It would be nigh on impossible to play Ocean Dunes without making comparisons with its more illustrious King Island neighbour. Since opening in 2016, Ocean Dunes has lived in the shadow of Cape Wickham Links. Understandably, comparisons with its older sibling are inevitable given their coastal settings and proximity to one another.
Ocean Dunes is situated on the west coast of King Island, just five minutes from the main township of Currie. It had a longer settling-in period than Wickham during the construction period and was therefore ineligible for ranking purposes.
Like Wickham, it has glorious ocean views and undulating terrain that creates the opportunity for great golf. And like Wickham, the Roaring Forties off the Southern Ocean provide a linksy experience worth travelling halfway around the world to play.
With perhaps a little bit of envy, Ocean Dunes has all the attention-seeking features of a younger offspring. It can boast that it’s longer from the back tees, plays through taller sand dunes, features greater elevation changes and has larger greens with more movement to them. However, there aren’t as many tiger and copperhead snakes as there are in the mutton-bird territory up at Cape Wickham.
Graeme Grant has designed an exhilarating layout that makes for intimidating and uncomfortable golf. There are up to six blind approaches if out of position off the tee and three blind tee shots on the second nine. The former Kingston Heath superintendent seems to delight in the visual.
Holes two, three, four, 10 and 11 play along the coastline. The short fourth plays across a wild rocky chasm to a green woven into a little promontory. Foaming white waves crashing onto the rocky shoreline add to the theatre. Painstaking work was taken during construction to ensure the surf spray wouldn’t damage the green.
The downwind 10th is just as breathtaking with a longer carry across water to a seaside green. Visible from the temporary clubhouse, it’s the most photogenic hole on the entire layout with a vivid colour contrast between the native fescues and an expansive ocean.
In places, Ocean Dunes resembles extreme golf, like a wild rollercoaster ride in an amusement park. It has tight turns and steep slopes to titillate the senses. No better is this illustrated than the 13th, an uphill par 4 of 271 metres that plays towards a green perched near the top of a towering sand dune. Yet on the very next hole is a ridiculously short par 3 of 126 metres with a vertical drop of 20 metres.
Certain holes are an acquired taste and may take several rounds to appreciate. For instance, the par-4 sixth has a semi-blind tee shot down to a two-tiered fairway with an obscured approach (depending on the route) to a punchbowl green.
Four sets of tee markers – Black Stone (6,351 metres), Light Stone (6,003 metres), Lime Stone (5,445 metres) and Abalone (4,947 metres) – cater for golfers of various abilities. It pays to be conservative off the tee unless confident with the driver. And shot-makers will better appreciate the premium that Ocean Dunes places on accuracy and strategy.
In another point of difference with its King Island sibling, Ocean Dunes features bentgrass rather than fescue greens. Regarded as the purer form of turf, the MacKenzie/Mariner creeping bentgrass enables the putting surfaces to run as fast as 10 or 11 on a Stimpmeter reading.
From a design perspective, bent is more receptive for an aerial type of game that is demanded at Ocean Dunes where the greens are more heavily bunkered at the front.
Interestingly, Grant has shown a knack for designing ‘infinity’ greens on the third, eighth and 13th holes. With approaches from the fairway, the putting surface appears to sit on the horizon so the edge of the green falls away and merges with the ocean or sky. This vanishing act gives the impression the green is at the end of the earth.
And that’s a point in itself. With its remote location, Ocean Dunes is one of the southernmost great golf courses on the planet. Undoubtedly, it would baulk at the suggestion it’s riding on the coattails of Cape Wickham. But the reality is that Ocean Dunes needs Cape Wickham and vice versa.
This fine pair of siblings has put Australia, Tasmania and King Island on the radar of the world’s golfers.
Ocean Dunes Golf Course
Where: North Rd, Currie TAS 7256
Phone: + 61 3 6462 1633