First discovered by Europeans in 1799, King Island is a little remote, located around half way between Tasmania and the Australian mainland state of Victoria, in the middle of the Bass Strait. No passenger ferries commute to the island so the only way to get there is to fly north from Tasmania or south from Melbourne.
Until 2015, the only golf facility on the island was the modest little composite 18-hole course at King Island Golf & Bowling Club, featuring seventeen tees, twelve greens and ten fairways. Then, along came the Mike Devries-designed Cape Wickham links 30 miles to the north, followed a year later by Graeme Grant’s Ocean Dunes.
Suddenly, almost overnight, King Island became a golf destination that now features high on the “must play” bucket list of intrepid golfers the world over, especially those who like to play the game on as many top class courses as possible in the least accessible corners of the globe.
Architect Grant, supervisor at Kingston Heath for sixteen years then a design partner of John Spencer and Jack Newton during the 1980s and 1990s, chose fescue for the tees and fairways and bentgrass to carpet the greens at Ocean Dunes and the course was built by fellow director, Bernie McMahon of McMahon Golf and Sports Ground Construction.
Six of the holes are located hard against the coast, with the par threes at the 130-metre 4th and 210-metre 10th vying for “signature hole” status. The former plays across a rocky inlet from a tee perched above the waves and the latter features a similar forced carry across water to a Redan green that slopes from front right to back left.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think I rate OD ahead of CW. It's a bit like rating one of Royal Portrush or Royal County Down ahead of the other, as both are great, but OD's best is just extraordinary. Others have talked about 2 and 4 but 13 is just all world with one of the most imaginative greens you'll find anywhere, and 8 and 10 are just amazing with 8 one of the best green sites I've ever seen. Yes bits of it feel a bit forced ( the constrained 2nd on 1, the approach to 9), the green to tee walks are a bit long in places and the finish lacks the sea views that make most of the rest of it, but most of it is just a relentless assault on the golfing senses. Have played it before but played this time in a 50km westerly with intermittent rain and had a ball. Highly recommended. Not perfect but well worth seeing and clearly inside my personal top 10 in Australia, along with CW.
Ocean Dunes is a real challenge in top condition, with some excellent holes, superb location (would be hard not to be on King Island ! ) and the friendly helpful team of David and Tara who thankfully advised me to play by buggy; the swooping terrain, strong wind and long transitions would be an extreme walk.
I played in an atypical Easterly, thus many of the holes were different to envisaged by the designers - one of the greens is a fescue Pringle that I was unable to hold with any club including putter. Typically the back nine is harder, but my split was 11/20 points - wind is an ever present here !
Loads of spectacular shots and greens, imaginative holes and a very comfortable 19th hole (excellent sausage rolls and pies !) mean you must play here if you make the pilgrimage to King Island.
Dan - I continue to have great respect for your reviews, and I'm especially delighted to hear that Ocean Dunes is in "top condition" per your visit. I really hope the finances of this isolated club and the conditions of this spectacular course go from strength to strength. I firmly believe that there are (at least) 2 outstanding reasons to go to King Island for golf, not just the wonders at Cape Wickham. I also got to see the King Island Golf & Bowling Club, which was delightful. You may have read from my review a couple of years ago how much I loved the architecture at Ocean Dunes and would love to see it climb in the rankings some day all going well into the future.
Thanks Fergal - your and other pioneers' reviews were a major part of making the trip. There were a couple of greens and tees near the water that were a little bare, but that's no surprise given how very exposed to the water you are there and at Cape Wickham - what an amazing island. There is definitely investment to be made on King Island to make the courses thrive and others appear - upgrades to the airport, more accommodation etc, but it's an island of 1500 hardy souls that I know will live long in people's hearts who make the trip. There's plans for another course at Cape Wickham around the lighthouse with more onsite accommodation, but even without that I'll be back !
I played Ocean Dunes in February, 2019. I fear this gem of a course will close. The conditioning is poor. Already many of the fairways are not watered and several tee boxes are not being maintained. The sandwiches in the clubhouse are not good later in the afternoon. It is being run on a low budget. I
This is a pity as it is a lot of fun to play and offers a fair amount of strategic thinking to hit the appropriate shots. Courage and commitment are required for shots on several holes. There are some tee shots requiring long carries and two tee shots on the par three’s cross over the water. The tenth is a good example as it is a long par 3 requiring all carry due to being situated along the water.
The land is really good for a golf course due to its rolling dunes and views of the ocean. The greens are very good as they roll as well but are not overly done. It lacks a bit of length given all of the land that seems available but the course routing takes advantage of the sand dunes and the coastline. The lack of length is not an issue on a windy day or for mid index players.
The bunkering is rugged. There is a substantial penalty for errant shots or at least a tough walk through sand dunes. The course has a great variety of length and very good green complexes with slopes all around to kick an approach shot into a different direction.
The best holes are 2, 3, 10, 16-18 but there are many fine/good golf holes on this course. Graeme Grant designed a gem of a golf course.
Ocean Dunes has an opening holes that I did not like, a sharp dogleg right par 5 of 540 yards that plays downhill after passing a huge bunker and a second shot that has to go through a sort of weird opening where the fairway ends. I thought it would have been better as a par 4 followed by a par 3 along the water. The green is well bunkered on the right and has an infinity like effect with the ocean behind it.
The rest of the routing on the front nine is excellent. There is a good variety of short and long holes, doglegs, blind tee shots, uphill and downhill par 3’s. The wind definitely influences the play here. There are not many calm days and it can blow pretty high.
The second is a short par 4 of 300 yards sitting alongside the water with a tucked green. This hole was a lot of fun after the disappointment of the first hole.
The third hole is a long par four requiring accuracy all the way to the green on this dogleg right of 460 yards. On your drive you decide how much of the coastline you want to cross to shorten one’s approach to the green, which has a ripple in it.
The fourth hole is their “signature” par 3. It is visually stunning alongside the rugged coastline but for me was a bit too short at 150 yards given the grandeur of the land. You do cross the opening in the cliffs but it was not a difficult shot. ( I had a 10 mph wind in my face). One could stand on that tee a long time….
The fifth hole now heads inland and there you stay until the 10th and 11th holes. The sand dunes begin to come into play as well as the exposure to higher winds due to playing on higher ground. It is a par five of 550-600 yards with a rolling fairway. It is a splendid golf hole with a green that is wide and accepting of all sorts of approach shots.
The sixth hole is lovely. You are still inland but playing back towards the ocean on this 385-410 slightly downhill par 4. Once again there is an adequate entry point onto the green.
You reverse course and go inland again on the seventh, a 360-380 yard par 4 playing slightly uphill through small dunes on either side.
The 8th is a fine longer par 3 to an elevated green made easier by the prevailing wind that we had. There is a large and deep false front as well as very little room behind the green which is tilted back to front and a bit side to side. It is a really good par 3.
The ninth is a par 5 of 550-580 yards requiring a long tee shot to clear the brush and sand. Bigger hitters try to drive as far as possible down the right. The fairway is tilted most of the way to this slightly uphill par five with a wonderful green complex at the end due to the false front and side. The green has several tiers as well but I did not find them to be too confusing as to line and speed but I will note I landed on the appropriate tier. I did do a few practice putts from the upper tier and found the speed was slow enough to hold the ball from tumbling down the next tier.
As good as the fourth hole is, the 195-225 yard par 3 tenth hole is even better. There is a carry over the water nearly to the green which is well defended by two large bunkers in front. There is grass and dunes to the right. It is a difficult hole, but a compelling golf hole and wonderfully situated.
The eleventh is a 360-400 yard uphill par 4 somewhat paralleling the coastline. It requires a blind tee shot but the fairway is wide and has one of the easier “infinity-like” greens.
The twelfth is a par five of 510-520 yards with perhaps the green with the most undulations. I did find this to be one of the easier holes on the golf course as was the short par thirteen, of 280-300 yards.
The fourteenth is a short par 3 of 130-140 yards steeply downhill playing to a punchbowl like green where I am certain there are a lot of aces. It’s a fun hole but too easy. This was perhaps a weakness of the golf course, having three of the easier holes back-to-back. I note an earlier reviewer said they had trouble holding the green but my group did not find that to be an issue.
The fifteenth is a longer par 4 of 420-455 yards and a difficult hole due to the bunkering. The twelfth and fifteenth share a common green which I thought was a nice touch.
The 16th and 17th are now back to the ocean and are longer par fours of 380/420 and 400/430. The sixteenth has a stream on the right side of the green catching any ball missed to the right. They have very different green complexes but are not difficult to read the line and putt.
There is a bit of disappointment in that the finishing hole is one of the few holes on the course where one does not see the water until completing the hole. It is a par 4 of 420-440 yards playing slightly downhill. Seems weird for an Oceanside course to end this way and one begins to wonder whether the routing was correct on the back nine. I would not have changed 10 or 11. The way the dunes rise and fall make it hard to tell whether 18 could have been made to play above the eleventh and twelfth still looking at the water on the right as you played in.
This is a fun golf course and well worth playing if you go to King Island. If you go to King Island, be sure to play it more than once as it deserves to be played. Don't just rush to Cape Wickham. You will definitely enjoy Ocean Dunes.
I clearly understand why Greame Grant fell in love with the site, but possibly overstimulation strained the courses full potential. It felt by attempting to include the great pieces of land for golf holes, the overall layout inevitably felt stretched and design in parts felt forced. The very dramatic 4th literally pushes the design boundaries and was a delight to play. 12-15 is a bold stretch of golf holes that you will never forget. Ocean Dunes is a challenging modern golf course with an even more challenging walk.
King island's second newest course that will rank very well both domestic and internationally is Ocean Dunes. 5 minutes from the airport and 5 minutes from accommodation in the seaside town of Currie. Upon first viewing this course still obviously needs maturing for it to be fully appreciated. They say it's all about location, location, location and both King Island courses provide this for the golfer. I really enjoyed my round here, but I need a second visit to provide a better review. Reality is get to Tasmania and play both Barnbougle courses and both King Island courses asap.
The first four holes at Ocean Dunes along the ocean are absolutely world class, varied and spectacular. On the par five first hole you stand on an elevated tee looking down over the dunesland to a green below. It appears to be poking out into the sea. Your tee shot should be directed left around a huge dune and an equally huge bunker named Bertha. And when you successfully negotiate the dune the shot to that first green is memorable. The green is framed by the ocean and rocks and rolling white surf. It is a wonderful golf hole, and an exciting way to start the round.
Hole four is world famous, and like the eleventh at Wickham reminds me of Cypress Point. The tee box is set on one rocky promontory, and the green on another. It is fun to play and an amazing setting.
The course turns inland on the par 5 fifth hole, but each of the inland holes has real character. They are the type of holes you want to play over and over again. The quality of the turf and finishing off is ultra professional - you can tell you are somewhere special just by the way the course is presented.
I expect Ocean Dunes to mature to be one of Australia's premier courses, and together with Cape Wickham Links (and King Island Golf & Bowling Club), to make King Island an iconic golfing destination.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Ocean Dunes is the second course to open on King Island in the Bass Strait, Cape Wickham being the first and is the brainchild of golf course architect Graeme Grant. Like Cape Wickham, Ocean Dunes is recipient of a wonderful piece of coastal property and every effort has been done to maximize the players interaction and pleasure of the sea and sea views.
I was fortunate enough to play 36 holes across two separate days in varying wind conditions, steady and very hard. The first day we started with about a 5-club wind behind us. Making the first 3 holes play shorter but given the firm and fast conditions it was very tricky to approach the greens. The 3rd hole being the strongest and most spectacular of the starting trio. A Cape Hole where you cut off as much as you dare by taking on the water and rocks to a fairway running at a diagonal from left to right. The green is set up ideally for the ground game but finds itself situated with sea and rocks to the right and behind.
The 4th hole is a spectacular little par 3 that on our day required a full punch 5 iron. It’s played from the end of a small rocky outlet to a green across water and rocks sitting on another rocky outlet. One of the most surreal settings you will ever see for a golf hole.
After the 4th the course heads inland and then zigzags back and forth towards and away from the coast. The green site for the par 3 8th is placed at a high point providing an amazing view of the coastline out towards the back 9 before heading to the par 5, 9th hole.
The tee shot on the par 5 9th delivers a cut off as much as you can chew type shot on this sharp dogleg left. Cut the corner and you have a shot at the green in two, depending on the weather of course.
Hitting the green in two as I managed to do with a tail wind gusting is no guarantee of anything as this is one of the wildest greens I’ve seen. If the flag is in the middle section just the put from the lower or upper level will be scary. It’s that steep. Good luck judging a putt like this as it’s not likely you would have been faced with such a putt before.
The back 9 starts out back along the sea with a solid par 3 that plays 200+ yds over water. An extremely tough hole in any direction of raging wind like they receive there. Into your face you are looking at driver. I hit a 7 iron one day and a rescue club the next.
The next hole also plays along the coast before the course turns inland around some massive dunes. The 12th hole plays to a huge double green which it shares with the par 4, 15th. The standout hole in this stretch of solid holes is the drop-shot par 3 14th playing to a postage stamp volcano green with two tiers and a strategically placed bunker on the left front. I hit what I thought were great shots on this hole both days and didn’t manage to hold the green. It’s a scary shot to that green and that’s with no wind. The view from the tee is amazing and it faces straight out to sea playing from high up on the dune down to the green, completely exposed to the elements.
The strong finishing stretch takes you back through the dunes to the parking lot and clubhouse. While those holes are excellent they are perhaps slightly anticlimactic in relation to the coastal holes with the spectacular views.
Ocean Dunes is a fantastic course and offers up an interesting but extremely challenging routing. The greens are arguably on the extreme side given the wild shaping and extremely fast and perfectly manicured surfaces. If you add the extremely harsh conditions that many will run into on King Island I would be very curious how often the course borders unplayable in high winds.
I’d be very curious as to your experience there. It was just playable on the two days I was there and I had a blast but I’ve already heard some pretty wild stories from others. In low to medium winds I think everyone will love this course.
Read terms and conditions carefully. Weather on the island is very unpredictable and the course does not offer refund for online bookings. Despite extreme wind and rain and nearly 48 hours notice of intention to cancel I was not refunded. Save your money for Cape Wickham and King Island GC.
All 18 holes at Ocean Dunes were completed in June 2016. This coastal masterpiece was built by Graeme Grant, who has a decorated CV, including being head greenkeeper at Kingston Heath for 16 years. I had the pleasure of Graeme’s company for the trip – so his in-depth personal insights were wonderful.
Land down along the west coast of King Island is rugged, and the opening stretch of Ocean Dunes brings you straight out into the rocky action with ocean-pounding backdrops. There is no delay in exposing golfers to the magnificent violent coastline with dramatic changes in elevation, heroic carries over water and danger in all directions. The turf has a lot of maturing to do, and many dollars are needed to support the conditioning of the course. Given the land they had to deal with, and the rock that needed to be moved, this course was considerably more difficult to build than Cape Wickham. A tremendous amount has already been written about the glory of the golf course, but I focused heavily on the skill it took to merely construct the layout. Graeme lived onsite for three years, having to deal with extreme winds and brutal conditions. Fairways had to be planted multiple times, sacrifices had to be made in certain parts of the property. But I am of the opinion that Ocean Dunes certainly holds its weight architecturally with its neighbour up the coastline.
Played Ocean Dunes on my way up to Cape Wickham. The course was mostly complete with three holes on the back still under construction. I played them anyways: “cross-country” style which was enough to get a feel for them.
The course is on a great piece of property and makes good use of the elevation changes. The seaside holes are spectacular, especially the par 3 4th and the par 3 10th. The smell of the salt air is reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest and a reminder that the latitude is getting really south.
I also really enjoyed the inland holes on the back nine. The topography makes for terrific golfing terrain.
The other great feature of the course is you can be teeing off within ten minutes of picking up the rental car at the airport.
Had a chance to chat with Graeme Grant after my round. His passion and commitment for the place was obvious. Lots of hard work was invested.
Although King Island is a very long way for non-Aussies to travel, the Cape Wickham / Ocean Dunes combo is fantastic and definitely worth a return trip. I only hope for a bit of an upgrade in terms of available dining and accommodation (the kitchen at Cape Wickham is great though).