On Monday & Tuesday 16-17th November 2015, "The Travelling Golfer" teamed up with Richard Hazeltine from "Fish, Golf, Fly" and headed to King Island to check out the new courses, and work through the logistics of bringing golfing groups to the island.
King Island is exposed to the weather, and Cape Wickham Links in particular is located on the west coast of King Island - so checking the weather forecast is compulsory. In our case the weather in Melbourne was high 20's with a light wind, but en route to King Island the wind was still significant enough to affect the flight. In King Island the temperature was 19 degrees with a light sea breeze - perfect for golf.
The island has a brand new airport terminal and things move along well.
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. My initial assessment is that at least 4 holes are world class, and that a further four are very spectacular, but need a little tweaking to be in the same category. In my opinion 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 par 3 eleventh hole is reminscent of my favourite course- Cypress Point- and I include it as an all world hole because it is a joy to play, and the setting is majestic..
The closing hole at Cape Wickham is also one of the best closing holes I have played and compares favourably to similar holes like 18 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. Awesome!
I would also rate holes 10, 12, 16 & 17 as pretty special holes- all visually spectacular, all right on the ocean- but all perhaps needing a little tweaking to reach their potential.
Having visited the site early in the year, and now having played the course, I am still unwilling to be too critical of anything given that it is clearly early days, and some things will evolve. At this stage walking paths are problematical, and it is very difficult to pull a trolley, but carrying a bag is not too bad, and motorised carts are available
Accommodation is yet to commence, but is expected to be ready early in the new year. The temporary tented clubhouse is more than adequate and serves as pro shop, starters hut, cafe and bar.
I am keen to get back there and play Cape Wickham again soon, in different conditions and see how it plays. I was concerned how hard it was to hold the sixteenth fairway, and it might just be that one has to hit from a more appropriate tee. I sure hope so because it is a thrilling hole.
Given decent conditions golfers will find Cape Wickham one of the most spectacular and dramatic courses they have ever played
Ocean Dunes GC, located near the airport at Currie is the second new course to open at King Island. Designed by Graeme Grant, this dramatic links course grabs your attention straight away. The first four holes along the ocean are brilliant, varied and spectacular.
After playing those four holes Heather (who has played many of the world top 100 courses ), declared Ocean Dunes the best course in the world!
On the par five first hole you stand on an elevated tee looking down over the dunesland to a green below which appears to be poking out into the sea. Your tee shot should be directed way left around a huge dune and an equally huge bunker named Bertha. And when you successfully negotiate the dune your shots to that first green are 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 two is a perfect complement to the first. It is a short driveable par 4 with ocean along the right side of the fairway. The green runs at right angles to the fairway and reminds me of the fourth hole at Barnbougle with different compartments of the green in bowls dictating where your tee shot should be directed. The golfer who takes a safe tee shot short of the dune protecting the front of the green is left with a very precise pitch over the dune, while the golfer who dares to be long and accurate can approach down the length of the green with ease.
Hole three is a gorgeous brute of a hole- a long par 4 uphill with a spectacular carry over the rocky beach- take on as much as you dare, and be rewarded with an achievable long approach to the skyline green. A par here is very satisfying!
Hole four will be 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.
The course only has nine holes open at present, but we viewed the back nine with designer Graeme Grant. Holes 10 & 11 are drop dead gorgeous seaside holes. Clearly the back nine is going to offer some amazing adventures including the driveable short par 4 thirteenth with its skyline green, the 'drop shot' short par 3 fourteenth hole, and the majestic sixteenth hole heading to the sea with a bubbling brook framing the right side of the fairway.
I expect Ocean Dunes to become known as one of the world's premier courses, and along with Cape Wickham, to become an iconic golfing destination. International golfers will want to make a more complete trip by playing the Melbourne Sandbelt, King Island & Barnbougle Dunes.
King Island Golf & Bowling Club
Those that journey down to King Island for a few days or more may be tempted to play the King Island Golf & Bowling Club. The nine hole course has been sited in classic rolling linksland near Currie, and has been promoted in some circles as being possibly the best nine hole course in the world. It would certainly provide an ideal warm up to the main event- being playing the two new courses.
An All World Quality Golfing Destination
Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Victoria, Metropolitan, (Yarra Yarra, Commonwealth, Huntingdale, Woodlands ) together with Cape Wickham, Ocean Dunes and perhaps Barnbougle Dunes & Lost Farm- sounds pretty good to me!
Both Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes are building accommodation on course, and Ocean Dunes bought and renovated the pub in Currie which makes for a very pleasant stay. Other options include Island Breezes motel, and the Boomerang motel- both on the outskirts of Currie.
Depending on the size of your group you can hire a car our organise a bus to get around the island.
At this stage there are a number of nice places to eat, and of course the courses will provide meals as accommodation comes online.
There are a plethora of options with flights on offer from Lilydale, Moorabbin, Essendon & Tullamarine airports in Melbourne. Commercial offerings from Rex and Sharp airlines are nicely complemented by private charters for all sizes of groups. Smaller groups may have the luxury of the personal service from Richard Hazeltine from Fish, Golf, Fly
At The Travelling Golfer we have a dedicated team who can help you put together the perfect trip for your group at a competitive price.