Bill Coore could hardly contain his delight. The decorated American course architect had waited patiently for 29 months to return to his beloved Barnbougle Lost Farm layout – and see for the first time in its completed state his 14-hole Bougle Run design. But he was shut out by a pandemic that was tougher to negotiate than a 25-foot downhill, double-breaker.
His absence finally ended last week, Coore returning to Tasmania as part of a whistle-stop tour that also included a visit to his Te Arai course on New Zealand’s North Island.
Yet what had Coore’s attention as much as seeing the two courses he’d designed was the fact that Australian Golf Digest had deemed diminutive Bougle Run worthy of Top 100 classification – the first sub-18-hole course to make the list (albeit also the first time non-18-holers were eligible). It debuted in 63rd place, while the original Dunes courses and Lost Farm held their places from the 2020 ranking to remain fourth and seventh, respectively.
Coore saw our ranking as an important legitimisation of short courses and those with fewer than 18 holes.
“For years, we tried to talk to potential clients about building a nine-hole course or even a par-3 course or even a 12-hole course if they had an interesting piece of property or it wasn’t big enough to do 18 holes,” said Coore, who grew up playing par-3 courses – as did his design colleague, two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. “But the conversations went absolutely nowhere because it was considered to be not proper golf.
“I just told Ben [about Bougle Run’s ranking in Australian Golf Digest] and he goes, ‘That’s fantastic!’ We so tried to get people to do it but we couldn’t convince them to do it.”
Barnbougle owner Richard Sattler, however, was one who did see the merit in the concept. He was equally effusive.
“It’s amazing, because I never even thought about [being ranked in the Top 100] for the short course,” Sattler says. “The short course was done purely to add something to the Barnbougle experience. We wanted to make it fun with no view of it being in ratings or those sorts of accolades. But we wouldn’t have had it open a week before we realised it was something special.
“I’m rapt. I saw a press release that said Barnbougle’s got three courses in the Top 100. Sometimes I have to stop and actually understand what we’ve done here.”
With now three courses – totalling 52 holes – the Barnbougle complex is second only to The National Golf Club’s four courses, which are spread across two sites, when it comes to overall size.
But back to Coore, who last saw the Bougle Run site in December 2019 and had to supervise construction from the other side of the world, relying on technology to oversee its progress and trusting in his shapers’ nous. He says there was no intent to make the course 14 holes, that’s just how it turned out with the land he had at his disposal and the shapes it lent itself to.
“So long as it’s interesting, that’s all I care about, and showcases the big dunes. I’d love to take credit for what’s sitting out there, because it’s fantastic, but all I can do is stand and applaud,” Coore says of his team, which includes John Hawker and Riley Johns.
Hawker, Johns and Sattler’s course staff deserve the credit Coore affords them, yet it was Coore who knew for some time the inherent potential of the land that Bougle Run now sits on. He’d seen and walked the land that now houses holes three to 12 on Bougle Run when designing the Lost Farm course, recognising the possibilities for shorter holes within the elevated dunescape.
“I knew it was there and I knew it was big,” Coore says. “It was extremely dramatic but at the same time it didn’t lend itself to bigger holes. You’d have to bulldoze it away to build long holes.”
Perish the thought. Instead, bigger is not better – and Barnbougle is richer for the arrival of its latest little sister. Bougle Run may well have started a movement in Australia for more courses just like it.
TOP/MAIN PHOTO: Gary Lisbon