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'd finally made the pilgrimage down to King Island from Sydney. Decided to play Ocean Dunes first, as general comments suggested it was an inferior course to Wickham. Ocean Dunes was outstanding. A world class course in terrific condition. This only heightened my expectations of Cape Wickham
I arrived to the most perfect day. 25C, blue skies and just a breath of wind from the north-east. Teed off around 2:00 PM and had the course to myself. As I do most rounds when playing alone, I hit a couple of balls to soak up the experience some more
On the 1st I hit a couple of good drives down the left, leaving me with around 100M to a back right pin. I was fully aware the greens would be firms, as they should be. My first gap wedge landed on the bottom tier, took a trampoline like bounce and landed straight in the middle of the bush back right. Lost ball #1. My second shot landed on the front edge of the green, and finished up under the bush. At least I found it. I thought to myself, this is not normal. This is not links golf. I actually went back and hit the shot's again. I managed to stay on the back of the green, but was immediately concerned about playability.
On the 3rd, even with a green some 50 metres long, it was almost impossible to stop the ball. You had to land it just over the front bunker and hope it stopped. I hit 5 shots trying to finish on the surface, 2 of them landed in the front bunkers. Couldn't find either either of them as the grass around the bunker lips is far too long and unkept.
It didn't get better. 6 the pin was front and it was not possible to keep any shot on the top tier. 9 was very disappointing. A hole I was really looking forward to. Hit 2 great drives down to the valley. Had about 150 metres to the pin, hit 2 shots with an 8 iron that landed on the front of the green. Lost both balls. Then played 2 shots out to the right, pitched from 50 metres or so over the mound, and again lost both balls over the back. By the time I'd finished playing the 12th, I'd lost 12 balls and had only hit 2 bad shots. I had to walk back to the clubhouse to re-stock...
Compounding the disappointment with the greens was the general state of play. Grass was in the bunkers, weeds growing on fairways, the tees were in very poor condition, etc
I realise it's been an extended dry period on the island, but there's still plenty of water around. Maybe they have resource/staffing issues (I heard they only have 2 green staff?). Or maybe equipment/irrigation issues?
Whatever the case, if you're forced to carry the ball onto the green, and in doing so, lose the ball, that's the definition of unplayable golf.
To add insult to injury, when discussing the course condition at dinner that evening with some of the staff, I was informed that the course was just fine, and that I must not be good enough or have played enough links golf. I declined to say that I play of +3 and have played just about all the great links courses in the world :-)
I was scheduled to play 36 the following day but rebooked flights and headed back to Melbourne. I won't return unless I'm confident the course would play as the architects designed. I've still given it 5 1/2 balls, as clearly it's a top 50 course when in the right condition
With a stunning backdrop, fantastic weather(may) this is a must play course. The owners are reported to be spending $100m on this course adding a hotel and another 18hole course.
A pleasure to come back to CW. As per my review of OD, I dont think there's much if any gap between these two. CW rightly gets the plaudits for its location - hard to imagine a better view in golf that than the view looking north from what passes for a clubhouse over 18/14 et al towards the lighthouse.
Where CW falls back a little for me ( but not too far - it is outrageously good) is in the reliance on sea views on too many holes - at the expense of some outrageously good land (e.g. why wasnt the valley to the left of 8 used - what an amazing hole that could have been...) and in the lighthouse loop, where the green site at 15 doesnt quite work for me, and 16 which i just cant work out how to safely navigate unless i play it as a par 5. Small criticisms, as the finish of 17/18 is out of this world. Missed my birdie putt on 17 but who cares. Both CW and OD need to be on people's 'must play' list. King Island has it's own attractions and is well worth a few day stay - and do not miss the King Island golf club - community golf at is purist and finest.
I'm sure there is no need to add yet more effusive praise for both the siting of the course, or the design, so let me add some other notes to playing golf on King Island:
It takes a while to get to Cape Wickham, even for an Australian. It might make the most sense to play the two great courses at Barnbougle Dunes and then fly from Launceston up to King Island, to visit Cape Wickham. This was the route my family and I took and made for a wonderful golf trip.
Play Cape Wickham twice. No really, just do it; preferably on different days to get a feel for different conditions. You've come all this way, so take advantage of the time on the island.
Play Ocean Dunes too, but also try to have a game at King Island Golf and Bowling Club which boasts a couple of excellent coastal holes amongst its friendly 9 holes, close to the main town of Currie.
Finally, for pure Australiana, we even had a couple of wallabies watching us from the fringe, whilst playing approaches to and putting-out on the 18th green. One recommendation at least for deliberately tackling the afternoon breezes!
I loved the whole King Island experience, and Cape Wickham is clearly the pick of the golf - one of the best new courses I've played, and staying there is golf heaven.
The whole of the west coast of King Island could be made into quality links golf (think Royal Aberdeen/Murcar * 20), with inland areas also begging for a Sand Hills development, but sadly the isolation mitigates against this ! I played Cape Wickham in an unusual 4 club easterly wind - I learnt that you never move cows on KI during an easterly since they are completely disorientated, and I felt the same. For a golfer of my mediocre ability downwind greens were extremely hard to hold or run onto, and upwind par 4 and 5's were murderous.
As a new course something I loved was that the first cut rough was also fescue, giving tufty transitions that one typically associates with historic courses - most of the new courses down here seem to have marram waiting very close to the fairway, like Trump Aberdeen.
There are more classic seaside and dunes holes here than you can shake a stick at, many of which would be signature elsewhere, and I won't attempt to better the comprehensive hole by hole reviews here.
I'll just say that John Geary and his team are doing an amazing job here with a relatively small team producing a unique stay and play destination for quality links golf on a lovely island deserving its place on golfing bucket lists.
As an aside, if you do go into the deep rough it contains snakes, like the chilled out copperhead I met on a path on the back nine; I'd started to ignore the "snakes seen here" signs to look for balls, but rough was strictly water hazard from then on !
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 !