Isolated Doak Excellence
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Architects: Tom Doak, Mike Clayton
Green Fee: $139AUD
Kiwi Caddy Tier: Zero
The Holes that Stick:
4th- Par 4/271m
7th- Par 3/112m
15th- Par 4/321m
There are a select few golf courses in the world which have an inane ability to drag golfers to corners of the globe otherwise untouched. These pilgrimages are reserved for the special places, the ones which make you feel something deeper than the shot in front of you, alter how you think about the game of golf and most of all find ways to draw out unfiltered joy. Traversing the dunes on the Northern tip of Australia’s island of Tasmania, Barnbougle Dunes has solidified itself as one of the special places.
Barnbougle Dunes offers possibly the purest links experience South of the equator, with towering dunes, bold rolling contours and firm, sandy turf. What makes Barnbougle truly special is the scale of the elevation changes and its outrageous fairway undulations are some of the most significant I have seen across a links course making for a wild ride, and truth be told I find it hard to believe the course couldn’t go toe to toe with most links courses in the UK, such is the high regard I have for its design and presentation.
The course is distinctly Doak and Clayton’s work, with enormous blowout bunkers, towering sandscrapes, an excellent balance of greenside bunkering and run-offs, and some of the most naturally wild green sites and complexes you will come across. A special mention must go to the incredible green at the par 3 13th, tucked into a dune and loosely guarded by bunkers, with three distinct levels perfectly crafted. Framed by deep snake-filled marram grass, fairways offer ample width off the tee (although certainly less than The Lost Farm course next door), granting an array of angles and thousands of ways to get the ball in the hole.
Risk-reward is a common theme at the Dunes, driven by what may be the most captivating set of short par 4s in the world, offering six two shotters of 350 metres or less (2,3,4,9,12,15) and depending on the wind three of them could be reached by the longer hitter in a single round. Like any outstanding short par 4, the number on the card doesn’t define their difficulty and a kick in birdie one day may be an 8 the next.
They each ask completely different questions from the tee and are drastically altered by the pin position and the wind direction- truly a play every day golf course and about as much fun as you can have on the links! Tom Doak’s courses are often defined by their variety and optionality, for most golfers this is what drives fun and Barnbougle offers this in spades.
I couldn’t write this story without a mention of the beautifully brutal seventh hole- ‘Tom’s Little Devil’. Akin to the famous Postage Stamp at Royal Troon and diminutive in length only- standing at a tick under 100 metres, the pin is seemingly perched on a tiny square of flat with steep drop-offs short, long, left and right. Although there are many routes to the green, in the moment it feels like none. The hole perfectly encapsulates Barnbougle- bold, thought-provoking and most importantly, fun.
There are stretches of holes at Barnbougle (namely 3-7) which are as good as any I have seen, but what truly stands out is there really aren’t any weak spots to mention- what has been laid out is truly remarkable. Every single shot is engaging, every hole bringing something intriguing and entirely different to the last, and the views across the routing are truly magical.
As I walked the course for the last time it struck me that none of these holes could truly be mastered, they were ever evolving puzzles- their pieces changing every day.
Barnbougle is a modern marvel of golf course design. It exemplifies everything that great golf should be, and truth be told the best way to play it is to throw out the scorecard and hit the most fun shot you can.
The huge sloping fairways and wild greens offer opportunities to hit shots you won’t find anywhere else and that’s what makes Barnbougle special and worth every mile of travel. Barnbougle Dunes may not be rated as the best course in the world, but I have a hard time believing it’s not the most fun!
Booking a Tee Time
The three courses at Barnbougle are as public as they can be. Their online booking system is extremely user-friendly and can be accessed HERE. Green fees are $139AUD for 18 holes, or 170AUD for all day play- perhaps the best value for money golf in the world, and definitely the cheapest golf in the world top 100!
Where to Stay
Staying on-site at one of Barnbougle's two accommodation offerings is one of the great experiences in golf. The Lost Farm Resort is the more modern option, with nice rooms overlooking the course and ocean, with a spa, sports bar and restaurant on site. The Dunes side of the property features a number of cottages which can host up to 6 people at a time. The accommodation is extremely affordable and all you need for an outstanding golf trip!
Best Golf Within 45 Minutes:
The best golf is all on site, The Lost Farm course next door, designed by Bill Coore, sits comfortably inside the World top 100, and the Bougle Run 14 hole short course is a boat-load of fun. Truth be told you could play these courses every day for the rest of your life and never get bored!