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Top 100 Golf Courses of Australia 2021

11 February, 2021

Top 100 Golf Courses of Australia 2021

Welcome to the latest revision of a ranking list that was first published in 2007 with just fifty courses. Over the years, we’ve augmented our Australian coverage by adding dozens of courses to our Best in State listings which now feature many tracks that just miss out on national recognition. You’ll be able to read a lot more about those regional charts in the next few weeks.

For now, we’re concentrating on the very best in Australia, where the leading eight courses in the Top 100 also occupy positions in our World Top 100. Every geographical territory in the country is represented in this elite ranking, except for Northern Territory, with 34 courses moving up, 51 sliding down, 10 staying in the same spot, and 5 dropping out to be replaced by 3 re-entries and 2 newcomers.

So, without any further introduction, let’s plunge straight into the 7th revision of our Australian standings to highlight some of the biggest talking points.

The top five slots remain exactly as they were when we carried out our reappraisal two years ago, which means the West course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock retains its #1 status – something that will come as no surprise to those who know just how highly regarded this layout is by the coterie of well-travelled golfers who’ve played all the top tracks around the world.

Royal Melbourne West course

Alister MacKenzie attracts most of the praise for his design work at Royal Melbourne during his famous trip to Australia in 1926 but we must never under estimate the combined efforts of his business partner (and talented architect) Alex Russell, along with curator Mick Morcom, who ensured the Good Doctor’s plans were translated into the ground long after he’d left Australia.

A significant climb near the top of the standings is the two-place move up to #6 made by Bob Harrison’s design (while working with Greg Norman) at Ellerston in Hunter Valley. Built to order for Kerry Packer on his private estate as a tough, uncompromising track, Ellerston’s a course that few golfers ever get the chance to visit but, for those with the right connections, it offers an unforgettable playing experience.

Ellerston Golf Club

A reviewer last year wrote: “Bob Harrison did a fantastic job of routing a golf course through difficult terrain… the result is ten or so holes that are world-class.” And another person alluded to how challenging it was by posting: “Unashamedly hard, Ellerston doesn’t let up… not a high handicapper’s best place to go but definitely deserves its place as a Top 50 global.”

The next prominent chart move is actually a double header, with both the North course (up fourteen to #10) and the South course (up twelve to #24) at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club in Frankston making prodigious leaps into the upper echelons on the new listings. They only re-opened recently after major redesign work by Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead (MIke Clayton has since split from OCCM) and that bold (and costly) undertaking by the club is now paying off handsomely in the rankings.

Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club North course

Comments we’ve received lately give a ringing endorsement for the upgrade work that was carried out: “Oozes with class and course details that immediately separates the course from its former self… an amazing journey through superb topography… the green complexes are spectacular… as for the bunkering, right up there with Victoria and Kingston Heath.”

The biggest upward move is reserved for the Gunnamatta course at The National Golf Club in Cape Schanck, (up an amazing twenty-nine to #12) which was formerly called the Ocean course. It too has benefitted from a radical overhaul by Tom Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf Design, to the extent that it’s now the highest ranked of the club’s three18-hole layouts at this location on the Mornington peninsula.

The National Golf Club Gunnamatta course

According to the architect, “the Ocean course was considered the least of the three courses at The National; difficult but uninspiring. The emphasis of the redesign has been to make it interesting and fun, even on windy days. Wide fairways dispel the need to search for balls in the rough, but which side of the fairway you’re on matters greatly on the approach to the green.”

Further down the new chart, another progressive move is made by the Thomson and Perrett co-design at Hamilton Island Golf Club on Dent Island, soaring eleven places up to #42. Reviewers in 2020 were posting remarks like: “a challenging course with some memorable holes, and when you’re not playing a shot, just look at those views… I think Thomson/Perrett did a great job in difficult circumstances… if you are holidaying at Hamilton and you are a golfer then you’d be crazy not to play the golf course.”

Hamilton Island Golf Club

The final big move in the upper half of the listings is made by Kalgoorlie Golf Course in the outback town of Kalgoorlie next to Karlkurla National Park (up nineteen to #48), which Graham Marsh designed in 2010. As a mark of appreciation, the left doglegging 18th hole was named “Swampy” to acknowledge the Kalgoorlie-born architect’s efforts in helping to steer the town towards a new era of economic prosperity.

Kalgoorlie Golf Course

All the remaining double-digit advances occur in the bottom half of the chart, starting with the course at Sorrento Golf Club, which rises twenty-one rungs on the ladder to #61. Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford of Golf Strategies have consulted here for a while, drawing up a Concept Master Plan for the course with a focus on developing a unified approach to bunker styling. The company also introduced a new 19th hole in 2019.

Sorrento Golf Club

At #66, up fifteen spots from last time, the 18-hole layout at Cottesloe Golf Club in Perth has now regained most of the ground it lost in the rankings since 2010, when it was listed at No. 65. The club’s course is ninety years old this year, with former club champion Graham Marsh carrying out course improvements a decade ago now. Recent reviewers who thought it was too low in the standings will be pleased to see this latest move in the right direction.

Cottesloe Golf Club

The clifftop course at Narooma Golf Club on the far south coast of New South Wales is our next big climber, up eleven to #79. Regular contributor Peter Wood describes it as “a delightful course which travels through a variety of terrains”. His review from just a couple of months ago also termed the layout as “picturesque, challenging and just a fun course to play… a course that you will return to.”

Narooma Golf Club

The last major chart move (up ten to #82) is made by the course at Cranbourne Golf Club, which Sam Berriman, the curator at Huntingdale Golf Club, designed in the early 1950s. The club’s first curator, Gordon Black, planted thousands of trees on the property to add character to what was at the time barren, market garden land and these arboreal specimens have now had more than half a century to mature, adding visual interest when playing here in the modern era.

Cranbourne Golf Club

The highest of five new entries in the Top 100 is Mount Compass Golf Couse (at No. 71) on the Fleurieu peninsula, which was built on the site of a former sand mine in the early 1990s. Brian Crafter designed the initial nine holes, with his son Neil adding another nine shortly after. Neil Crafter was called back in again when the business changed hands in 2016 and a subsequent bunker renovation has revitalized the entire layout.

Mount Compass Golf Course

A couple of exciting new Tasmanian projects have been announced and they’re both going to have a big impact on future re-ranking exercises in times to come.

The first of these new designs is Seven Mile Beach, where tour pro Mathew Goggin’s company, The Golf Preserve, is collaborating with Mike Clayton and Mike DeVries from the Clayton, DeVries & Pont design firm to create what Clayton calls “Pine Valley by the sea” among the sand dunes on the peninsula to the east of Hobart International airport. Non-native Monterey pine trees are to be removed during site clearance, with construction due to start in the second half of this year.

Seven Mile Beach site

Twenty kilometres southwest of Seven Mile Beach as the crow flies, but around a 45-minute drive by road, lies another spectacular location at Arm End, on the northern tip of South Arm Peninsula. Neil Crafter and Paul Mogford from Golf Strategies have produced a master plan for this development, integrating an 18-hole course into a network of tracks and trails, picnic areas and lookout points, fishing and bird-watching positions. Construction on this multi-use public recreation reserve will start as soon as the pipeline to supply irrigation water is built.

Arm End

We’ll obviously keep a close eye on these two projects, along with any other new build, restoration or renovation work that might take place elsewhere in Tasmania and on the mainland of Australia between now and the start of 2023, when the next edition of our Australian Top 100 is published. If we’ve missed anything this time around then please let us know via the Respond to this article links above and below this article.

To view the complete detailed list of our latest Top 100 Golf Courses of Australia click the link.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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