What constitutes true ‘value’ when it comes to playing golf in Australia? Our editors weigh in on the best-value experiences money can buy, broken up into two categories: $50 and cheaper and less than $100. 

Value is an intangible entity and perhaps nowhere more so than in our sport. One golfer’s $250 green fee at a world-class facility is another man’s rip-off, while a $25 ‘hidden gem’ find can fail to move the needle for other golfers. It’s eye-of-the-beholder stuff that can’t truly be quantified with certainty. But we still try.

Australian Golf Digest has previously canvassed a selection our readership to ascertain where the ‘valuemeter’ sits when it comes wto green fees. Naturally there is a course quality factor at play here, but setting aside the calibre of the golf course, we asked whether there is a dollar figure that Australian golfers won’t go past when it comes to green fees, except for once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list opportunities. Opinions varied, but a common figure (also essentially a median amount) you told us was $80.

Yet rather than use that sum as our ceiling, this time we’ve straddled that amount and provided a selection of value propositions worth discovering on either side of the $80 mark, leaving the individual value calculation up to you.

Sandy Golf Links Photo by under the card

The sub-$100 club

Sandy Golf Links (green fee $55-$60)

Incredible value for a course that shares many similarities with its partner across the road, Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Sandy Links is fun and not intimidating to those who have never played golf, or who play only a handful of times a year. It is the result of a mission to revamp and rebrand Sandringham Golf Course in a bid to offer quality Sandbelt golf to the public. Sandy Links reopened in late 2020 with an 18-hole golf course designed by acclaimed Australian architect Mike Cocking, of the Ogilvy Cocking Mead firm. The course is maintained by Royal Melbourne’s greens staff and Sandy’s greens use the same Sutton’s Mix bentgrass as Royal. Complementing Sandy’s refreshing mantra, “We’re a golf facility, not a golf club,” are the recently completed putting course, 30-bay driving range and a cool café that sits deliberately in lieu of a clubhouse. See sandringham.golf for more.

Rich River

Rich River (green fee $59)

Add one more reason to visit Rich River Golf Club to the many that already exist – it’s now the home of the New South Wales Open. From March 16-19, the NSW Open, one of the most fabled tournaments on the PGA Tour of Australasia, is set to showcase some of country’s best golfers on the East course at Rich River. It was already the crown jewel of golf on the Murray, developing a reputation as the most fun club on the river thanks to the West and East courses, accommodation and a new mini-golf facility that has been hugely popular with keen golfers and non-golfers alike. There’s also a 17-bay driving range and practice area, and a new golf simulator. See richriver.com.au for more information.

Port Fairy (green fee $59-$69)

Surely no golfer has ever made the journey to the Port Fairy golf course and walked away disappointed with the voyage or unimpressed by what they found. A throwback course in so many ways, Port Fairy challenges golfers through its exposed location along Victoria’s south-west coastline where the wind can blow off your cap, and through a short but enchanting seaside layout. Short by modern standards, the 5,887-metre course punches far harder than its scorecard indicates, blowing many an unsuspecting golfer offline if they cannot manage their game in strong winds. Port Fairy has a growing legion of fans and is an ornament to the best aspects of playing golf along a volatile coastline. Jump online and visit portfairygolf.com.au for further details.

Black Bull (green fee $65-$75)

Black Bull is the 73rd-ranked golf course in the country in Australian Golf Digest’s most recent Top 100 Courses ranking. The layout is heavily bunkered, the fairways are generous and so are the greens, which makes it something of a ‘resort links course’. The Black Bull layout meanders between a series of small lakes before reaching a crescendo at the treacherous par-5 18th where the green hugs Lake Mulwala. “We’ve got 14 holes which actually have water,” says James McCully, Black Bull’s director of golf. “Out of those 14 there’s probably only two you’ve actually got to hit over [water].” Always sparking conversation is when golfers walk or drive through a ranch-style entrance at the fourth, marking the start of a demanding three-hole stretch in the south-eastern corner of the course dubbed the ‘Bull Ring’. It’s the course’s take on Amen Corner, with the par-3 fourth stretching to 180 metres and calling for a forced carry over water while the par-4 sixth plays longer than 400 metres from the back tees and into a prevailing westerly wind, making it the most difficult hole on the course. Visit silverwoodsyarrawonga.com.au/black-bull-golf-course for further details.

Mount Osmond

Mount Osmond (green fee $50-$80)

Mount Osmond Golf Club offers golfers the best views in Adelaide. Set above the eastern side of the city, it’s not hard to figure out where the ‘Mount’ in Mount Osmond comes from. Throughout the round is a series of lookout-style views of the city and Gulf St Vincent, especially late on the front nine. Not that Mount Osmond is a one-trick pony. In between the vistas, you need to keep your head down to ensure the course doesn’t eat you alive. It’s tight, sloped and offers little to no respite. Many of the fairway bunkers are deep and the canted landing areas can propel balls into places where you either don’t want to venture or wouldn’t bother. The kikuyu fairways are kept tight rather than spongy, while it takes a keen eye to decipher the slopes. There is an abundance of uphill, downhill and sidehill lies to conquer and once the target has been found, often the greens break in a manner that doesn’t match the lie of the surrounding land. Visit mogc.com.au for further details.

Mollymook Hilltop

Mollymook Hilltop (green fee $79)

Plenty of courses in Australia get compared to Augusta National, from Bonville on the NSW North Coast to Royal Canberra and even Castle Hill in Sydney. But we feel the strongest resemblance to the home of the Masters is the Hilltop course at Mollymook Golf Club. Why? Well, the spectacular flora, dramatic hills and lush, green fairways – as well as the slick greens – combine to make comparisons to Augusta National difficult to avoid while playing on this NSW South Coast masterpiece. While several holes in the middle of the round at the Bill Andriske/Ken McKay design sit on a flat piece of the property, there are at least 12 holes at Mollymook Hilltop with strong changes in elevation – and plenty of sidehill lies. See mollymookgolf.com.au for more information.

Kooralbyn Valley

Kooralbyn Valley (green fee $70-$90)

Staying close to the beach is where all the action is on the Gold Coast, but there’s still plenty to see and do further inland. Kooralbyn Valley is home to a course that’s lived a curious and chequered life since opening in 1979 and staging the Queensland Open a mere two years later. The Desmond Muirhead-designed layout captivated golfers for years but slipped slowly into the background as more courses emerged in a coastal cluster. Later, it slid into disrepair and the course closed between 2008 and 2016 before Peter Huang purchased and re-opened the course and set about re-energising it and the adjoining resort in a multi-million-dollar makeover. Every green was rebuilt, the bunkers reshaped and refurbished with pure white sand and a new irrigation system installed. With a drawing power from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and a locational appeal all its own, Kooralbyn Valley is back in the frame. Visit thekooralbynvalley.com.au/golf2/ for further details.

Flinders (green fee $85)

More than 110 years old, historic Flinders Golf Club is a coastal classic that runs along the Mornington Peninsula’s south-eastern edge, a beautiful stretch of cliffside land overlooking Bass Strait and Western Port Bay. With tight, well-conditioned fairways and demanding approach shots, it’s a great test and a lot of fun – for a good price. See flindersgolfclub.com.au for more information.

Calderwood Valley

The $50-and-less club

Calderwood Valley (green fee $29-$35)

Just 20 minutes south of Wollongong, and within minutes of Albion Park, sits the tranquil and hidden Calderwood Valley Golf Club. Calderwood’s Australiana influence is evident in the gum trees, meandering creeks and an exciting series of valley-like holes that snake through woodlands – like the par-5 12th hole. A downhill tee shot sets up an exciting and challenging approach to a green carved into the side of a hill. Set on 30 hectares of green farmland, the par-70 layout, which was designed by McKay & Sons, utilises its rugged Illawarra Escarpment surrounds as a backdrop. It also might be the most welcoming course on the NSW South Coast, and that’s saying something considering the “southern hospitality” within a few hundred kilometres of coastal golf. Calderwood prides itself on being the “South Coast’s friendliest golf facility” given anyone can walk in, while the green fees are affordable. Eighteen holes will cost you just $29 on weekdays and $35 on the weekend, while there’s also a twilight rate after 2pm, seven days. Social groups and players are welcome. See calderwoodgolf.com.au for more.

Camden Golf Club

Camden (green fee $30)

Course superintendent Justin Bradbury has taken his expertise working at prestigious courses around the world and transformed the historic Camden Golf Club, 50 minutes’ drive south-west of Sydney’s CBD, into an impressive course. Camden, or “Studley” as it is affectionately named after the Studley Park mansion that stands over the 18th green, has occupied its current site since 1950. The Studley Park property has a history that goes back more than 200 years and has been owned by individuals, a private school, the Army and now a golf club. Bradbury has worked at courses from The Australian in Sydney to American courses such as Scarsdale Golf Club and Congressional Country Club, where Rory McIlroy won the 2011 US Open. Bradbury has made significant changes in both the look and quality of the course in recent years, including a facelift of the par-5 eighth hole and a transformation of the ninth from a short par 4 into a stunning, long par 3. Meanwhile, head professional Stuart Meani has developed an excellent junior program. Visit camdengolfclub.com.au for more information.

Mt Isa (green fee $35)

Greg Norman spent the first three months of his life in Mount Isa, although naturally the baby Shark didn’t wield a club there in early 1955. Which is a shame, for he would have walked (crawled?) away with a lasting memory. The course is the only one in north-western Queensland with grass greens and the 18-hole layout uses its barren environment to full effect. “Our rocks are our bunkers,” laughs secretary-manager Margie McDonald of the sand-less course. The past few years have seen a focus on improving the layout’s irrigation. All tees, greens and almost all the fairways are now grassed, which is a vast improvement from when the fairways were almost dirt and rock. “We’ve now got very distinctive fairways and a little bit of a rough and then the ‘rough’ rough,” McDonald says of the desert terrain. “It’s quite a challenging course, actually. We get a lot of players who come from down south that play off fairly low handicaps and it’s quite challenging for them. People love the course. They’re quite surprised we’ve got such a well-kept course – grass on it out in the Outback. A lot of people come here expecting it to be a lot more dirt.” Phone (07) 4743 2371 for further details.

Wembley (green fee $37-$44)

Perth’s leading public golf facility offers numerous reasons to visit – a modern driving range, mini-golf, a café – but the showpiece is the 36 holes on offer. The Old and Tuart courses at Wembley are both set in an undulating landscape that winds between tuart and banksia trees. Wembley’s proximity to the beach sees wind come into play each afternoon, and the tree-lined fairways of the Old course have been a staple of the Perth golf diet since 1932. The original routing is still in play, with several dogleg holes and short par 4s providing a challenging yet rewarding round. The Tuart course has evolved since the first nine was completed in 1959 and is a slightly shorter and tighter test than the Old. The front nine has water in play on four holes, with the par-4 fifth the favourite for many players. Its tee shot requires an accurate driver or 3-wood, leaving a mid-range approach to a green surrounded on three sides by water. The inward nine then wanders through a tuart forest, placing a premium on driving accuracy. Visit wembleygolf.com.au for more.

Gerringong Golf Club

Gerringong (green fee $30-$45)

Here’s a course that belongs in the conversation of best-value oceanside courses on the east coast of Australia. Set in a natural amphitheatre and inside rolling hills between Gerringong and Geroa on the NSW South Coast, Gerringong Golf Club starts at the top of a spectacular hill and zigzags down to the ocean before coming back up at the turn and the finish. Every hole has stunning views of the ocean. It also provides a good test of golf, especially when the weather turns windy. It’s a lot of fun, with elevated tee shots, uphill approaches and small greens. Most of all, it’s down-to-earth and charming. See gerringonggolf.com.au for more information.

In both camps

Lakeside Camden (green fee $40-$60)

A course that is both sub-$50 and above that mark, depending on the day of the week you play (with the cheaper rate applying on weekdays). The late, great, Peter Thomson, a five-time British Open champion, used his unrivalled knowledge of English and Scottish links courses to transplant elements of the UK style to south-west Sydney’s idyllic Macarthur region. Thomson chose one of Australia’s oldest wine regions to position the par-72, 6,400-metre layout, just 40 minutes from Sydney’s CBD. It has everything a links course should – hard, fast and undulating fairways, pot bunkers, perched greens and hardly a flat lie on the course – but with an Australian bushland feel. The course has some tempting short par 4s where creeks and lakes come into play, as well as several open par 5s that are exposed to the wind. The course was recently redesigned and re-routed around several new holes. A must visit in Sydney. See camdenlakeside.com.au for more information.