King Island is situated in the Bass Strait, to the northwest of the main island of Tasmania, and it lies about half way between Tasmania and the mainland state of Victoria. The golf course is located in the northwest corner of the island, around a 45-minute drive from the regional airport at Currie, the largest township on the island.
It’s said that respected author Darius Oliver was instrumental in convincing businessman Duncan Andrews to develop the remote Cape Wickham site and so the property was duly purchased in 2011. American architect Mike DeVries was then hired to lay out the links, using the contractor Programmed Turnpoint to construct the course.
The first five holes wind their way around the Cape Farewell headland before the routing moves inland, with the next eight holes set amongst sand hills and occasional limestone outcrops. Holes 14 to 18 then move towards the imposing Cape Wickham Lighthouse, culminating in a closing hole which wraps itself around Victoria Cove.Highlight holes here include short par fours at the 5th, 10th and 12th, all of which hug the coastline. Three of the par threes - at holes 3, 11 and 17 - also occupy spectacular seaside locations, with each of their greens overlooking the rocky shore. The best is kept until last however when the narrow 18th fairway doglegs right around a sandy bay to the home green.
I played Cape Wickahm in Feburary, 2019. Wow! An incredible golf course where Mike DeVries and Darius Oliver did perhaps a perfect routing given a spectacular piece of land. There are only a handful of golf courses where I never wonder whether the routing could have been improved. Cape Wickham is one that I believe is just about perfect given the land. It is not a perfect golf course, but as I played it I could not think of how the routing could have been any better.
This is the real deal for a links course along the ocean offering incredible views. The bunkering is not overly penal. One potential criticism is that the back nine has fairways that are wider which made those holes a little too forgiving from the tee. There are eleven holes that take advantage of the water with views of it and the famous lighthouse. The holes I really liked were 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 13, 16-18. But make no mistake, I liked every hole here, it is just that those holes I noted are really special.
The challenge begins on the first tee with high dunes and grass left and the coastline to the right. The tee is right at the edge of the putting green and the wind is typically very high. The fairway looks really narrow. It is a daunting first shot and I think more daunting than the tee shot on the first at Machrihanish Championship (Old). The second shot on the first hole is no bargain to a raised green with different tiers and four bunkers with the right side of the green having a falloff down the cliff edge. After playing this hole, you know you are in for a treat. Finally, I had no idea when staying in the cottage that I was overlooking the first hole.
The second hole is a short par 4 with hidden bunkers near an infinity green with a steep falloff on the back left of the green. Brilliant.
The third hole is a long par 3 with a long carry over the rocks. You simply can’t go right or you are over the cliffs. It is a spectacular hole. There is some room in front of this somewhat flat green.
The fourth heads inland and is a straight forward par 4. It has the first view of playing towards the lighthouse but the ocean is very evident. I liked the green due to its size and shape.
The fifth hole plays back the opposite way from the fourth and is a short par 4 with a fairway sloping left to right and a crowned green on all sides.
I thought the sixth, a short par five with a generous fairway, was the weakest hole on the front nine. The green sits inside of several mounds, but they are not particularly high.
A short par 3 follows and has one of the trickier greens on the golf course with its many mounds and ripples. I did not find it to be a difficult hole as one should just hit to the back of the green.
The par 4 eighth follows of medium length with a fairway sloped slightly left to right and a very well placed bunker on the left front to defend the green. The tee shot felt like it is through a low valley. This is a beautiful hole to play.
I never could figure out how to play the ninth hole, a twisting/turning/falling/rising par 5 to a small tucked green. It seems simple, hit a tee shot slightly left of center and then lay up in front of the green at the bottom of the hill, but on my two tries I missed the tee shot to the left and made the mistake of trying to be heroic with my second. The green to the ninth is perched on a shelf and you cannot approach it from the far right or you risk going down a very steep, sandy and nasty bank on the left side of the green. Yet if you come in from the right side you have to clear a large bunker and dune/grass that is raised to block your view of the green. I did that twice. But I liked the hole. I looked back from this green towards the tee and wondered how I messed it up as it looked simple. Yet I did mess it up. I just shook my head and moved to the tenth with a wry grin.
The tenth is a short downhill par 4 at the farthest point of the property playing back to the ocean. The hole is framed on the left by dunes and the hole narrows as you approach the green. It is beautiful to play but not a difficult golf hole.
The eleventh is a mid-length par 3 with the coastline all to your left. You cannot be short or left here. It is a beautiful view once again. There is adequate bail-out front and right of the green which has a spine running through the middle.
The short par 4 twelfth follows next with the coastline all down the left side. As a mid-length hitter, this was an easy hole for me because I was not tempted to try to drive the green like my partners tried. They didn’t make it and were short left with lost balls or balls nearly unplayable on our two rounds. I found it to be an easy par having played it safe. The green has huge undulations in it to protect it but we had an easier pin placement on our day.
The mid-length par 5 follows next, going back inland and slightly uphill. The fairway is generous and the trouble is easily spotted and should be easy to be avoided. It’s a very nice hole where if you hit a bad shot, you likely will find it difficult to recover.
The fourteenth plays as a shorter par 4 from an elevated tee towards the lighthouse. I thought the fairway was much too wide for this hole. The green is a punchbowl green sat against a dune on the left. It’s a good hole, but one that could have been pinched a bit more.
The fifteenth is a long par five playing to the farthest point closest to the lighthouse. I wish it had been even closer. There is a crest to carry for the tee shot and although I was told the easier way to the hole was to go to the left fairway, I played it down the right and took advantage of being able to roll my third shot onto the green. There are numerous bunkers on the left side as you get closer to the green as well as the cliff line pinches in as well the closer one gets to the green. It’s another fun golf hole with outstanding views.
I thought sixteen was the most beautiful hole on the golf course as the mid length par 4 runs parallel to the ocean on the right. The fairway tilts that way as well. It requires a somewhat lengthy carry to reach the fairway and the green is situated at the end of the cliff edge. You cannot miss the green to the right by even one yard.
I thought it was the best hole on the golf course, until I played seventeen.
The seventeenth is an outstanding longer par 3 requiring a forced carry over rocks and avoiding the cliff edge on the right side. The green is surrounded by seven bunkers, has a big mound in the middle and is by far the best green complex on the golf course. It is one of the finest par 3’s one will ever play. It is absolutely beautiful as well.
You finish on a wonderful par 4 of mid length requiring a forced carry over the rock and cliff and having to navigate the horseshoe bay. My tee shot ended up about a yard from the crest of the water. With a different tide it would have been out to sea. I thought this hole to be nearly as beautiful as Pebble Beach and certainly as challenging. It is a fabulous end.
Obviously the wind plays a factor here on every shot. It never escapes you. It is exhilarating golf. No matter what you score on a hole, you are satisfied with the experience. There are long and short par 3's, 4's, and 5's. Some holes rise and some fall. Some holes are doglegs and some are straight. It is a joy to play this golf course over and over. You would never get bored with this course. I loved it. I played most of it twice, having to skip the final five holes on the second round due to time. I wish I could have played the second nine all the way through since I played the final hole from the beach, just missing my par putt but loving climbing down there to the sand and back up again. I thought it was fantastic how the first tee shot required courage for the dogleg right and the last hole required a similar shot over the corner of the beach, but with a slightly lower and different wind.
Every tee box I stepped on to hit I looked at the hole and smiled inside. Strategy is everywhere here due to the routing, the ever-present wind, the bunkering and tall grass and bushes. The greens are simple to read but difficult to execute a single putt, yet you really should never three putt. Everything is "fair" at Cape Wickham.
This course deserves its reputation in the world rankings.
The wait is over, and its well worth the wait - at the newly ranked 24th best course in the world. Cape Wickham on King Island was ventured to by Mark "dessy" Ryan and myself. Photos and videos only provide a slight insight into the how good the course truly is and will become with more maturity
King Island and Cape Wickham could be about as remote a golfing destination as you could hope to seek out. But let me a assure you, its a journey worth every minute.
I come away from Cape Wickham thinking that it might be the most dramatic course I have played, and one of the best.
Generous would be the word I would use to describe the fairways, it's a windy site so you need room to move - smart design.
Varied would be a good word for the routing, with holes hitting what seem like all points of the compass. Designers Mike DeVries & Darius Oliver have composed a masterpiece.
Hole 1: One of the more intimidating tee shots you will face in your lifetime, like Pebble Beach or St Andrews, except you literally tee off the practice putting green! See below, tee is just to left. The hole is actually far wider than it seems, and shorter, its a gentle opener if you can banish thoughts of the Bass Strait from your mind.
Hole 2: Keep left here form the tee, the center bunker is a directional one, keep left of it. The second shot hits out to the sea, its hard to judge as the only backdrop is the horizon.
Hole 3: The first of a stunning set of short holes, this is a long shot over a sandy valley, the green is large and lays across the player.
Hole 4: A drive over a brow makes you uncertain, the green runs away, thus a front pin is very difficult, keep right off the tee for a look at the green.
Hole 5: A valley between two dunes is your path to the green, which is raised and difficult to hit.
Hole 6: A reachable 5 shot hole, which bends left and right, the green is flanked by huge grassed dunes and deep bunkers, attacking is for the brave.
Hole 7: A huge bank to the left of the green, and an equally deep fall away to the right dominate this hole, its only a short iron but with accuracy and distance control you can get close.
Hole 8: A drive between two large dunes to an unseen landing area is not as bad as it seems from the tee, as the fairway funnels into the centre. The approach is sharply uphill but not long.
Hole 9: A stunner of a par 5, a downhill drive down the left gives you a glimpse of the green, it may be possible to reach in 2 shots but you would need the power of Rory and the nerves of Thomson. Even the 3rd shot is hair raising (below).
Hole 10: Is a one of a kind, a steep downhill tee shot runs out to a driveable green, trouble awaits with a back pin and a back drop to die for.
Hole 11: An impossibly pretty 3, just a short drop shot, but its hard to keep your mind on the task with scenery like this (below).
Hole 12: A short 4 that defines risk & reward, like 2 holes previous you need the courage of your convictions here.
Hole 13: This long par 5 is roomy off the tee, but beware of the green, its steep and drops away on all sides, miss right and pay the price.
Hole 14. A wide curving fairway is guarded by 3 directional bunkers, the big feature here is a punchbowl green, this hole is great fun.
Hole 15: A reachable Par 5, the approach is landing on a steep downhill/right to left slope, some creativity is required here - not just power.
Hole 16: Where to begin, this roller-coaster of a par 4 starts with an uphill drive, with water guarding the right, then its a long downhill shot to a green which seems to rise up out of the ocean WOW.
Hole 17: The last and most difficult par 3, this holes sits at around 200m (220y), for the author its a 4 iron across an inlet, the green sits left to right, bunkers guard the green, but there is room to play short (smart) or even use the contours to run the ball into the opening.
Hole 18: An epic finishing hole on a grand scale, could be the best last hole I have played, think Pebble Beach 18 and that's the sort of dramatic finale this hole provides.
Conclusion: In my top 5 anywhere/anytime.
The Cape Wickham Links is getting enormous exposure around the world, and rightfully so. All eighteen holes have ocean views, and many of the holes run right along the shoreline.
The opening hole has to be regarded as one of the great starts in golf along with the first at Machrihanish – believe me, the task ahead of you on that first tee shot commands your attention!
The ninth hole is a winding downhill par 5 which can be played many ways. In the right conditions even the average golfer might find themselves potentially in range of the green for two – but the gorge short left, the heaving fairway and the skyline green strongly suggesting that long is not a good option. All plead for your consideration as the critical clubbing choice is made.
The closing hole at Cape Wickham is also one of the best closing holes I have played and compares favourably to similar holes like the final hole at Pebble Beach. The tee shot asks you to decide how much of the beach you are going to take on. If you fail, the beach is in play and you will have a memorable recovery attempt. If you succeed you will have a short iron in to a beautiful green setting right on the cliffside beach.
I would also rate holes 10, 12, 16 & 17 as special holes – all visually spectacular, all right on the ocean.
Given decent weather conditions, golfers will find Cape Wickham one of the most spectacular and dramatic courses they have ever played.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Played Cape Wickham in March 2018 as part of a golf trip in Australia and New Zealand. The golf is well worth the praise it received and its high ranking and was among my strong favorites.
The journey to get there is quite an experience in itself. You will probably fly from Melbourne with a 20 seater aircraft from Sharp Airlines that lands in Currie, King Island main town, a pleasant 45 min drive from the course that sits at the far north of the island. It is a gravel road in its last portion, with fantastic views upon arrival in the property on the big white lighthouse. There is just a temporary clubhouse yet with little facilities, and cabins to stay overnight that I did not get a chance to try.
The course itself is fantastic. For those with european references, I can only think of Thracian Cliffs and Old Head as courses with similar dramatic settings and fantastic cliffs and sea views, throughout the entire course. I will not go into a hole by hole description as the review below is quite accurate. Let me simply say that I found the design does justice to the setting : the holes are quite diverse and fun to play, overall rather short. The lay out is as far from in and out as you can possibly think and you will be faced with shots with the wind coming from all directions. The holes laid along the sea are stunning (1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18) but the other are also interesting and testing holes.
Add in a few wallabies wandering about greens or tee boxes (and, true, a few poisonous snakes in the high rough) and you get an absolutely memorable experience.
Well worth the trip to get there. I only added Cape Wikham as part of my trip at the last minute and I am so glad I did !
The first course built on King Island is called Cape Wickham. Golf Digest has already included this new course very high in their World Top 100. Cape Wickham is on the far end of King Island about a 45-minute drive through sheep filled pastures which is lovely.
Upon arrival on the gravel roads the iconic massive lighthouse greets you. What a wonderful site for golf with its coastal dunes scape. Mike Devries with help from Darius Oliver have put together an extremely fun, challenging design which makes wonderful natural use of the terrain.
The course is set up with 13 holes on the west side of the clubhouse and 5 holes on the east side. It starts with a couple short par 4’s and a par 3 running along the coast line before heading slightly inland back toward toward the clubhouse. It’s a spectacular start with all holes enjoying either placement on the coast or a sea view and all playing in different directions with regards to the wind, which can be quite extreme at times. The 5th hole runs back out away from the clubhouse again offering a different take on the days wind direction. 6 is a reachable risk reward par 5 dogleg right with a tricky raised green. It’s a strong hole as it tempts you to go for it but ending up short or long leaves tricky recovery shots and left or right could result in trouble involving native grasses that are full of poisonous snakes they say. I didn’t venture in to test that theory.
A lovely short par 3 with a slightly raised green running at an angle away from you from left to right with a diabolic natural hump on the front provides the next challenge. This is followed up with a semi blind drive from up on a dune for the long par 4, 8th hole. The fairway here offers far more room than we are led to believe from the tee. The approach is one of the tougher approaches on the course. The green is up on a dune to a semi blind green (can’t see the putting surface). It’s a tough shot to judge the distance on, then just add wind to finish off the challenge.
The par 5 9th is another risk reward hole and plays as a double dogleg after a semi straight tee shot that plays from high on a dune to a fairway tucked inbetween the dune down hill. A strong drive will hit the speed slot and leave a tempting approach to go for the green in two. Nothing is as easy as it seems and that is definitely the case with this hole. The green is tucked into two small dunes but come up short and there is a deep dry wash everywhere but the right side. That means lost ball in this case. Long is open and the green is a tough one to hold. A definite risk reward par 5.
The 10th hole plays straight down hill to a green backed by the sea. 11 is a short par 3 playing along the sea shore from an elevated tee. The coast is full of rocky outcroppings here and the walk along the coast is a huge bonus and provides a surreal setting. The short par 4 12th plays along the cliffs and is a risk reward drivable hole. The cliffs and a 3 off the tee is certain for anything missing the fairway on the left side. The green has excellent shaping and nice undulations protecting it.
13 through 15 are all solid holes playing back to and then away from the clubhouse in the same direction. The finishing holes all play back along the coastline to the clubhouse.
The 16th was surely a difficult hole to plays and fits into the same type of surreal setting as the 11th. The fairway is sharply slanted from left to right. If I had to guess this will be softened in the future as too many balls bound through the fairway into lost ball territory. The greensite is sublime and sits on perhaps the best spot of any on the course with the coastal inlet behind it and rocks and water to the right.
The par 3 17th is a great long par 3 which proves very challenging in the wind. The green is two tiered and presents a great challenge.
Finally the 18th is a classic Cape hole the doglegs from left to right along a fairway running slightly above the beach. It’s a classic cut off all that you can chew finishing hole with a tee shot that I found very intimidating. The approach is to a very undulated green with a false front and a front left bunker.
Cape Wickham is one of the hottest new courses in the world. It comes highly recommended and a visit will certainly not disappoint as long as the wind behaves and allows for a playable experience.
The property at Cape Wickham was the number one choice on King Island for golf developers. Mike deVries, with input from Darius Oliver, serve golfers from the same menu by launching into the dramatic coastal holes. The fairways are generous and the fun is endless. Play it on a typical windy day and you’ll certainly have your hands full. On both nines, there are holes with forced carries off the tee, which won’t suit every level of player as this makes a number of holes unplayable due to the strong winds. This was my main issue with the course. The course and coastline are so beautiful, that you need to play here multiple times just so you can concentrate on the architecture. After the mind-blowing opening stretch, the course begins to move inland with plenty of raised greens and wonderful contours. Cape Wickham will overload your imagination like nowhere else, as it’s a guessing game as to how the ball will react once it lands.
Holes 9 through 12 are the best stretch, despite how good the opening introductory holes are. The 9th is a double-dogleg par five to a perched green, the 10th is straight downhill to an ocean-side green, 11th is a mind-blowing par three playing over the rugged coastline and the 12th is a short cape hole that wraps along a cliff-edge to an exposed green. You have to see it to believe it. I travel the world to see golf like this.
I first became aware of Cape Wickham while playing with to be architect Mike De Vries at his Kingsley Club when he told me he had just returned from a site visit to a place that would produce one if the most spectacular courses on the planet . At that point the job was not his but when he did indeed get the job he kept me informed with progress pictures as the project came to fruition.
In collaboration with Darius Oliver they finally got the job completed despite weather problems and environmental concerns regarding native birds.
When I got the chance to spend three days there some six months prior to the opening I jumped at the chance and in the company of Duncan Andrews the owner marveled at what had been constructed.
Various other posters have discussed the sheer beauty of the site and as spectacular as it is, the course routing is the highlight of the golf course.
After four jaw droppingly scenic opening holes with the sights,smells and sounds of the Ocean accompanying the superb golf holes , the course turns inland.
This is routing brilliance, it takes one away from the stunning scenery to give the golfer a break knowing what is still in store.
Without the turn from the coastline what comes later may not have been as much appreciated.
That been said the quality of golf is in no way compromised by the move inland.
The superb five par sixth hole for instance is the first of two par fives that have green sites leaving me marveling at the architects vision, with superb use of natural dunes to create partial blindness to several pin placements unless the lay up is optimally placed.
The three par seventh reminds me of the finest links courses of the U.K. with the green nestled in between two dunes ala Royal Birkdale perhaps, but even that doesn't do it justice this is Cape Wickham and it deserves to be beyond comparison, so my apologies.
Everybody needs to take the walk to the back tee of number eight, it could be the most intimidating tee shot I have ever seen, a slight glimpse of the fairway is barely visible over dunes, native grasses and in golfing terms nothing good for your score!!!....superb .
The ninth another par five is breathtaking in its brilliance a towering dune guards the front right of the green, a small green with very little margin for error on the approach.
The tenth returns to the sea allowing the player to walk to the ridge crest and before you sits a breathtaking view of green and coastline, in a similar manner to number six at New South Wales.
I could go on forever, but fear I may lose you reading this, suffice it to say a series of coastline hugging holes in the most spectacular golfing scenery anywhere comes to a volcanic head for holes 16-18.
Sixteen has what must be one of the most demanding approach shots in golf to its cliff hugging edge, punishing any degree of errant heroic shot, but like all the holes at Cape Wickham it is playable by any level of player with open approaches allowing the running game to flourish, should the atrial route be viewed as too intimidating.
The spectacularly beautiful par three seventeenth over a rugged cove but to a large target is another example of the architect maximizing the coastline to provide the finest golfing experience.
A classic Cape hole brings you home, allowing the player to bite off as much as he would like...or is able...leaving a shot into a green nestled into the dunes on two sides and the cliffs edge to the right , a spectacular finishing hole with lighthouse in the background and the glistening sea all around.
A truly spectacular golfing experience, superb architecture that perfectly matches the quality of the site.
Many an architect could have produced a lesser experience but the collaboration of DeVries,Olivera and owner Andrews has produced one of the finest courses on the planet in my opinion as spectacular a golf course I have ever played.
Not be missed on the island, the Fromagerie found mid way from the airport on the road to the golf course and the food at Boomerang by the Sea...the steaks here are as good as anywhere and that cheese is the finest.
great review, really whets the appetite for the course. Number 1 on my 'to be played list'
Michael, nice review! Glad you enjoyed it there. Can't wait to visit myself.
Wow! I have played over half of the top 100 courses in the world and Cape Wickham has to be in the top 10. Generous fairways and spectacular coastal views on just about every hole. The layout has responded to the terrain and sits perfectly in it, although the cross fall on the 16th fairway is a bit of a problem. The 9th hole is a short par 5 down to the coast and is an amazing hole with all sorts of decisions to make. Take a 5 if you can and walk to the next hole being very grateful.
I haven't played it yet but another new course on King Island, Ocean Dunes, is meant to match Cape Wickham, meaning Tasmania will soon have four top 100s in the world, all proper links. 15 holes available to play now with 18 holes opening 1 Sept 2016 apparently. Suddenly a week's golf taking in Royal Mlb, Kingston Heath, Barnbougle, Lost Farm and these two looks quite appealing, all of them available to visitors.
Paul, one of our panellists, has played every course that has ever appeared in a World Top 100 ranking list and he maintains a blog, Rudo’s Golf Travels (click the link to read Paul’s Tasmanian story in the March 2016 archive). To our knowledge nobody else has achieved the feat of playing the “World Top 100 Ever” list.
Earlier this year Paul played both Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes. Here's his CW summary… Keith Baxter
“I played Cape Wickham three times, in 20-25 mph winds… Simply put, I do not remember ever having as much fun on a golf course. Every hole has a view of the Southern Ocean (better views than Fishers Island). The fairways are wide wide wide (in some cases as much as 60+ yards wide), which is necessary the way the wind blows. The greens are appropriately large (for the same reason) and are beautifully shaped and placed. Every hole feels different from the other holes, yet they all integrate perfectly into a very special flow… Assuming this course is maintained properly (and I would be shocked it is wasn’t) this is a sure World 100…only a question of how high.”
Hi Alan,My update top 10 list is:1. Royal Dornoch (Championship)2. Royal County Down3. North Berwick (West Links)4. Pebble Beach5. St. Andrews (Old)6. Bandon Dunes (Pacific Dunes)7. Cape Wickham8. Muirfield9. Machrihanish10. Royal West NorfolkIronically, it was another Australian course that was pushed out - New South Wales