew Toomey, Callum Tranter, Jonathan Buck, Chris Hurt, Scott Ridout, Jacob Slimmon, Ian Markus, Mark Taylor, Enzo Cavallo, Matthew Green, Andrew Morris, Nathan Cassilles, Ben Flavel, Sam Fung, Haydn Fyffe, Michael Hauser, Leigh Martin, Mitch Morgan, Phillip Hurley, Karl Kirsten, Nick Welsh, Nigel Hutton, Paul McLean, Ken Phillips, Selwyn Berg, Brad Pole, Ken Russell, Steven Slappendel, Chris Thomas, Scott Ware, Cherrie Genat, Mitchell Thorne, Brendan Meagher, Troy Scott, Scott Dial, Glenn Hildebrand, Matt Lister, John Martin, Warren Rankine, Brent Williams, Craig Millen, John Anderson, Adam Scott, Jason Hill, Brad Pullin, Steve Shaw, Gary Warren, Tony Webeck, Michael Ayton, Shane Corben, Geoff Sheaffe, Andrew Dalgairns, Stephen Worner, Harry Hawkins, Elliot Oxley, Robert Radley, Rohan Adams, Ben McIlwain, Nick Tuddenham, Lee Cameron, Aaron Gent, Ben Caruso, Ali Terai, Shannon Moore, Paul Bucan, Steve Smith, Graeme Morrissey, Flinn Shiel, Les Coles, Charlie Vincent, Nic Rees, Ian Curley, Jason Gluch, Wayne Carlson, Justin Pate, Evan Wilkinson, Matt Sullivan, Sue Sheaffe, Peter Farlie, Holly Ibbotson, Matthew MacMahon, Tom Pennington, Rohan Stewart, Ian Barr, Dan Cook, Bree Arthur, Dane McKay, Lester Peterson, James Ward, Jessica Eden, Tom Huf, Rohan Clarke, Craig Meagher, Dene Heath, Daniel Lewis, Brian Man, Andrew Hinchliffe, Nick Stewart, James Teh, Alex McCormack, Doug Hannaford, Adam Ringrose, David Pratt, Anthony Bull, Phil Heads, Tony Meyer, Leigh Jerram, Ben Williams, Hamish Buckingham, Jayden Lawson, Richard Norgard, Will Stubbs, Nick Wall, Storm McGrath, Steven Hall, Brendan Woods, Todd Greenberg, Brendon Williams, Michael Routledge, Ross Horsley, Andre Rizk, Gary Lisbon, Alyssa Starc, Fiza Errington, Michael Burke, Paddy Holland, Ben Hall, James Ponder, Andrew Priory, Chris Pezzimenti, Peter Sliwinski, Nathan Chapman, Peter Warren, Ben Emerson, Graeme Mathers, James Lawton and Shannon Hourigan.

Why are 9 courses missing?

The spate of course redesign work going on across Australia meant six courses were intentionally left off this ranking as they remain mid-construction. While Commonwealth’s Tom Doak-led redesign saw it re-open for play in mid-March, it missed the entire judging period and so the club opted to sit out and await its return in 2026. In a similar boat this time are Huntingdale, Royal Sydney, Mount Lawley, The National’s Long Island course and Links Kennedy Bay, where the upgrades have now impacted two ranking periods.

Three more courses won’t be seen here. For a second consecutive ranking, not enough of our judging panel saw the Packer family’s outstanding Ellerston course in the Hunter Valley, while as has been the case throughout its existence, the exclusive Capital course in Melbourne continues to disallow panellist access. Meanwhile, the clean-up operation after extensive flooding goes on at the Bungool course at Riverside Oaks, keeping it from opening all 18 holes. Nine courses sitting on the sidelines is an indication of the current era of redesign work over new builds in Australian golf-course architecture.

Time-related circumstances surround Brisbane’s Indooroopilly courses and Pymble in Sydney. While much of the new work at Indooroopilly is complete, either not enough of our panel saw the Ross Perrett/Karrie Webb re-do for it to be considered, or there was too short a window of time for an accurate evaluation. It was similar for Pymble, which also narrowly missed returning to the Top 100 due to the short timeframe once James Wilcher’s redesign work was completed late last year. Having fallen just shy of this ranking, we expect both courses to make an impact next time.

• One area where our ranking seeks to remain fluid is amid the rise of short courses. While the 14-hole Bougle Run is eligible for our list (as are nine-hole layouts), we have omitted The Furrows – the new short course at Kingston Heath – and its ilk. A distinction needs to be made between what are regular-length holes on courses with fewer than 18 of them, and courses with shorter-than-regular-length holes. We see Bougle Run as an example of the former and The Furrows as the latter. Striking a driver and other long clubs is an essential part of the game, and while short courses are a welcome addition to golf, they can’t be viewed in the same light as full-length layouts. In time, Australian Golf Digest expects to compile a separate ranking of short courses.

An eye to 2026

In 2020, not a single new course entered our ranking as only revamped or returning courses broke onto the list. Things were not so scarce this time with a collection of either newcomers or major refurbishments pushing their way in. We’re expecting the momentum to continue when the 2024 ranking is published as several world-class layouts are set to join the fray.

Chief among them is Seven Mile Beach, the exciting project on amazing waterside land east of Hobart [pictured]. The Mike Clayton/Mike DeVries design is set to open in late 2023 and is a chance to be an inclusion next time if enough panel members see it before the judging period ends.

“It’s sand dunes on the ocean, so it doesn’t get much better than that,” DeVries said in late March as shaping continued. “I’d place this right up there with any site [I’ve worked on]. It’s just spectacular – and these sites are rare.”

The nearby Arm End project, on a stunning peninsula south of Hobart, is aiming to open in late 2024 so is likely to debut here in the 2026 ranking. In South Australia, the exciting The Cliffs Kangaroo Island is on the cusp of construction work beginning and, as with the Tasmanian newcomers, could feature either next time or in 2026, depending on how things play out.

Add to those the renovated courses likely to return and some short courses where work is already underway, and the complexion of the next list may change considerably once again.

Living on the edge

Slow play is never encouraged in golf, yet in one area of the game it’s almost expected. Few new courses open according to the schedule laid out prior to construction, as evidenced by the courses we flagged in this space two years ago. The potential newcomers for 2024 we pointed to then are the same courses we forecast again when it comes to looking ahead to the 2026 list, simply because good things take time.

Most buzz centres on 7 Mile Beach [below], the highly anticipated project beside the water in Hobart. The shaping work for the Mike Clayton/Mike DeVries design is complete as the grow-in phase continues ahead of some likely preview play next spring before a summer opening. If that timeline holds, the course will debut in our 2026 ranking.

The nearby Arm End course has a less-clear construction roadmap yet may find itself in the same position, although 2028 looks more likely for its Top 100 debut. In South Australia, the stunning The Cliffs Kangaroo Island is working towards a completion date of late next year, which will make it a close call for the Darius Oliver design to be included within our next ranking cycle. It would appear a certainty for the 2028 list, though.

100: Noosa Springs

Previous 5 rankings: NR, 95, 98, NR, NR 

Best criterion: Shot Options

The Sunshine Coast resort course has bounced in and out of the Top 100 for the entire quarter-century it’s been open. Recent improvements in Conditioning (the course’s second-best category this ranking), thanks to a new irrigation system, gave it just enough of a push to make the grade once again.

99: Albany

Previous 5 rankings : NR, NR, NR, NR, NR 

Best criterion: Aesthetics

A return to the fold for the first time since 2010 for this linksy gem on the southern coastline of Western Australia. Higher visitation by our panel – as well as consistently solid scores from all those who saw the course – helped Albany’s cause.

98: Murray Downs

Previous 5 rankings: NR, 98, 91, 81, 84

Best criterion: Shot Options

Back after a two-year absence, the pride of the western end of the Murray River golf scene returns to the Top 100. The design union of brothers Ted and Geoff Parslow brought out the best in a site flanked by the spectacular surrounding Mallee plains, where the arid scrubland borders several holes.

97: Forster Tuncurry (Tuncurry) 

Previous 5 rankings: NR, NR, NR, NR, NR 

Best criterion: Conditioning

The last time the Tuncurry course ranked in our Top 100, John Howard was prime minister, Phil Mickelson was yet to win a major and Minjee Lee was 7 years old. March 2004 feels like a long time ago, yet it’s a richly deserved return for the coastal New South Wales layout after an extensive renovation that focused on its significant array of coastal vegetation.

96: Maroochy River

Previous 4 rankings: 99, 100, NR, NR

Best criterion: Conditioning

The nine-year-old course on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast drew an ultra-consistent set of scores across the board, indicating no major weaknesses when viewed through the prism of our ranking criteria. Maroochy River has made a home for itself in the lower regions of our list, yet it’s also risen each time to date.

95: Royal Fremantle

Previous 5 rankings: NR, NR, NR, NR, NR 

Best criterion: Conditioning

A denizen of our ranking for the first six editions (the original ranking was published in 1986), Royal Fremantle returns for the first time since 1998 on the back of marginally higher scores across the board. The club that gave us the Lee siblings was close to re-entering the Top 100 in recent years as it finally breaks back in this time.

94: RACV Royal Pines (Green/Gold)

Previous 5 rankings: NR, 91, 95, 90, NR

Best criterion: Challenge

More than a decade has passed since Graham Marsh redesigned the premier 18-hole configuration at the Gold Coast resort, yet the competitive nature of the Top 100 has seen Royal Pines dip in and out of the ranking. It returns this time, taking up a familiar place in the last 10.

93: Warrnambool

Previous 5 rankings: 95, NR, NR, NR, NR 

Best criterion: Shot Options

A recurring, if sporadic, resident of the last quarter of our ranking through the years, Warrnambool is an important part of the coastal golf scene in Victoria. Buoyed by solid scores for Shot Options, a renewed (and wiser) approach to vegetation management also sat well with our judging panel.

92: Riversdale

Previous 5 rankings: 91, NR, NR, 97, 95

Best criterion: Shot Options

Another perennial 90s dweller yet one that repeatedly shows across-the-board scoring improvement, thanks to the ongoing design tweaks by Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford. Riversdale remains one of the few non-Sandbelt courses in Melbourne to continually command attention.

91: Secret Harbour

Previous 5 rankings: 94, 89, 80, 76, 76

Best criterion: Shot Options

A minor lift on the back of a higher Shot Options score, achieved thanks to several new tees and a revamped third hole. Secret Harbour, which melds wetlands with a dunescape on the coast south of Perth, formerly ranked in the 20s and 30s but has found a more consistent home in the last quarter of our list.

90: Monash

Previous 5 rankings: 98, NR, NR, 91, 90 

Best criterion: Conditioning

Fortifies its place in the Top 100 after missing out twice. Monash’s considered design changes – most recently a new 17th green complex – have helped its cause. The only low spot in our criteria was for Layout Variety, yet overall the course hasn’t ranked higher than this since 2006.

89: Federal

Previous 5 rankings: 80, 80, 88, 87, 97

Best criterion: Conditioning

A slightly odd fall (although still its fifth straight time in the 80s) for Canberra’s second-best course, yet one explained by the narrow gaps in scores at the lower end of the ranking. Federal has significant redesign plans looming once the proposed retirement village project on its land goes ahead.

88: Cypress Lakes

Previous 5 rankings: 90, 88, 85, NR, NR

Best criterion: Shot Options

This is the first time Cypress Lakes has stayed in the Top 100 four consecutive times and is due reward for a course that halted its ageing process a few years ago via a thorough renovation. The magnificent shaping and changes of scenery are highlights of a course that polled consistently in each category.

87: Twin Waters

Previous 5 rankings: NR, NR, NR, NR, NR

Best criterion: Conditioning

A first appearance since 2010, this ultra-popular resort course on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast blends links-style contours and features with a tropical climate. Anecdotally, Twin Waters often surfaced in any discussion of courses that were unlucky to miss out on our Top 100, making its return unsurprising.

86: Castle Hill

Previous 5 rankings: 89, Om, 93, 88, 82

Best criterion: Shot Options

The period after the Bob Harrison-led redesign continues to see minor improvements on our list for the north-western Sydney layout. Castle Hill returned to the tournament spotlight to much acclaim in February for the Webex Players Series’ Sydney stop.

85: The Heritage (St John)

Previous 5 rankings: 97, NR, 94, 80, 62 

Best criterion: Challenge

The renaissance goes on for the Jack Nicklaus design in Victoria’s Yarra Valley after a period of neglect that saw Nicklaus’ design company remove its signature label. That’s history now as the course is a PGA Tour of Australasia tournament host once again and a fixture in our ranking.

84: Narooma

Previous 5 rankings: 85, 82, 89, 85, 88

Best criterion: Aesthetics

A sixth consecutive place in the 80s highlights Narooma’s consistent popularity – rarely in our ranking does a course in the always-volatile second 50 move no more than seven places across an entire decade. It naturally scored high marks for Aesthetics, but Shot Options wasn’t far behind.

83: Pacific Harbour

Previous 5 rankings: 76, 74, 65, 60, 51

Best criterion: Challenge

It’s five straight slips for the Bribie Island course, which was one of several to draw substantially higher panellist visitation during this ranking cycle.
The Ross Watson design is lauded for its Shot Options and Challenge, yet this time it lost a little ground across the five other criteria.

82: Mollymook (Hilltop)

Previous 5 rankings:  92, 92, NR, NR, NR 

Best criterion: Aesthetics

A favourite of many on the NSW South Coast, Mollymook’s Hilltop course now sits in its highest ranking since 2000. The Hilltop’s best may be yet to come, too, as the club embarks on a renovation plan that will cover three holes annually for the next six years.

81: Stonecutters Ridge

Previous 5 rankings: 75, 70, 72, 67, 67 

Best criterion: Shot Options

One of several courses to slip slightly in this ranking while drawing more consistent scores across our seven criteria. Numerically, Stonecutters Ridge exhibits no stark weakness, with one of the more even sets of scores in the Top 100.

80: Palmer Coolum

Previous 5 rankings: 96, 97, NR, 70, 47

Best criterion: Shot Options

The comeback continues for the Sunshine Coast favourite. Plenty of our panellists commented on the attention being shown towards its rejuvenation, particularly the renovated bunkers. The days of Coolum hosting the Australian PGA Championship seem like a distant memory, but the course is edging its
way back.

79: Settlers Run

Previous 5 rankings: 86, 79, 74, 72, 65

Best criterion: Challenge

Four straight slides on our list are arrested by a seven-spot leap for the sleeper course in Melbourne’s south-east. If there’s an area for improvement, Settlers Run’s scores for Conditioning didn’t keep pace with the other criteria, the second ranking cycle in a row where that’s been evident.

78: Brisbane

Previous 5 rankings: 87, 85, 81, 96, NR

Best criterion: Shot Options

The course bounced back from severe flooding two years ago to reach its highest ranking since 1998. The recent and judicious tree-clearing is a positive move for the layout while, once again, Brisbane owns one of the lower 50’s most consistent sets of scores across our judging criteria.

77: The Heritage (Henley)

Previous 5 rankings: NR, NR, NR, NR, 94

Best criterion: Shot Options

More positive signs out of the Yarra Valley with both courses at The Heritage making the grade for the first time in a decade. Of the five occasions when both Heritage courses have featured in the Top 100, this is the first time the more undulant and rustic Henley layout has bettered the St John.

76: Sanctuary Coves (Palms)

Previous 5 rankings: 74, 71, 59, 48, 63

Best criterion: Conditioning

After peaking in 48th place here in 2016, the Ross Watson-designed version of the Palms course has now endured four straight falls. Yet it still ranks higher than its return ranking of 77 in 2012, the year after the redesign. Such volatility suggests a layout that’s difficult to interpret, but based on our panel’s evaluations, a wide bandwidth of appeal is perhaps a more apt descriptor.

75: Black Bull

Previous 3 rankings: 73, 68, 76 

Best criterion: Conditioning

A course that appears to have found its ‘home’ on our list, with now four rankings around the same mark. Black Bull keeps its mantle as the best course along the Murray River and returned a set of scores remarkably similar to its first three rankings.

74: Sanctuary Lakes

Previous 5 rankings: 88, 90, 82, 77, 69

Best criterion: Challenge

A healthy leap best explained by the closeness of scores in this part of the ranking, but also due to improved scores in four of the seven criteria. Sanctuary Lakes is now the highest-ranked Melbourne course that isn’t on or attached to the city’s famed Sandbelt.

73: Killara

Previous 5 rankings: 83, Om, NR, NR, NR

Best criterion: Conditioning

The rise of Killara continues after 18 years in the rankings wilderness before an astute redesign by course architect Harley Kruse sparked its revival by rebuilding the bunkers and greens, and adding Zoysia and Pure Distinction grasses. This is the course’s highest ranking since it sat 70th way back in 1989.

72: RACV Cape Schanck

Previous 5 rankings: 72, 75, NR, NR, NR

Best criterion: Shot Options

A course that’s remained ultra-steady since returning in our 2020 ranking. The Cape Schanck layout is often compared to the Old course at its neighbour The National, with many common features evident across the two Robert Trent Jones Jnr designs.

71: Mount Compass

Previous 5 rankings: 77, 73, 96, NR, 99

Best criterion: Shot Options

Survived a forced redesign to two holes and came out smiling, at least in terms of our list (this is Mount Compass’ highest ranking yet). When a local council edict allowed for several residential lots to be developed in the corner of the course encompassing the second green and third tee, the club had no choice but to act. The changes cost the second hole but arguably improved the third.

70: Glades

Previous 5 rankings: 68, 63, 54, 51, 57

Best criterion: Shot Options

The Gold Coast course is gradually inching down the ranking, but mostly in little slips rather than dramatic tumbles. A rare Queensland course with bentgrass greens, Glades’ scores for Shot Options, Challenge and Layout Variety remain strong while Conditioning was its weak point this time around.

69: Lakelands

Previous 5 rankings: 70, 66, 56, 56, 68

Best criterion: Shot Options

A nudge back into the 60s for another Gold Coast course, this one owning a much more consistent historical ranking. Sure, Lakelands experienced an up-and-down first few rankings since debuting in 1998, but it has dwelt in the high 50s, 60s and 70s ever since the 2006 list.

68: Meadow Springs

Previous 5 rankings: 82, 84, 73, 78, 70

Best criterion: Shot Options

Its highest rank since 2012 comes on the strength of upticks in almost every category. As a golf course, Meadow Springs has remained relatively unchanged since it opened, but curiously it’s one that has bounced around our ranking on occasion.

67: Rosebud (North)

Previous 5 rankings: 84, NR, NR, NR, NR

Best criterion: Conditioning

The largest jump of any course from within the 2022 ranking. The North course at Rosebud’s biannual use as a tournament venue has helped its exposure to golfers, but in truth the improvement has come ever since its Ogilvy Cocking Mead-led redesign and ensuing refinements.

66: Pacific Dunes

Previous 5 rankings: 67, 59, 53, 54, 55

Best criterion: Challenge

Another course that was slipping only to receive a tiny uplift this time. Pacific Dunes repeatedly draws strong scores in the Shot Options, Challenge and Layout Variety categories, but if there are areas for improvement, they’re in Aesthetics and Conditioning.

65: Pelican Waters

Previous 5 rankings: Om, 78, 61, 59, 58

Best criterion: Shot Options

A return with a bang after sitting out the 2022 ranking due to the extensive redesign work carried out by Greg Norman’s design firm. Pelican Waters was back open only for the last eight months of this ranking cycle yet still managed to return to a familiar position on our list. The potential for a higher spot in 2026 appears strong.

64: 13th Beach (Creek)

Previous 5 rankings: 71, 76, 84, 74, 77

Best criterion: Conditioning

The highest mark yet for the ‘little sister’ course at 13th Beach. The Creek does have some holes on the back nine that could use some design enhancements, yet overall it continues to build a reputation of its own. As with the Beach course, recent bunker removals represent positive steps.

63: Cottesloe

Previous 5 rankings: 78, 72, 66, 64, 78

Best criterion: Shot Options

One of several courses in the middle realms of the ranking to enjoy double-digit rises, Cottesloe continues to flourish as its Graham Marsh-led redesign nears its completion. The Perth course also owns the uncommon distinction of appearing in every Top 100 ranking since our inaugural list in 1986.

62: Curlewis

Previous 5 rankings: 69, 69, 77, NR, NR

Best criterion: Shot Options

It’s a healthy rise to a high-tide mark for the part bushland, part Sandbelt-style course on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula. Curlewis is now a modern and multi-functional facility, but the core remains its golf course, which continues to improve. The criteria that focus on design are its scoring hallmarks.

61: Links Lady Bay

Previous 5 rankings: 65, 67, 60, 57, 61

Best criterion: Shot Options

Visitation has always been crucial for the course on the coastline south of Adelaide, and this time saw almost double the number of panellists visiting Links Lady Bay. The layout agreed with their discerning eyes, leading to firmer numbers across each judging criterion compared to 2022.

60: Bougle Run

Previous ranking: 63

Best criterion: Aesthetics

The lone non-18-hole layout in the Top 100 edges up a touch in its second inclusion. The answer about how to rate a 14-hole course is arguably easier than how to rate a course where most golfers will use a wood only twice (there are only two par 4s and no par 5s). However, such a query is clearly secondary to the obvious fun factor that emanates from Barnbougle’s little gem, Bougle Run.

59: Sandy Links

Previous ranking: 58

Best criterion: Conditioning

The lone dip in a section of the list dotted with rises, the reworked Sandringham course loses only the smallest ground in its second ranking since the major redesign. Sandy Links loses a little ground in our Layout Variety criterion, while remaining strong across the rest.

58: Avondale

Previous 5 rankings: 64, 64, 58, 65, 66

Best criterion: Conditioning

Long lauded for its condition within a swath of bushland on Sydney’s North Shore, Avondale is far from propped up by its supreme playing surfaces alone. In this ranking period in particular, the course drew a full slate of 7.5-out-of-10 or higher average scores in every category to equal its highest-ever ranking.

57: Kalgoorlie

Previous 5 rankings:  62, 58, 62, 61, 60

Best criterion: Aesthetics

More panel members submitted evaluations for Kalgoorlie this ranking cycle than ever before. Collectively, they liked what they saw as the desert course reaches its highest ranking yet. The Graham Marsh design has sat within a
16-spot window in our ranking throughout its time, a sign of its consistent appeal.

56: Sorrento

Previous 5 rankings: 61, 60, 67, 66, 72

Best criterion: Conditioning

Not quite at its ranking peak (the course ranked in the 40s during the less-competitive 1980s), yet Sorrento touches its highest mark this century. Ongoing design upgrades by Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford are reaping results for the cherished course on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

55: The Western Australian

Previous 5 rankings:  59, 56, 55, 49, 50

Best criterion: Conditioning

Continues to be a quiet achiever as it maintains a home in the 50s with minimal fanfare. The Perth club has developed a foothold in this section of the ranking with consistent overall scores once again. The recontouring of the last two holes has now seen two full years of play and strengthens the course’s finish.

54: Spring Valley

Previous 5 rankings: 54, 55, 52, 53, 53

Best criterion: Conditioning

The ridiculously consistent Melbourne course holds firm in familiar territory (it’s now seven times in a row in the 50s). Spring Valley might lack the grandeur of its Sandbelt brethren, but it continues to impress our panellists. By the numbers, Distinctiveness was its only down spot this time around.

53: The Vintage

Previous 5 rankings: 51, 51, 46, 43, 45

Best criterion: Shot Options

The lowest rank yet for a course that has spent its entire existence within what is now a 13-place spread. Twenty years is about the time when golf courses begin to show their age, but The Vintage, which opened in 2003, is taking steps towards rejuvenation with a recent refurbishment of its bunkers and surrounds.

52: Grange (East)

Previous 5 rankings: 56, 53, 48, 47, 40

Best criterion: Conditioning

Call it the LIV Golf effect, as both courses at The Grange experienced a spike in our ranking. While much was made of the spectacle of the inaugural LIV Adelaide tournament, the two golf courses shone (LIV uses nine holes from each). Many of our panellists saw the course in the period either side of the event.

51: Links Hope Island

Previous 5 ranking: 50, 47, 43, 37, 41

Best criterion: Shot Options

A first time outside the top 50 for this Gold Coast icon, which last year unveiled a redesigned third hole (now a par 4) on the heels of a new ninth hole (now a par 3) that opened in 2021. In our ranking, Links Hope Island is just one example of a course that emerged amid much fanfare before settling.

50: Port Fairy

Previous 5 rankings:  55, 57, 71, 79, 73

Best criterion: Aesthetics

A fourth consecutive climb for the coastal Victorian gem as it enters the top half of our list for the first time. Port Fairy is another paragon of a remote course that managed to draw more eyeballs this cycle (more than 30 panellists saw it) and impressed those who made the journey.

49: Portsea

Previous 5 rankings: 49, 52, 57, 62, 54

Best criterion: Shot Options

No movement this time for the Mornington Peninsula favourite, which has been slinking its way up our list in recent years. Portsea continues to generate strong Shot Options scores, which is its perennial rankings backbone, yet it illustrates no flaws across our judging criteria.

48: Moonah Links (Open)

Previous 5 rankings: 47, 45, 41, 36, 31

Best criterion: Challenge

After an initial infatuation gave the Open course at Moonah Links an inflated ranking, it has since settled into the middle realms of our list with now a fourth straight result in the 40s. Although this is its lowest mark, Peter Thomson’s leviathan slightly improved its overall score set from 2022.

47: Concord

Previous 5 rankings:  46, 46, Om, 52, 59

Best criterion: Conditioning

With three rankings now under its belt since the Tom Doak-led redesign, Concord’s investment has improved the layout just enough in the rankings realm to call it a success. It’s undoubtedly a superior version today, as reflected by a score set in which the course has risen in each criterion compared to pre-2018.

46: St Michael’s

Previous 5 rankings: 60, 61, 70, 68, 75

Best criterion: Shot Options

The Sydney course proves how grass conversion and sensible green redesigns can make an impact. With 14 of its 18 greens now rebuilt (a nod here to Ben Chambers from Centreline Golf Design) and a now-complete switch to couch fairways – a better fit for the coastal site – “St Mick’s” is in career-best form.

45: Moonah Links (Legends)

Previous 5 rankings: 43, 41, 34, 29, 19

Best criterion: Shot Options

If the Legends course at Moonah Links were a cricketer, it would surely be Steve Waugh – excellent in all forms and just marginally better than its twin. So continues the trend for the Mornington Peninsula duo, as the Legends nips the Open course by a few spots yet again. Despite a dip this time, it’s another course to return stronger overall scores.

44: Terrey Hills

Previous 5 rankings: 48, 49, 42, 41, 46

Best criterion: Challenge

This denizen of the 40s continues its hold on a place in the ‘fifth 10’, where it has now landed nine straight times. Terrey Hills earned this rise on the strength of a series of upgrades to the layout in recent years under the watchful eye of the original co-designer, Graham Marsh.

43: Elanora

Previous 5 rankings: 45, 42, 45, 46, 38

Best criterion: Conditioning

The secluded layout set high above Sydney’s Northern Beaches regains some ground thanks to impressive scores across the board. While supreme Conditioning is Elanora’s hallmark, a few new and expanded tees in recent times represent small but meaningful improvements.

42: Grange (West)

Previous 5 rankings:  44, 43, 44, 44, 43

Best criterion: Shot Options

Another uber-consistent course in the middle of the ranking, but one getting a nice little upward bump – perhaps thanks to LIV Golf, like the club’s East course. As in 2022, Grange West’s overall scores were buoyed by excellence in the potent Shot Options/Challenge/Conditioning combination.

41: Brookwater

Previous 5 rankings: 34, 29, 24, 25, 32

Best criterion: Challenge

Few courses bounce within our ranking quite like Brookwater – this is the seventh time in the past 11 rankings it has moved (up or down) by seven places or more. The noticeable dip this time was in its scores for Conditioning, while the key metrics for design remain strong.

40: Sanctuary Cove (Pines)

Previous 5 rankings:  42, 44, 49, 45, 52

Best criterion: Conditioning

The renovation of Sanctuary Cove’s premier layout conducted largely during COVID saw further reward this time, having had a full ranking period to show its considerable wares. The Pines’ $4.5 million re-do (largely a greens replacement program but also reworked bunkers, tees and drainage) helped rejuvenate the entire course.

39: Bonnie Doon

Previous 5 rankings:  39, 40, 47, 55, Om

Best criterion: Shot Options

It’s a ‘push’ for the Sydney course, which maintains its highest-ever ranking here. The revamped Bonnie Doon sat out three rankings during the prolonged redesign period but has now seen five cycles and improvements each time before this. The strategic nature of what is a short-ish layout is reflected in high scores for Shot Options.

38: The Cut

Previous 5 rankings: 40, 36, 37, 42, 35

Best criterion: Aesthetics

Another course to feel a small upward nudge. The Cut is something of a quiet achiever in this ranking yet the course itself occupies some of the ‘loudest’ property in West Australian golf – set flush against the roaring Indian Ocean. While Aesthetics was its strong suit, our panel also liked the Layout Variety.

37: The Grand

Previous 5 rankings: 41, 39, 39, 35, 44

Best criterion: Shot Options

Few courses delivered more consistent scores than The Grand, which reinforced its stature as the best golf course on the Gold Coast. While an inherently private club, ours is not a ranking of accessibility, and the quality of the Greg Norman/Bob Harrison design endures more than 25 years since it opened.

36: Lonsdale Links

Previous ranking: 37

Best criterion: Distinctiveness

The smallest of rises after the reworked Lonsdale course debuted two years ago. A menagerie of architectural homages coupled with tremendous shaping yielded a multi-dimensional layout. While ever ‘fun’ remains a part of our criterion for Distinctiveness, this course will continue to win plaudits.

35: Magenta Shores

Previous 5 rankings: 38, 31, 22, 23, 26

Best criterion: Challenge

Ross Watson’s mighty oceanside layout on the NSW Central Coast halts its slide with a healthy uptick this time around. The site of the recent Women’s NSW Open warrants more tournament exposure to highlight its best features. Magenta’s scores in each criterion reveal no glaring weaknesses.

34: Bonville

Previous 5 rankings: 36, 34, 35, 33, 42

Best criterion: Aesthetics

The obvious asset at Bonville is the forested layout’s striking visual features, and indeed it polls well for Distinctiveness as well as Aesthetics. Yet the prominent design elements are given their due via strong Shot Options and Challenge results, reminding us that the popular course is no one-trick pony.

33: 13th Beach (Beach)

Previous 5 rankings: 32, 32, 32, 28, 29

Best criterion: Shot Options

A rarity in our ranking, the Beach course consistently ranks higher these days than it did when it first opened. Which isn’t to say it took time to appreciate the layout’s nuances; sometimes it just goes that way. While Shot Options was a clear leader, in no criterion did it show a blemish. As with 13th Beach’s Creek course, the shrewd bunker removal is to be applauded.

32: Glenelg

Previous 5 rankings: 35, 37, 36, 39, 39

Best criterion: Conditioning

A deserved jump but also one that’s difficult to fully gauge given that a series of design alterations are currently taking place. One of just 17 courses in Australia to figure in every one of our Top 100 rankings since 1986, Glenelg now occupies its loftiest position yet.

31: Newcastle

Previous 5 rankings: 30, 28, 20, 19, 20

Best criterion: Shot Options

We echo our words of two years ago by saying that Newcastle is on the cusp of a serious but exciting change. The long-mooted yet much-delayed redesign work by Bob Harrison that takes in new and superior land is now officially looming, with at least some impact likely in our 2026 ranking.

30: Hamilton Island

Previous 5 rankings:  33, 33, 31, 31, 37

Best criterion: Aesthetics

Only one course bettered Hamilton Island in the Aesthetics stakes after the Whitsundays course led that category two years ago. Nonetheless, the layout perched atop Dent Island improved its overall standings to author a three-spot rise and reach its highest ranking to date.

29: Royal Canberra (Westbourne)

Previous 5 rankings: 28, 25, 29, Om, 49

Best criterion: Aesthetics

The club’s grass-conversion project to Santa Ana couch that began with a single hole as a test has now seen the front nine completed (Stage 2 starts in September). While it lost a spot here, it feels like Royal Canberra’s premier 18-hole combination is on the verge of returning to its peak after some sideways and backwards steps since its OCCM redesign.

28: Royal Queensland

Previous 5 rankings: 29, 35, 33, 24, 27

Best criterion: Conditioning

The accolades stemming from two Australian PGA Championships held during this ranking cycle could not be ignored. The Mike Clayton-redesigned version of Royal Queensland has made its home in the 20s and 30s on our ranking, gaining a single place this time with universally strong scores.

27: Yarra Yarra

Previous 5 rankings: 27, Om, 51, 50, 48

Best criterion: Conditioning

No movement this time after Yarra Yarra rocketed back into the ranking two years ago. Tom Doak and Brian Slawnik’s redesign work took the Melbourne Sandbelt layout back to its Alex Russell roots, a change widely applauded. The course improved its average score despite not moving up our list.

26: The Dunes

Previous 5 rankings:  24, 23, 19, 18, 16

Best criterion: Shot Options

A perplexing drop for a layout that hasn’t risen since our 2010 ranking yet looks as impressive as ever. Instead, The Dunes simply felt the squeeze from the courses around it. Even though Shot Options led its scoring, in only one criterion did it fall short of the key 8-out-of-10 benchmark (Conditioning, 7.99).

25: St Andrews Beach

Previous 5 rankings:  25, 26, 23, 20, 21

Best criterion: Shot Options

This marks seven rankings in a row where St Andrews Beach has taken a spot in the 20s. The course remains largely untouched since its opening and is ageing well for one nudging 20 years old. It can be difficult to stand out on the golf-laden Mornington Peninsula, yet this masterpiece manages to do so.

24: Woodlands

Previous 5 rankings: 22, 27, 26, 21, 18

Best criterion: Shot Options

Another regular resident of the 20s, Woodlands is staple of this portion of our ranking. It dips a touch this time yet that is hardly cause for alarm. Expect good things in the years ahead as course architects Mike Clayton and Harley Kruse join forces to bring the best out of the layout – and the overall site.

23: Barwon Heads

Previous 5 rankings:  23, 24, 30, 27, 25

Best criterion: Conditioning

The astute greens renovation from 2010 to 2018 by Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford lifted the bar at Barwon Heads. More recently, an equally wise approach to the Bellarine Peninsula layout’s vegetation has paid dividends. The golf course is now in that happy place where the important work has been done and member and visitor enjoyment can take centre stage.

22: The Lakes

Previous 5 rankings: 18, 19, 18, 16, 14

Best criterion: Shot Options

A curious drop for last year’s Australian Open co-venue yet not one revealed by its own set of scores. The Lakes was narrowly passed by those ranked closest to it as the battle for Sydney’s second-best course switches once again. Its lowest criterion score out of 10 was still a robust 8.14 (Character).

21: Joondalup (Quarry/Dune)

Previous 5 rankings:  21, 18, 21, 17, 17

Best criterion: Distinctiveness

The unique and popular Perth resort course maintains its place as it continues to reside just either side of the 20 mark. The Quarry/Dune configuration is Joondalup’s premier 18 holes and reveals the site’s best features in what can feel like an otherworldly setting in places.

20: The Australian

Previous 5 rankings: 26, 21, 14, 12, 15

Best criterion: Conditioning

The largest climb in the top 50 belongs to last year’s main Australian Open host. After a period during which The Australian received several rankings ‘hits’, it punched back this time to re-enter the top 20. Led by a supreme score for Conditioning (placing it equal fourth nationally), “The Aus” shone this cycle.

19: The National (Old)

Previous 5 rankings:  19, 16, 15, 10, 10

Best criterion: Aesthetics

The Old course at The National stays in the teens as it takes the somewhat spurious mantle as the ‘worst’ course of the club’s three on the Mornington Peninsula. A layout that’s ranked better in the second half of its life than its first, the Old was heavily appreciated in all seven of our judging categories.

18: Kooyonga

Previous 5 rankings:  20, 22, 25, 26, 22

Best criterion: Conditioning

A fourth climb in a row for the Adelaide club, which continues to edge its way north on our ranking. Kooyonga returns to the teens for the first time since 2008 on the heels of judicious design tweaks by consulting architect Neil Crafter. Once again, our panel lauded the course for its Conditioning.

17: Lake Karrinyup

Previous 5 rankings:  17, 15, 17, 15, 9

Best criterion: Shot Options

Standing still in this part of the ranking is no failure, and so it is for Lake Karrinyup, which remains the pick of all golf courses in Western Australia despite no movement here. Of note numerically is a healthy step up in Conditioning from 2022 to this ranking.

16: The National (Gunnamatta)

Previous 5 rankings:  15, Om, 50, 38, 30

Best criterion: Shot Options

The second incarnation is the best for the Ocean-turned-Gunnamatta course at The National. Now two rankings in since the Tom Doak-led redesign, the new-look course on the club’s land closest to Bass Strait has an armada of fans who love the cerebral challenge it presents and its points of difference.

15: Peninsula Kingswood (South)

Previous 5 rankings: 16, 20, Om, Om, 36

Best criterion: Conditioning

More upward creep for the South course at Peninsula Kingswood, now three ranking cycles after its OCCM redesign. It’s a highest-yet mark for the layout, which shares many physical similarities to its sister North course, just without quite the same level of grandeur.

14: Cathedral

Previous 3 rankings: 14, 17, 16 

Best criterion: Aesthetics

It’s private, it’s remote and it’s also really good. Exclusivity was no hindrance as 37 members of our panel scored Cathedral, which is in the Cathedral Ranges of Victoria. Now a tournament venue each summer, the course owned by David and Sonya Evans is maturing nicely.

13: Ocean Dunes

Previous 3 rankings:  13, 13, 10 

Previous 3 rankings:  13, 13, 10 

The King Island course stays put once more. Ocean Dunes’ site wows golfers with exceptional vistas – the course ranked sixth nationally for Aesthetics – yet it simultaneously keeps their eyes groundward in an effort to navigate the contours in Graeme Grant’s compelling design, as evidenced by its strong Shot Options scores.

12: The National (Moonah)

Previous 5 rankings:  11, 12, 12, 11, 8

Best criterion: Conditioning

It’s a tight in-house race between the three courses at The National’s Cape Schanck site, as the Moonah keeps its edge. Another course with across-the-board appeal in our criteria, the Moonah’s land is arguably the best of the three, yet several artful design touches enhance it.

11: Metropolitan

Previous 5 rankings: 12, 14, 13, 13, 13

Best criterion: Conditioning

A minor upward move for a Sandbelt favourite that is undergoing a facelift at the hands of architects Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford, including green renovations and the reinstatement of features from yesteryear. The recent focus was on the front nine with more tweaks planned for the inward half.

10: Victoria

Previous 5 rankings: 9, 9, 11, 8, 11

Best criterion: Conditioning

Historically one of the most consistently ranked courses (it has never sat outside the six-to-12 bracket), Victoria keeps its spot among our nation’s top 10 despite dipping one place this time. Co-hosting the Australian Open in 2022 allowed the club to show off the thoughtful design alterations of recent years.

9: Royal Adelaide

Previous 5 rankings: 10, 11, 9, 14, 12

Best criterion: Shot Options

Rises in the top 10 are hard to achieve, however the subtle yet important design changes made by Tom Doak’s design firm – most recently to the 10th green – have edged the pride of South Australian golf up one place. Royal Adelaide continues to illustrate all that’s good about relatively flat golf terrain.

8: Royal Melbourne (East)

Previous 5 rankings: 8, 8, 8, 7, 7

Best criterion: Shot Options

This is now four straight appearances in eighth place for Royal Melbourne’s East course, which has sat either seventh or eighth ever since we stopped ranking only the club’s Composite layout (from 2010). By contributing only six holes to the configuration used in tournament play, the East can feel like the poor cousin. Yet it’s the holes tournament watchers and attendees don’t see that reveal its full charm.

7: Barnbougle Lost Farm

Previous 5 rankings: 7, 7, 6, 9, 6

Best criterion: Aesthetics

A fixture in the ‘second five’, the Lost Farm course at Barnbougle keeps its place on our ranking and in the hearts of golfers who return to play it time and again. Often viewed as the more variant and ‘fun’ of the two full-length courses in north-eastern Tasmania, Lost Farm can still reveal its teeth.

6: New South Wales

Previous 5 rankings:  6, 5, 5, 4, 5

Best criterion: Aesthetics

Something of a holding-pattern ranking for New South Wales as the club awaits the upcoming overhaul when architects Mackenzie & Ebert begin their major redesign project in earnest next summer. Some alterations have already taken place – including recontouring of the first and 14th fairways – but the ‘big stuff’ is coming up.

5: Peninsula Kingswood (North)

Previous 5 rankings: 5, 6, Om, 40, 34

Best criterion: Conditioning

The high praise continues for one of the best redesign projects in recent memory. OCCM, before they became OCM, uncovered the best natural features of a rollicking good site and added genuine design flair to upgrade a very good course into a great one. As magical as the revamped design is, the exceptional condition of the playing surfaces is hard to ignore.

4: Barnbougle Dunes

Previous 5 rankings: 4, 4, 4, 5, 4

Best criterion: Aesthetics

A place just off the podium once more for the original course at Barnbougle, which continues to barrage golfers with beguiling design traits and at-times capricious weather. By returning a score set that almost mirrors its 2022 numbers, there’s little surprise that the Dunes course has held its spot.

3: Kingston Heath

Previous 5 rankings:  2, 3, 2, 2, 2

Best criterion: Conditioning

Anyone who saw Kingston Heath during the 2022 Australian Open witnessed something special, yet in truth the golf course is tournament-ready for much of each year. We refer to the shape of the surfaces there, where “The Heath” sparkled yet again, however the ’22 Open also provided a window into the course’s enduring ability to test golfers, even in the current age of high-tech equipment.

2: Royal Melbourne (West)

Previous 5 rankings: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1

Best criterion: Shot Options

Is it sacrilegious to dethrone the queen of Australian golf? Perhaps. But that’s what the numbers tell us happened this time around. By a mere 0.22 of a point, Royal Melbourne West takes a step down in our ranking despite garnering an average score higher than it received in 2022. While some observers might pick holes in the outcome, by all numerical measures under our judging criteria [see page 107] the West course is currently No.2.

1: Cape Wickham

Previous 4 rankings: 3, 2, 3, 3

Best criterion: Aesthetics

The heretofore unthinkable has happened: a new No.1. Yet the writing had been on the wall, with the King Island course pushing closer towards the top spot in recent rankings than most would have realised. Where did Cape Wickham make up the ground? Partly via a site for golf that’s breathtaking in the extreme. It’s also the first time the top-ranked golf course in the land has been a completely public-access layout, a feat worth celebrating.