It’s been a year since my family and I moved back to Australia and getting to experience Australian golf courses on a regular basis again, especially ones around Melbourne that I’d never played before, has been a real treat.
With so many gems still yet to play, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. I’ll be leaving out plenty of high-ranking courses, such as the ones across the Tasman Sea, so forgive me if any, in particular, don’t get a mention. I’m not a course designer but, having played all across the world for the past 20-plus years, I think I have a fair idea of what determines a good golf course. First and foremost in that regard is playability. If I can play a round of golf with a friend who’s a high handicapper and we both enjoy it, then that’s a pretty good indication of a quality test.
Ranking golf courses is a bit like ranking your favourite wines or works of art. It’s an opinion of sorts and up to the eye of the beholder, so I don’t think there’s a right or wrong when it comes to putting them in a particular order. However, the best courses do seem to make their way on to the top of everyone’s list, and my favourite doesn’t differ from the consensus – Royal Melbourne. I do favour the West course over the East, while the Composite, well, that’s simply as good as it gets anywhere in the world. Until this past year I had never played the full West course so when I was able to experience the four holes across Cheltenham Road, it complimented the journey perfectly.
The Sandbelt in Melbourne, as we know, holds many of our country’s finest layouts. For me, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, and the recently completed Peninsula Kingswood are atop the list. I played Commonwealth for the first time this past year and it too was an instant classic. My now home club in Melbourne, Woodlands, challenges every part of one’s game, another sign of a quality course. A couple of hours’ drive north-east of Melbourne is Cathedral Lodge and I’ve been fortunate enough to play there several times recently. It’s an incredible blend of nature and golf seamlessly working together in harmony and it continues to climb my personal ranking with every visit.
There are two courses that, had I played tournaments on them regularly, would have resulted in more silverware in the trophy cabinet: Coolum and New South Wales Golf Club. Both fit my eye perfectly from the tee and probably for this reason I saved my best golf for both venues. The latter is no surprise as, given my Irish and Scottish heritage, I always feel at peace playing links-style golf.
Barwon Heads is another course with similar traits and though I’ve yet to complete the full 18 holes, the 12 I did play certainly captured my attention. Royal Adelaide and Kooyonga are two of the finest tests in the southern part of the country, while the Grange (both East and West) offers 36 holes of classic golf. Heading west, Links Kennedy Bay is an hour or so south of Perth and well worth the visit if you get the chance. It fluctuates between benign and brutal depending on the wind strength and direction. In the Perth metro area, Mount Lawley is still my favourite and will always be my ‘home’ club.
I could include many more here but really, I’m just getting started and can’t wait to cross more of our country’s finest off my list. Make sure you do, too.