When visitors say you have some of the best opening holes in the country, you know you’re onto something pretty special. The scary part for Australian course designer Graeme Grant is that his new pride and joy, Ocean Dunes, is only half-complete and the best, perhaps, is yet to come. Such is its spectacular positioning along the rocky coastline of Tasmania’s King Island, Ocean Dunes has received a wave of rave reviews from industry experts that has Grant and his design team understandably – yet cautiously – excited. “I know it is very early days and premature to be making judgements but others have told us that we may have the best four starting holes in this country,” says Grant.
Inspired by Tasmania’s world-renowned Barnbougle Dunes design, and joining island neighbours Cape Wickham’s rapid development, Grant had been searching for coastal land in South Gippsland for six years to build his dream links play-and-stay project when a golfing friend suggested he take a look at a site advertised on King Island, where he says the prices were more realistic.
“King Island’s west coast is 64 kilometres long and is made up of links land akin to that found on the Scottish and Irish coasts in the UK, something the Australian golfing public is completely unaware of,” says Grant. “We purchased our site in December 2012 after receiving all the necessary permits, which among other things allowed us to build golf holes on a spectacular rocky coastline.”
Grant ensured he made the most of that prime rocky real estate, building six holes along 2km of coastal frontage. “The combination of massive sand dunes and rocky coast, plus a creek that comes into play on our 16th hole, gives the site the potential to be developed into a world-class golf links,” he says. “We are located just five minutes’ drive from the airport and five minutes from the main township of Currie.”
Ocean Dunes is the latest addition to an impressive port folio for Grant, who is so “hands on” with the Ocean Dunes project that he has relocated to King Island. With more than 45 years’ experience in the course design and construction business, Grant says he has been a golfer for “sadly, 10 more years than that!”
“I began my working life as a groundsman at Royal Melbourne under Claude Crockford – probably the best start anybody in that field could get,” Grant recalls. “He fostered my interest in design by lending me two classic books virtually unknown in those days – Golf Architecture by Alistair MacKenzie and Golf Architecture in America by George Thomas. I was course superintendent at Kingswood for eight years and Kingston Heath for 16, and was responsible for design advice and all alterations at both courses while I was there.”
In 1986, John Spencer – of Huntingdale fame – and Grant went into a design partnership with Jack Newton that lasted 17 years. Grant has since been operating his own business that has focused on alterations and upgrades to existing courses.
“Bernie McMahon of McMahons Golf and Sports Ground Constructions is the other hands-on director. His company is a leader in the field, building golf courses all over the country for high profile designers,” says Grant, who revealed the Ocean Dunes layout was 12 months in the making and involved countless hours assessing the site on the ground and using aerial photos. “Due to what I consider is land made for golf, the holes for the most part were already evident and it was a matter of seeking out the best I could find and link them to flow,” he says.
Ocean Dunes will be completed and ready to open at the end of 2015 with nine holes currently under different stages of construction and grassing.
“We are sure that with two potentially world-class links courses (Ocean Dunes and Cape Wickham) plus the existing nine-hole one located near town and on beautiful links land, King Island will become a special golfing destination for all who love the adventure and fun of travelling to play with friends.”
For more information, go to oceandunes.com.au