These are some of the courses that didn’t break into the Top 100 this time, or may never make it, but why our panel of judges loves them just the same.
I’ve got a soft spot for the golf course at Shoalhaven Heads, despite the fact I’ve never played it.
On assignment for this magazine on a discovery of the best courses of the South Coast of New South Wales, I popped in for a cursory look at a 12-holer occupying sandy dunes just south of Seven Mile Beach National Park. As I walked a handful of holes adjacent to the demountable that doubled as the clubhouse, I came to the realisation: I need to play this course.
Time didn’t allow it that day and opportunity has remained elusive in the decade since, but if I am ever in that part of the country again, that’s the first spot my sticks and I will be stopping.
There are short par-4s with pot bunkers sublimely placed around interesting green complexes that are just begging to have wedges fired at their flags. Very reminiscent of the Tuncurry course near Forster that was formerly a Top 100 resident, Shoalhaven Heads has since expanded to the full complement of 18 holes yet despite that and the sensational playing surfaces borne out of its sandy profile, it is a course that will never rank among the nation’s very best.
And that’s not a bad thing.
We can be charmed by layouts just as easily as they can wow us. They may not appear on the list that we will pore over in this particular issue, but they will retain a special place in each of our hearts.
We are asked often at this time of year, “What can we do to become a Top 100 course?” The truth is most clubs should not aspire to be – and don’t need to be in order to be successful. Simply find the aspect that makes your course unique and let members and visitors alike fall in love with it time and time again.
We canvassed our panel of judges and asked them to nominate the course that wasn’t among our Top 100 but that they love anyway.
Formerly known as Rosebud Park Golf Club, standing on the first tee looking down the hill of the 480-metre, par-5 first, you know you’re in for a cracking day. Apart from the amazing views of Port Phillip Bay from most of the holes, the course itself is challenging by design. While not the longest course, it has its mix of ease and challenge for all. The added bonus is the sandy base that allows for great conditioning all year round. – Troy Atkinson
My spiritual golf home, with greens generally regarded as the best in Sydney. Its conditioning is the best in recent memory and the setting is private and idyllic with the northern end of the course bordering Narrabeen Lakes and only one hole (the terrific risk-reward par-5 third) with houses alongside it. Although it is a private club, the atmosphere is welcoming and casual with friendly staff and members ranging from tradies to wealthy business owners and executives. – Tony Bradley
Located in south-west WA in the heart of the Karri forest region, Manjimup is a tight, undulating layout and heavily treed with large Karri trees. It has small grass greens that are often lightning quick and difficult to read with the heavily sloping fairways. It’s only a small club of dedicated members and one greenkeeper, but it bats well above its weight. – Greg Campbell
I first discovered Gloucester Golf Club while on a family camping trip years ago and was instantly attracted to the club’s look and feel. I have returned every year since. The design is surprisingly challenging yet very scenic at every turn. The tight-knit community supports the club so well, and although they are currently experiencing the full effects of this crippling drought, they continue to soldier on. I encourage anyone heading up that way to have a game. It’s not a Top 100 course, but it’s a must on my golf itinerary every year. – Scott Muller
It was grassed in 1992 with assistance from Murray Downs and for many years was one of only two true quality arid area courses in Australia (the other being Alice Springs). Ask anyone who played both courses at their best and they’ll tell you Broken Hill was easily the equal of its more famous sister. The course has numerous (usually dry) creeks running through the course, with these hazards coming into play on 10 holes, meandering through large arid hills and rocky outcrops on the front nine, with the back nine extending along a flatter area adjacent to the racecourse. Unfortunately, the past 10 years has seen the course suffer for a number of reasons. I’ve heard ownership and management of the course may soon go back to the members and with any luck the course will return to its former glory. I certainly hope so, as it was a fantastic course in a truly unique setting.
– Ru Macdonald
It’s unlikely to ever have the complexity to warrant Top 100 selection, but the coastal/linksy feel combined with some stunning views often draws me back. Moreover, it’s just good fun. It’s tight, and regularly requires pinpoint tee shots. You don’t front up at each hole and automatically pull out driver, which I love. Low markers might eat it up on a still day, but otherwise it presents challenge enough for all under prevailing winds. Conditioning is also always good.
– Tim Browne
One of only a few public courses in Adelaide and still holds one of my fondest memories on a golf course. A redesign of the course has seen the bland, 110-metre, par-3 16th hole long since gone. The hole was on flat ground with a shallow bunker left of the green. It holds such a special place in my heart because it was the scene of my first par in my first game of golf at about 13 years of age. A cracking shot in fading light with a borrowed permission 4-wood found the green and two putts later saw me hooked on this crazy game. – David Chantrell
This 27-hole course on the NSW North Coast has character to burn. All the starting holes pose some interesting questions to open your round and the finishing holes are just as challenging. The course is affected by wind direction, which makes for much consideration when playing any shot, and the couch fairways with Bermuda 328 greens are always in great condition. Its southern neighbour Bonville gets all the attention, but I think all players will enjoy this course too. – Mark McDonald
I grew up 10 metres from a public golf course in Melbourne originally called East Malvern but now known as Malvern Valley. I spent all my childhood at the course and it has been a huge part of my life ever since. As a six-year-old, I received a few clubs for Christmas and played my first round of golf the next day. The course itself would be lucky to break into the Top 200, but it has some great holes and is normally in great condition. There is a creek in play on about 10 holes and many risk/reward shots during the course of a round. The course holds an extremely sentimental place in my life and I am eternally grateful to my parents for choosing to live opposite a golf course.
– Ross Hildebrand
Many of us have experienced the joys of a rural golf course and the fact that visitors are made to feel like members or, even better, old friends. Moss Vale excels at this. The country charm is expanded by historic Dormie House, an elegant guesthouse that overlooks the 18th green. Moss Vale is a quality par 71 with par 4s that measure more than 400 metres and the par-5 17th is in excess of 500 metres and uphill all the way. The course embraces the current ideology of width and angles on many holes, starting with the first that entices you to play away from fairway mounding on the right-hand side of the hole to the relative safety of the flatter fairway on the left, while playing through an avenue of well-established trees. Once you reach your ball, many discover, to their detriment, that although still eminently playable from the left you must now take on the deep greenside bunker. Many times the course offers this choice off the tee; a safe line from the tee may lead to a longer or much more difficult line to the green, though for the mid to high-handicap golfer, there is always a safer way to the putting surface. Moss Vale is a Top 100 course in my heart and I love to see the look of surprise on the faces of the visitors who play there. – Robert Shakeshaft
There’s nothing worse than looking forward to your weekend round only to find it’s going to be 41 degrees. You either decide to pull the pin or tee off at 7.30am, optimistically hoping to beat the heat but your glove is wringing wet with sweat before the turn. This is a common problem in central Victoria, so Trentham Golf Club in the Hepburn Shire serves as something of an oasis. It’s almost always five to 10 degrees cooler than most of the state, and being a cooler and wetter climate, it’s usually in great condition compared to most rural courses too. And the gentle nature of the course makes it fun for all with a couple of driveable par 4s for longer hitters, reachable par 5s and a pair of charming little par 3s from elevated tees with greens that sit adjacent to each other next to a small stream. When it is open, the clubhouse boasts the best homemade sausage rolls you can find served by the lovely ladies who volunteer their time. Trentham is our golf saviour and our happy place during heat waves and for this reason it’s in my unsung Top 100. – Haydn Fyffe
Also known as the ‘Royal & Ancient Berridale’, Coolamatong is nestled in a valley of the Snowy Mountains and is a wonderful 18-hole course run by senior members. On what would otherwise be described as a fairly flat parcel of land, there are a few holes with elevation changes, bunkers are sparse and there are only two holes where water comes into play. If you’re a visitor, drop $20 in the honesty box for your green fees and you’re away! – Tyson Flynn
Flat and laying upon sandy seaside soil, this gem was designed by Kel Nagle and Mike Cooper and is currently being updated by Craig Parry. This modest course is soon to host a few select NSW amateur events and build a new facility with a golf museum. Such a delight to play and deceptively uncomplicated. – Chris Dugan
Maleny is a hidden Queensland gem in the Sunshine Coast hinterland that recently went from a 12-hole fun course to a very good 18-hole layout. With next to no budget the club has incorporated the holes into the land and not the other way around, the elevation changes, blind shots and short par 4s all making for interesting shot selections. What is now the 11th hole features a drive over a hill with a green that sits adjacent to a small wetland and the long par 3 that follows is both visually appealing and a challenge to make par. This is pure golf, where the community has ownership of the club, from raising money to volunteering their time and equipment. It’s just the perfect little course you can play, have fun with your golf buddies, forget the world and have a nice cold beer and laugh at the end of the round in a gorgeous setting. – Richard Maxwell
The vibe of the place is 1920s. It’s just a raw piece of land that they cleared some trees on and made a golf course. – Ben Flavel
Always in great condition and upholds the traditions of the game. – Rob Mead
For a long time Belmont held one of the premier amateur tournaments in Australia, a wonderful mix of casual but very serious all in one. The winners list of the Lake Macquarie Amateur is amazing, from Bruce Devlin and Jack Newton, to Geoff Ogilvy, Jarrod Lyle and Marc Leishman. The course itself could be described as a links enigma. Beautifully situated right on the beach with spectacular views, it plays slow and soft unlike most links courses. This really suits the course and makes it playable, as a lot of the fairways would be too narrow with firm fairways. The soft kikuyu fairways also mean the course, although not long, plays its true length. Every hole runs in a slightly different direction and the par 3s and 5s cover the compass. The course is in excellent condition, is a fair test of your skills in calm conditions and par is a very good score when it gets windy. – Lester Peterson
A great bushland course that offers a fantastic collection of par 3s. The third hole, in particular, could fit in anywhere on the Melbourne Sandbelt. The whole course offers great elevation change and demands the golfer to play a variety of shots into and around the greens. The short par-4 10th is a great little hole, which will tempt many players into trying to drive the green, and is followed by the long, 405-metre, par-4 11th that is very inviting off the tee and into the green. Use of the land makes this longer hole still reachable by shorter hitters if they can hit the correct zone on the fairway. Unfortunately, the par 5s hurt the course a little but a few small changes could make this a very good course. – Luke Gallant
Yass Golf Club, New South Wales
I discovered this gem while having our yearly golf trip in Canberra. It doesn’t look anything spectacular from the clubhouse and first tee, but after you leave the first green the course opens up in front of you. The place is a great mix of flat holes and a lot of hills, some steep in places, some great long holes and a few amazing short holes, in particular the back-to-back par 3s at 15 and 16. The 16th would be one of the most fun holes around. With just a little pitching wedge into the green, many three-putts await as the green has plenty of undulation. We don’t normally play a course again after we’ve played it, but this might be an exception when we next return to Canberra. – Quintyn Fisher