A really fun course to play and very well routed. I thought it superior from a routing, interest, and challenge to Lost Farm, but to be fair it is on better land. I did like Lost Farm a lot, but I like the Dunes course more. The course does not have “too- much” undulating greens a course built by Tom Doak course often has. Much like Lost Farm, some of the fairways of the par 5's are a too wide. The par 3’s are really good. Wind really affects the score here more than at Lost Farm.
I thought the best holes are 1-3, 6-8, 12, 15 and 17.
Tom Doak and Mike Clayton’s Links Course is superior to the Coore/Crenshaw design in almost every way. Amazingly, the back nine was laid out the exact opposite of how it was finally built. Good thing as it is terrific. As with all of Tom Doak's work, the course builds throughout to a strong finish. I liked the course even more the second time I played it on the same day and suspect I would love playing it every time.
Is it Doak’s best work? Pacific Dunes and Ballyneal are better. I regret not playing St Andrews Beach while in Melbourne as I have heard many consider it his finest routing. But I liked Barnbougle Duness more than Lost Dunes, Old Macdonald, and Sebonack.
Too often I think Tom Doak builds three-four crazy greens on his courses as he believes that is necessary to defend the hole, but on the Dunes he refrained from doing so. As is typical of Tom Doak, the green complexes are very good and fun to play.
The best holes are 1, 3, 6-9, 12, 15 and 17. It does not have as many great holes as some of the other courses of his that I have played, yet there is a real consistency throughout.
Typically Doak builds a wonderful very short par 3 which he did here with the 7th hole playing about 120 yards but uphill into a wind which normally is very brisk. The green is surrounded by bunkers and run-offs so hitting the middle of the green is a must. It is a joy. The other par 3's are longer but downhill built into the sides of hills so that shots slightly errant can still find their way into the green or even close to the pin.
There is a wonderful mixture of short and long par 4's and par 5's with mostly raised greens. The driving lines are wide enough on most of the holes not to get into trouble, so as with typical Doak, the challenge is in the approach shot.
It is a joy to play particularly after the fourth hole when you take a nice walk along the coastline to the next tee.
The first hole, hitting through a dune area has a wider fairway than it appears from the tee. I understand why given the wind we were playing into on our first round but in hindsight it feels too wide to me. There is an excellent green at the end of the hole, slightly raised from the fairway.
The second hole is a fairly flat 410-380 yard hole. I felt this was the least challenging hole on the golf course.
The third is a par 4 of 340 yards hitting through the dunes to a very well bunkered green. This hole was really beautiful and for some reason really caught my eye.
The fourth hole, a short par 4 of 280 yards playing downhill tempts the long hitter to fly the large bunker that guards the hill on the right side of the fairway. I played down the left one time and laid up in front of that large bunker the second time leaving a blind shot in to the green that sits high above you. It requires a blind shot but a ball missed slightly to the right will still find its way down onto the green with has several slopes and pitches to it but is not overly done. I thought the hole was a lot of fun and took perfect use of the land. Maybe I should have listed this as one of the better holes.
The fifth is a long par 3 of 200-225 yards that plays downhill with a dune on the right about one-third of the way from the tee blocking the right side of the green. A miss should be to the left of the green as there is a lot of danger short and right. It is another fun hole and the tee has a view of the coastline.
The sixth is a marvelous par 4 of 390-415 yards playing downhill through the dunes and then back up slightly at the end to a green tucked into different dunes. It is absolutely splendid.
The seventh is the marvelous short par 3 of 120-140 yards playing uphill back at the coastline. Wind was a factor on both of the rounds. There is a large bunker well short of the green so any miss of this hole should be short center. The bunkers left of the green are very deep and a recovery shot will likely not get close to this undulating green. It is a fantastic short hole and once again takes perfect advantage of the terrain.
For me, the eighth, a long downhill par 4 of 450-480 yards playing through the dunes to a green that it ultimately back up on a shelf hidden in the dunes, was the most difficult hole on the golf course. The fairway has an upper shelf or lower shelf to play into with the upper shelf offering a slightly better view of what is required for the second shot. I loved this hole and consider it one of the better par 4’s I have ever played and wouldn’t care what my score was on the hole.
The ninth is a long 390-440 yard par 4 playing slightly downhill to a rolling fairway of mounds and humps that is slanted left to right. The green sits right in front of the clubhouse and has huge bunkers on the right front as well as bunkers behind it. The play into the hole is from the left side of the green. This is another demanding par 4 and is very well designed. The green was one of the easier to read.
The tenth hole is a par 4 of 400-440 yards pretty straight forward until you confront the raised green and the bunkering. I did not think much of this hole the first round but it grew on me the second round. It is a good hole and cleverly difficult.
I felt the twelfth hole was the second easiest on the golf course, a par five a little downhill of 510-525 yards. The green did have some undulations to it but it was a fairly easy hole to figure out.
The thirteenth is a short par 4 slightly uphill of 260-280 yards tempting the longer hitters to go for it. This is one green that came close to having too many ripples in it.
The one complaint one could make about the course is that the two par 3’s on the back nine are similar. The fourteenth is longer at 185-200 yards and has a green that has all sorts of levels to it but I felt the green was fair given the type of shot one is hitting into it. The green is beautifully situated into the hill surrounding it.
The fourteenth is a lovely long par 5 of 530-550 yards that plays to a very well defended green due to the large bunkers fronting and on either side. On does have to navigate several large bunkers on either side of the fairway with the tee shot.
The fifteenth has you turning back towards the beach and you get a glimpse of Lost Farm over the stream. It is a short par 4 uphill and was one of my favorite holes given the setting of the green. Once again, I think this hole perfectly uses the land available to it.
The downhill par 3 sixteenth was a discussion topic for our group. I liked it, others did not. It plays as 170-160 downhill hole with a large bunker blocking the center left of the green. We watched others play into the hole and even though the pin was center right some of the tee shots were hit to the left part of the green but found their way close to the flag some 30 yards or so away. I thought it was great fun, others thought it was contrived.
The seventeenth has a back tee that is elevated playing at 440 yards, we played it lower at 360 yards. It is a fine dogleg right playing along the coast. You can’t go right as the grass is high and dunes and a large bunker complex await you. It has one of the more interesting greens, slightly elevated with a false front.
The eighteenth is a par 4 of 410-440 yards that once again has perhaps too wide of a fairway for the tee shot. Both times I played the hole the wind was relatively calm even though at points throughout both rounds it was pretty stead at 10mph with a few gusts higher. Hitting to the left leaves one a blind approach shot to a green with a lot of humps and bumps, but once again I did not feel was overly done.
One point – the accommodations and food onsite is terrific. You should try to stay there. The views from the Lost Farm restaurant are tremendous as is having a drink on the outside deck. Both the Dunes and Lost Farm are very good golf courses. I consider Barnbougle to have better golf than at Cabot Links and Cliffs, although the views are not as beautiful. The food is much better at Barnbougle although the rooms (due to the views) are better at Cabot.
But if you go by golf alone, I consider Barnbougle’s golf to be better than Cabot and also Streamsong.
Barnbougle Dunes is a golf course that one would enjoy playing everyday due to the splendid holes on the front nine and then sprinkled around the back nine. It has challenge, beauty, joy, interest, and strategy. I have it just outside my top 100 of the 706 courses I have played, but it certainly could be included. Playing it twice was not enough; I want to go back.
I've lucky enough to experience both courses twice and without doubt the two courses at Barnbougle keep getting better with age.
I played The Dunes Course at Barnbougle the day after Lost Farm, a course which was an absolute revelation. So it was was with great curiosity our round began.
The course design was handled by former tour player Mike (I fell on my ball) Clayton and design master Tom Doak, and right from the outset questions were asked....
Hole 1. A gentle opener, sloping left to right eases you into the round, the ideal approach is from the left, the bail out is right but the angle is less appealing. Cracker.
Hole 2: A pretty par 4 with bunkers pinching at driving distance, cool green, I missed right and banked my chip down to the hole - I was in golf heaven.
Hole 3: Risk reward is everywhere, but the throat to the green is very narrow, a lay-up is wise and the green tiny.
Hole 4: Could be one of my favorite holes anywhere, its all in from of you, the chance to be a hero, or play safe, only you can decide. the punchbowl green is a delight, oh for a twilight 2 hours here chipping and putting around!
Hole 5: Starts a run of holes in similar direction that takes you all the way through to the 11th. A long downhill par 3 that gives you a bank in from the left, the right side of the green is hidden by a massive dune. The walk from tee to green is about as good as it gets.
Hole 6: This fairway snakes right to left and back the other way, a fascinating hole with danger at every turn.
Hole 7: Hands down the best 100m hole I have seen, you almost have to hook your gap wedge to get close, play safe and stay short right to avoid a big number.
Hole 8: A split fairway make you unsure from the tee, but you can be certain - this is a man size golf hole, it will take your best to make par here, you cold put this hole on any course on earth and it would shine.
Hole 9: A generous fairway flows over what seems like a rumpled carpet, undulations are everywhere, the green is deceptive, and cold drink await at the turn.
Hole 10: A flat fairway turns uphill as you reach the green, there is no shortcut here, a solid 2nd is required and the green is steep.
Hole 11: This reachable 5 shot hole has a generous driving area, the fairway dips into a massive hollow, this is a difficult place to find yourself as the approach now becomes blind (with the green running away).
Hole 12: A very cool short four that requires accuracy and bravery in equal doses, what a hole, our group made 4, 6, 6, 6!
Hole 13: The hilliest green on the course keeps things interesting, the green sits between 3 dunes, hit a good shot and the ball will feed toward the hole.
Hole 14: This 5 par is reachable, but beware the left and the hilly green.
Hole 15: Conservative off the tee and aggressive on the approach is the plan here, don't miss the green left, the ball will race away down the hill and probably not end up on shorts grass.
Hole 16: The last of a stunning set on 3's, the green slopes hard from left to right, use the slope but don't get caught on the high side!
Hole 17: A stunner of a par 4, following the beach left to right with a raised green, once gain the designers ask the question - how good are you, how much can you bite off here.
Hole 18: Beware the left (and the right), this long raking hole is a tough finale.
Verdict: Leave me here in heaven!
I easily would have been willing to make the journey to Bridport just to to see if the venue lies up to the expectations. Thanks to my girfriend studying in Sydney and some subtle, careful manipulation, the trip would actually take place: 9 days to spend on the wonderful island of Tasmania and 38 (!) holes tucked in one long, satisfying day at the links. First: the Dunes, then Lost Farm.
When the day arrived, lots of rain had settled down in the sandy soil and the skies quickly turned blue, the caddiemaster laughed in my face when I asked him if he thought the wind might lay down at any moment: “No way, not a chance. Just a tough day out there”, I can still hear him resounding. I do already apologize for the amount of referentions to the conditions, but the design is built to a great extent with the wind in mind. How windy are we speaking? 8 Bft! Two blown away and never to be found headcovers, my big wheel trolley falling on flat surfaces, wedges into the greens on par 5s and more often than not, completely lacking the imagination to visualize a shot that would leave any perspective for the next one whatsoever.
Still, I had a wonderful time absorbing the whole experience. I started off downwind at the tenth. The stretch from the 12th in particular is impressive and drop dead gorgeous in terms of the view. The 12th is a 254m par 4 that requires a perfect long carried fade off the tee to a small hilltop fairway and green guarded by a large bunker in the line of play. Visually, it’s a daunting hole for a first timer in gale winds. It really actually is hard though, don’t be fooled by the yardage. On more playable days, holes like these really show the masterful architecture by Doak. Barnbougle is a pretty short holes, yet test every club in the bag and there are so many options off the tee and into the greens. The greens are very undulated and will take many rounds to adjust to. I’m guessing half of the greens surface will never see a golfball stopping to move there. Knowledge of the lines and slopes really are key to hitting it close. The 14th is an interesting par 5. It’s a short one but it does not accept a running shot into the raised, long green. The fairway is really broad but it does not really show from the tee that deceives the view and tricks you into playing a shot down the right part of the fairway that slopes to the right and where you will find trouble lurking (or the odd kangaroo if you are lucky). It’s one of the half-par holes at Barnbougle. Oddly enough, this concept makes the golfers mind work overtime. Then we have arrived at one far end of the figure 8 lay out. The next hole plays right next to the water and into the prevailing wind. The tee shot is not the hard part, although there is a central bunker. Given the wind, the approach to the narrow green nestled on a large dune and the deep run off on the left, this one is not easy to pull off. All the holes on the back nine are of exceptional quality and feel balanced. The dunes have a similar feel to Tralee’s thrilling back nine. Everything just falls in place at Barnbougle a little bit more though. It is subtle and in your face at the same time and a very tough test for even the best golfers.
The front nine at the Dunes is where the course really convinced me, even in the at that moment unplayable conditions. The wind took care of my decisions regarding the temptations on the 3rd and 4th holes, which are truly world class and often described. As is the walk from the 4th to the fifth tee. It will make you forget the score on the 4th, good or bad. Although the 7th is most people’s pick of the par 3’s, I really enjoyed the fifth as well. The green is really intriguing, with a slope in the middle to the back that makes it a game of roulette to which side of the green the ball will tumble. In a very good way however. It makes for tap in birdies as well as terrifying long putts with 180 degree turns and no intention of stopping anywhere near the hole. The 7th is a wonderful little par 3 as well, but unfortunately simply unplayable on the day. It does not need a storm to be nasty though as the green has a slippery false front and slopes from left to right as well, while deep bunkers are happy to punish the slightest of mistakes throughout the hole. Quite noticeably, the wind is a big influence in finding the slopes and the next thing you know, yous ball is in the exact same spot as it was two shots ago. Nowhere near the green. It’s got to be the hardest hole on the smallest amount of land in topgolf, measuring just 98 meters. The hole is easily the best of the finishing stretch. 17 and 18 are very solid par 4s with strategic options off the tee.
I do advise to play the course the right way round, starting from the first tee, when you are a first timer at least. I do hope to return in more benign conditions. While the course feels and is stupidly good the first time, it seemed impossible to really catch everything what’s so great about it already. Another couple rounds I’m sure would make me rave about the sophistication and creative variety of the course even more. I find it quite hard to review the course. It is a course of contradictions as well. The course is rugged but manicured. It is forgiving and penal at the same time. It allows for bombing drivers but it remains very much a shotmakerscourse that rewards that favours delicate accurate play. Revenge and further insight in the secrets of Barnbougle will have to wait until a next trip to Tasmania. Cape Wickham will make for a proper excuse to make the journey again in the future. Time is precious, don’t hesitate and don’t forget to discover the rest of this remarkably special island while you’re at it!
Barnbougle is amazing – you don’t need to hear again from me. I think the question is whether this is Tom Doak’s best effort in design. There is most certainly a strong argument for it. He really did win the lottery with the absolutely perfect, dramatic links landscape and sandy ground. What must have been the ideal canvas to route one of the world’s best courses. Barnbougle gives you a false sense of security with the semi although not too gentle handshake starting with a reachable par 5 depending of course on the sometimes very strong wind. For us it played downwind both days but I’m told this was an opposite wind which of course changes the tune on this one. The second hole begs you to challenge the left hand bunkers in order to have the best angle of approach into the highly undulated green. Again into the wind this hole would most likely mean the left hand bunkers were out of reach off the tee but the approach would be a very long and tough one. The 3rd is another excellent hole that calls for a cut off as much as you dare drive aiming over a dune ridge to very undulated fairway running left to right away from the tee shot at a diagonal line. The approach is also tricky to a front to back sloping green guarded by bunkers on the left side meaning there is a significant reward in terms of have the best possible angle into the green by successfully executing a tiger-line drive up the right.
The 4th hole to me is where the course starts to simply blow you away. You’re faced with a short par 4, which was reachable with a 3 wood on the days we played due to the strong wind. The green is placed into a sort of bowl and tucked away behind a dune ridge that on our day was of course driveable. To do so you had to take on the huge blowout bunker fronting the green from the tee. Not a place you would want to end up. The risk of going for this green is mighty as there is no place to miss and avoid trouble so either you are on the green or you are in a bunker or seriously in trouble. That being said I still doubt many balls are lost here.
The 5th hole is the first of the one shotters, little benefit we had from the huge tail wind now turned to brute challenge with this same wind straight into our face. This 180 yd hole playing from atop a high dune to a green tucked away between a couple other dunes which made for a near impossible target with a 5 club wind in our face, too much for me to pull of a satisfactory shot on the day. I hit 3 wood twice and would have even gone for driver had I thought I could control the ball flight – still what a great hole – don’t forget this one normally plays downwind.
The 7th hole is the Tasmanian Devil version of the famous Scottish Postage Stamp at Royal Troon. At 110 meters a very short hole, which played to an extremely small raised and heavily guarded green with massive bunkers front left and sharp drop offs all around and trouble everywhere. So you stand there with a sand wedge in your hand knowing there is no way you can stop the ball on top of this green and trying to figure out how to minimize the damage. It’s 110 meters of pure evil in the wind. First time I’ve ever played intentionally to miss the green short and right just in hopes of being able to putt the ball up the slope and hope for the best. Mission accomplished one par and one bogey which felt like a major accomplishment.
Walking to the 8th tee don’t think for a second that Doak or the wind would consider giving you a reprieve to catch your breath. The 8th is a massive par 4 playing 446 meters (straight into the gale on our day). Off the tee you face a massive dune to the right and a decision of which fairway to choose, left up over the ridge or right where there is far more space. I played one of my best drives into the wind, then an excellent 3 wood, then a rescue club all struck as well as I can. The approach was pretty steep uphill to a raised green with some bunker cover making it a brute of a hole into this opposite wind.
The 400 meter 9th really finishes you off, it’s another tough 2 shotter that played as a par 5 on our day. A tough tee shot over a native area up to a rolling plateau in the fairway leaves a tricky approach to a green bunkered on 3 sides but susceptible to a front running approach. The finish is just behind and slightly above the clubhouse with a beautiful view of the coast.
The back 9 really gets exciting with the 254m par 4 12th hole. On our day playing downwind I hit a 3 wood over the green which feels as though it plays slightly up hill and also seems a very risky shot with right being sudden death almost all the way to the hole as there is a severe drop off.
The short par 4’s may well have been my favorite part of this course.
The 188 m par 3 13th is characterized by a crazily undulated 3-tier green. Depending on the pin position there are all kinds of fun recovery shots that can be played with this green. We faced a back pin position and from the tee it was possible to hit past the pin and have it come back. I hit a 3 wood straight into the wind and almost holed it twice. On the way there and on the way back. Clearly I just needed it to roll past one last time.
The par 4 13th is another stellar short hole at 322 m that plays up hill to one of the best naturally green complexes on the course. Left and short will roll all the way back down about 20m and leave an extremely tough recovery shot. The green is perched near the top of a large sand dune and protect by a huge front right blow out bunker.
The finishing two holes at Barnbougle are both very strong at 400 and 403 meters. They play parallel to the coast and offer magnificent views to help you remember where exactly you find yourself. Yes, this is Tasmania! Yes, this is the middle of nowhere, yes this course is amazing and finally, yes, I can’t wait to get back there again!
Barnbougle doesn’t let down those of us who expect Tasmania to be wild and woolly. It is an intriguing place to play golf and the opening stretch of holes is crazy good. It is hard to articulate in words how exciting the third, fourth and fifth holes are. They are a wondrous collection of back-to-back holes, as good as any stretch on any golf course. The fourth hole is difficult to describe accurately but is without question one of the finest golf holes ever built on the planet. A short par four, it plays only 254 meters, but into the prevailing wind. If the wind were not blowing or was blowing downwind, it would be a drivable green. The massive bunker on the right side of the fairway gets the mind going. I imagine plenty of shots are pulled left as the golfer panics at the last second thinking about the massive hazard, which is a naturally blown bunker. If you hit short of the large bunker you have a steep uphill shot that you can’t fully see. The second shot plays to an extremely well protected and crazy green. Although his inspiration for this hole was Royal Melbourne West's tenth hole, when Doak designed this hole he must have been on crack or some other kind of mind altering drug. It is a sick hole. The walk from the fourth green to the fifth tee is one of the finest in golf along Bass Strait. Plan on playing Barnbougle over and over again, it is so good and how often are you going to get to Tasmania? Stay at the rustic cabins and have a James Boag.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Any plans to return and add Cape Wickham to the roster?
Yes, I just read Darius Oliver's new Planet Golf writeup of Cape Wickham and am anxious to play it, along with other new Southern Hemisphere courses like Tara Iti and Lost Farm.