Top 10 Tracks in Tasmania

They say golf’s become a global game. But in truth, that’s been the case for well over a century. And believe it or not, one of the earliest places—if not the earliest place—in which the game formally took root outside of Scotland was Tasmania, the 26,000-square-mile island located 155 miles off the southern coast of Australia. According to records, immigrating Scotsmen brought golf with them from the cradle of its birth and players were chasing balls across the scenic landscape of Tasmania well before the Scots even held their first Open Championship—and decades before the first golf course was created in America.

Today, Tasmania is a veritable golf hotbed, with world-class courses that attract intrepid visitors from around the globe. Tasmania boasts 23 courses in all—many of which offer captivating views of the sea. Some of its current clubs have been around for more than 100 years. Others, like the two stellar tracks at Barnbougle, debuted in more recent times—to rave reviews. Many of these courses were created on sites that are sand-based, ensuring firm, fast fairways and greens that can repel all but the best-struck shots. Central Tasmania is the island’s mountainous region, so most of the golf is played around its periphery. And engaging golf, it is.

Here’s a list of 10 courses you can’t go wrong playing when you’re visiting Tasmania. Each offers a unique and memorable experience highlighted by the typically warm welcome all Tasmanian guests enjoy.

Barnbougle Dunes—Bridport

This was the course that put Tasmania on the traveling golfer’s map—even though Bridport is about as remote as a place can be. Here, Tom Doak and Mike Clayton transformed what was once the edge of a potato farm on Tasmania’s northeast coast into a collection of holes that never disappoint as they wind through sand dunes custom-made for links golf. Where the sea has receded, Doak and Clayton repurposed the land’s ubiquitous humps and hollows into an 18-hole thrill ride that you never want to end. After easing you into your round with two holes along a river, up into the dunes you go, where you’ll play one thoroughly engaging hole after another. You’ll need to keep your ball out of the tall marram grass, and deal with substantial winds on many days, but it’s not a course you should try to overpower. The shorter holes, like the par-four 7th with its boomerang-shaped green, and the pesky, 120-yard par-three 7th (called “Tom’s Devil”), will give you all you can handle—as will the greens, which feature wild (but often helpful) contours that make putting an adventure.

Barnbougle Lost Farm—Bridport

You need at least two strong courses to be considered a bona fide golf destination, and Barnbougle has them. The Lost Farm course is a Coore & Crenshaw creation that’s a mix of links holes near the sea and parkland-style inland holes. The fairways are wide, but you’ll find plenty of trouble around the greens, which makes your recovery shots fun. The dogleg-right 5th hole, which calls for a blind tee shot over a broad dune, is the course’s No. 1 handicap hole, and like most of its siblings, a joy to discover. One unique aspect of this course: it features two “extra” par threes, 13a and 18a, for a total of 20 holes. You’ll enjoy every one. The club also has Bill Coore to thank for its 14-hole short course, Bougle Run, which features 12 par threes and two par fours. What a collection of green sites it has, and the views from its elevated location of the windswept dunes and sea will stay with you forever.

Royal Hobart Golf Club—Seven Mile Beach

The Hobart Golf Club was formed in 1901. It received its royal charter in 1925 and relocated to its present site in 1956. A members’ club that allows outside play, Royal Hobart is a long, tree-lined course with bunkers that creep right up to the edges of the greens. You’ll be challenged from the get-go here, with holes like the 450-yard par-four 3rd that requires you to avoid trees, two water hazards, and large greenside bunkers. Even on the shorter holes, like the 360-yard 17th, those greenside bunkers are marauders. You’ll need both length and accuracy here—if you write down a good score, you’ll know you played exceedingly well.

Tasmania Golf Club—Barilla Bay

A hilly course with stunning views of Barilla Bay, Tasmania Golf Club is a delightful headland course with a diverse collection of creatively designed holes. It has hosted the Australian Amateur, Australian Women’s Amateur, and Tasmanian Open, so you know it can be a stern test. Memorable holes include the par-five 3rd, which traces the edge of the bay and dares you to bite off as much as you can on your tee shot, and the short, downhill 11th—a par three reminiscent of the 7th at Pebble Beach.

Ulverstone Golf Club—West Ulverstone

Ulverstone is internationally known for its tree-lined fairways, in part because many of those trees (eucalyptus) seem to stretch for miles into the air. This parkland course sits by the Leven River on lush terrain that features dense bush in many areas, greenside mounds, subtly difficult elevation changes, and sloping greens that give you all manner of ridges to negotiate. Many of the greens slope from back to front; avoid going long here at all costs.

Kingston Beach Golf Club—Kingston

The course at Kingston Beach dates back to 1922, though its beautiful red brick clubhouse (now listed on the National Trust Heritage Register) is almost 100 years older. Originally a links course, it now features dense stretches of trees, and its location in the flats bordering the Brown and Derwent Rivers means the course sometimes plays soft. But it’s a good and enjoyable test—with occasional elevation changes and compelling views of the rivers and beach. The Brown River and its tributaries come into play on several holes. The closing hole at Kingston Beach is particularly memorable; to get to the tee, you ride an “inclinator,” a funicular tram that takes you and your clubs up a steep incline from the 17th green. On the closing hole, a par three with a split-level green, you’ll need to be accurate off the tee and keep your ball below the hole if you want a chance for a two-putt par.

North West Bay Golf Club—Margate

You won’t find North West Bay G.C. in the northwest of Tasmania—it’s actually located in the southeastern part of the country south of Hobart. But it does offer amazing views of North West Bay, which at least angles in a northwesterly direction. On holes like the downhill, par-four 11th, you’ll enjoy a spectacular bay view as you play to the green, which has a steep drop-off behind. The uphill finishing hole, a par five with a fairway that twists around a lake and is famous for its sidehill lies, is a fitting conclusion to the parkland adventure at this popular members’ club.

Cape Wickham Links—Wickham

Cape Wickham is a must-play course located on King Island, which is situated in the Bass Strait about midway between Tasmania’s main island and the Australian mainland. This is spectacular seaside golf, with jaw-dropping views on every hole, large dunes, wide fairways to accommodate the ever-present wind, and firm, fast playing conditions. All 18 Mike DeVries-designed holes are gems, beginning at the first, where slicing your tee shot into the sea is a real possibility and the green’s location, perched overlooking the beach, sets the tone for the dramatic round to follow. You’re sure to find a reason to love every hole here, and especially the closing stretch. The uphill-then-downhill 16th, with a green that seems to thrust right out of the sea; the thread-the-needle green site at the 17th with a phalanx of pot bunkers to its right; and the closing hole, a 440-yard dogleg-right stunner that plays along the edge of a cliff overlooking the beach (which is in play)—each makes the journey to King Island well worth the effort.

Ocean Dunes—Loorana

You’ll find another world-class links set amongst large, oceanfront dunes at Ocean Dunes, which definitely lives up to its name. Playing there, you feel like you’re at Kingsbarns or Dumbarnie in Scotland. This is brawny golf set on 290 acres of firm fescue, with bending, tilting fairways; subtly vexing greens; and deep, blowout bunkers strategically placed to encourage accuracy—like the sandpit hillside to the right of the fairway at the par-five opening hole, “Dunluce,” and its three greenside siblings at the hole’s oceanfront green. The course’s par threes are real standouts, especially the 4th, which plays across a rocky inlet, and the 10th, where you also have to carry water to reach the green. The short par-four 13th hole has one of the most exposed hilltop greens you’ll ever see. Together with Cape Wickham, Ocean Dunes makes a strong case for the adage, “Build it and they will come.” No one should go to Tasmania without seeing them both.

King Island Golf & Bowling Club—Currie

King Island G&BC dates back to 1938. Today, this short links course represents a strong example of Tasmanian ingenuity, as they give you the option of playing nine or 18 holes that together utilize 17 different tee locations, 12 green sites, and 10 fairways. If you play 18, you’ll play three par fives, 12 par fours, and three par threes during your round at this unpretentious local course. Do not let its lack of pretense dissuade you from a visit. From the semi-blind opening hole, to the short par-three 3rd hole with the ocean as its backdrop, to the cape-style 5th where you bite off as much of the beach as you can, and all around the rest of the track, this is a scenic course that’s the perfect blend of challenge and fun. You might even luck into the opportunity to witness (or participate in!) one of the club’s popular “bowls tournaments.”

Coming Soon…

Back on the main island of Tasmania, southeast of Hobart, another destination golf experience is taking shape at Seven Mile Beach, a course being designed by former PGA Tour player and Australia native Mike Clayton and his Michigan-based design cohort Mike DeVries. Clayton was introduced to the site by Mathew Goggin, a fellow Tour player who hails from Hobart and who had long felt that the area would be perfect for a links golf course, with its towering dunes and ridges stretching up to 50 feet.