Location: King Island, TAS
Architect: Graeme Grant
Date Played: 18th November 2017
Ocean Dunes was a must visit, so it seemed crazy not to go there when completing the Australian Top 100 Golf list at Cape Wickham. The course will surely debut in the main magazine lists in 2018. It currently sits in the Australian Public Top 100 list however. I have had a few friends visit the course not long after opening. As this may be a one off trip, I thought it best to wait until the course had at least bed in for a year.
Ocean Dunes Entrance
This is a rural area, around 10 minutes out of the town Currie, the main area golf visitors stay when travelling to King Island. Along the road to the course, expect to see wallabies or large birds, bush turkey or peacocks. Maybe even a snake sunning itself in the middle of the road. The entrance is very rural, with a sign stuck on to the fence bordering the entrance. Blink and you may miss it.
Clubhouse at Ocean Dunes
If you are expecting a five star resort, you will be sadly mistaken. Currently this site is all about the golf. A small indoor space is found to sit and enjoy the view over the 10th hole. Food and drinks are of a very good standard, so should meet most needs. As for the future, who knows, accommodation and a nice restaurant maybe built. I’m here more to enjoy the golf. I have another post which discussing the best ways to travel to King Island and accommodation. Ensure you have a look before heading down.
Ocean Dunes Course Map – Obtained from Google Maps
Set along the rugged west coastline of King Island, the course will be subjected to some harsh wind conditions. Quite a few holes route along the coast with the others remaining slightly inland among the dunes.
Scorecard for Ocean Dunes
One of the great things we discovered about the course, was the number of tee options available, compared to Cape Wickham. This allows for varying levels of player to get the most out of the course. The biggest issue was the colours to identify the tees. They were based on various rocks, which were a little difficult to distinguish against.
Playing group at Ocean Dunes
We had a group of nine along for the trip, which involved a private charter plane from Melbourne. They were all along to help celebrate my completion of playing the Australian Top 100 list, but also to enjoy the spectacular courses on the island. Some of these had been along during my journey, playing the odd game here or there. From left to right were Mark, Rob, myself, Bob, Chris, Daniel, Phil, Geoff and Steve.
Hole 1 – 479 meter par 5 – Dunluce
To start the round is the easiest index par 5. Certainly standing out is the large dune to the right, along with the fairway meandering through the dunes. Quite a sight to see on the first hole. It is quite easy to drive through the fairway if downwind, so caution should be made on club selection. Playing to the left allows the ball to feed back down onto the fairway, which is counter intuitive with the dune bunker to the right. Playing over this actually finds yourself having a blind second shot, rather than being a reward. Beyond here the fairway turns slightly to the right, before a large drop occurs in the fairway.
The 1st green sitting on the coast line
From here the view is captivating, with the first green sitting along the coast line. Three bunkers sit before the green complex tightly guarding the entry. Although there is ample short grass around the green (except the rear) to land the ball, also allowing for a variety of shots to be played. Longer hitters will easily reach this green in two, depending of course on wind direction and the green will certainly be affected by this. A hole which really eases you into the round, giving a preview of what is to come and is quite enjoyable, but devoid of strategic merit.
Hole 2 – 265 meter par 4 – Outcrop
Another shorter hole, although this time the easiest index par 4 on the course. A carry is required over marram grass before reaching the fairway. Longer hitters maybe tempted to try and drive the green, but this really is a low percentage shot with plenty of trouble on the surrounds. The fairway is wide, but taking on the risk of playing close to the coastline will leave an easier approach to the green, due to it angling away to the left, which is hidden behind a dune. Those playing to the wider safe area, will need to carry this with a blind shot to reach the green.
Well protected 2nd green
It is only upon reaching the green that the hidden bunkers are discovered, one right rear and the other two towards the left. The putting surface is very long, width wise, but the depth is very shallow. The left portion is similar to a punch bowl green. Great designed hole which rewards those taking on the risk.
Hole 3 – 414 meter par 4 – Old Track
After two shorter holes to ease into the round, we come across the longest par 4 and most difficult hole at Ocean Dunes. This cape design requires a carry across the sea to reach the fairway. Obviously the more risk you take on, the shorter the second shot. The ruggedness of the coastline really adds to the visual aspect, but also being quite open the elements can greatly influence the shot.
Approach from the 3rd fairway
After finding the wide fairway, the green awaits with quite a wide opening, allowing the ball to be run in. Critical for such a long hole. Bunkers are found either side of the green and with the fairway sloping slightly left to right, are sure to catch a few balls. With a large putting surface, the front slopes back towards the fairway, good if the ball is coming in hot, but not so good if only trickling up to the green. If you haven’t discovered by now, the ball does run quite a lot on the fairways and greens. Great hole which will caters for all level of player. Like the fact that bunkers have been kept to a minimum, letting nature be the hazard.
Hole 4 – 125 meter par 3 – Disphyma
The last hole hugging the coastline on the front loop, is the signature hole. A short par 3 which requires a carry over a small inlet. With rocky outcrops leading up to the green, there is not much room to be short. A large area is to the left, allowing for those not so confident to layup, but also is used for the shorter, forward tee.
Looking across the 4th green
This is an extremely wide green, but the depth not so much. One solitary trap sits in the middle, partially built into the green, leaving some strong contours either side. I was intrigued by the holes name, Disphyma, not having a clue what it was. Turns out this is the pink flower which can be seen around the green. Great way to finish the first of the coastline holes. There is some forgiveness width wise, especially in an open area which can be strongly influenced by the elements. There is some short grass around the green, particularly to the left, but mostly sand and rock is around the rest of the area.
Hole 5 – 504 meter par 5 – Copperhead
Heading inland is the longest and hardest par 5. A carry is required to reach the wide fairway. Parts have been hidden to make the driving area look a bit narrower. A group of bunkers are found out to the left, with a solitary one further along on the right. The big question is which side do you hit too. Really comes down to personal preference.
View from the 5th fairway
I prefer the left side, which opens up the area to play the second shot. Maybe slightly longer, but visually less claustrophobic. From the right it is a tight line trying to play to a narrow opening beyond which the green is found. There is ample room to layup here, but playing to the left will require a blind shot over the dune, although the green is angled favourably.
Approach to the 5th green
Those long enough to carry the hill, will have a clear view of the green, although finding the smaller pot bunkers short, will leave a difficult to almost impossible shot. I can attest to this, having to sit on the bunkers edge to play a shot out. The green angles away to the right, with one large trap at the rear. Being quite long it is important to find the correct portion of the putting surface. The middle section slopes back towards the fairway, with the back portion almost on a shelf. Like the design with ample fairway available, but bunkers either side not so much. Cleverly placed bunkers to catch out those taking on too much near the green however.
Hole 6 – 352 meter par 4 – Johnson’s Rock
Heading back towards the coastline is this mid length dogleg right par 4. The fairway has two sections, an upper shelf, with two bunkers at the end, for the conservative ensure you don’t take too much club.
View from the 6th fairway
Beyond the fairway bunkers the ground falls away, covered with rough. Playing to the left of these traps will find short grass, although club selection is critical to stay on the short stuff.
Approach to the 6th green
There are a few humps and hollows leading into the green, which has a large false front. Bunkers are either side, but allow the ball to be run in. The raised rear may assist in feeding the ball back onto the green. Unsure about this design. Great in principle but probably require playing a few times to get the nuances. Certainly all in our group lost balls, short and long, with various strategies taken. One was expected but the other two not so much.
Hole 7 – 351 meter par 4 – Davric
The next two holes play parallel to the coast, but the dunes obscure the view. First is a mid length par 4 playing up slope with a slight turn left. Again there is reasonable width for the drive, with cleaver use of the dunes, helping to obscure full view, as the fairway snakes its way to the green. There are no fairway bunkers that will come into play off the tee, unless you hit extremely long, or use the forward tee.
Approach from the 7th fairway
There is one small rise, with a bunker on its left, before opening up to the green. Sitting raised with a strong slope towards the fairway, anything short will be repelled back. Angling away to the left, this is an extremely long green, so club selection becomes critical. I couldn’t imagine having to put from one end to the other. Nice design which uses the contours of the dunes wisely. The green is the real test on this hole.
Hole 8 – 163 meter par 3 – Be Up
Hitting across from one dune to another, is this medium length par 3. Bunkers are found either side of dune face, leading up to the hole, making the target look extremely small. Finding the short grass here will see the ball not reach the green.
Looking across the 8th green
The actual putting surface is quite long, being wider at the front, than the rear. A small bunker is found middle right, unseen from the tee, which is built into the side banks, feeding back onto the green. Sloping runs predominantly from the front to the rear, which could easily see the ball run through the back. Once over the dune face this hole can be quite forgiving with a lot of the slopes leading into the green, but can punish if inaccurate in the wrong place.
Hole 9 – 497 meter par 5 – Lime Sand
Finishing the front loop is a long par 5 which doglegs left, with two sections to the fairway. The first section has a very wide fairway, though playing to the left shortens the hole, although brings the risk of finding the longer grass. A waste area must be carried to reach the second section of fairway leading into the green.
View to the 9th green
Leading into the green, the fairway is slightly raised running between two dunes, with the one on the right obscuring part of the fairway. A large bunker is built into another dune short of the green, more in play for those laying up short of the green. Further bunkers are found left before the green and will be in play for those attacking the green on the second shot. Sitting slightly elevated the two tier green will require accurate club selection, especially reaching the back section. However the area between tiers can be used as a backstop for play to the lower portion. Not a visually stunning hole, but one which does test the player. I like the fact the first portion is devoid of man made hazards, yet there is still plenty of risk verse reward with the shots taken.
Hole marker at Ocean Dunes
Some of the holes throughout the course are marked with large stones, showing the hole name, number and meterage. Mostly found on the back markers, the colour of stones are used to determine tee locations. This could be confusing however for the limestone and lightstone, as it was hard to determine the difference. Sure makes the simple use of colours effective.
Hole 10 – 176 meter par 3 – Bay
Taking the steep track from the clubhouse to the 10th tee, we find the longest and most difficult par 3 on the course. The tee shot must carry the water along the coastline to reach the green complex. Bunkers are found running along the front sides of the green.
Looking back from the 10th green
The green angles away to the left, with predominant sloping from front to rear. This makes it extremely difficult to land near front pin positions, unless running the ball in. Hard to go wrong on a Redan design, especially with such spectacular scenery. Standout hole of the par 3’s.
Hole 11 – 332 meter par 4 – Kelpers – Phil teeing off
The last hole hugging the coastline is this shortish par 4. A blind shot is required over a hill, with center line bunkers. There is a choice to carry these, hugging the left of the fairway, which leaves a clearer approach, or play to the right where ample space is available.
Approach to the 11th green
Sloping mostly from front to rear, holding this green can be tricky, especially from the right of the fairway, where two bunkers towards the front of the green need to be carried. There are a few contours throughout the green, leading to run off areas. A hole where strategy is on offer straight from the tee. A shame this is the last hole along the water.
Hole 12 – 477 meter par 5 – Himilayas
After travelling a few hundred meters we reach the next tee. This is the shortest par 5, which plays up a steep dune, before turning to the right. The fairway is quite wide before narrowing towards the top of the hill.
View from the 12th fairway
The second shot will be blind, so if time permits have a look over the crest to see the best line. With a wide fairway to land the second, there should be no difficulty, but to ensure any pin positions to the left can be seen, playing to the right of the fairway close to the large waste area is the ideal line.
Double green of the 12th and 14th
Take caution when playing to the green, in particular make sure you are aiming towards the correct pin. This is a double green shared with the 14th hole. There are some dramatic contours on this very wide green. Playing to the wrong hole will leave a very difficult putt. Although short, the wind and playing up two hills can make this a much longer hole than suggested. There are not hazards along the fairway, until reaching the green. In all honesty, they are not missed, with the elevation changes adding difficulty.
Hole 13 – 258 meter par 4 – Pin Rushes
We have been travelling around this large dune, now we play to its peak, with the shortest par 4 at Ocean Dunes. A big decision is required on how to play from the tee. Plenty of fairway to layup short of the bunkers at the top of the hill, or go for the green. Laying up will leave a blind tee shot to the green, which sits over the crest.
Elevated 13th green
Playing to the right of the fairway bunkers is the line leading to the green, with ample space available to land the ball. Built into the hill the green is quite large, which is unusual for a smaller par 4. Three sides of the green slope away steeply, with the right side leading back onto the putting surface. Good risk verse reward hole which can quite easily turn to tears.
Hole 14 – 116 meter par 3 – Look Out
Heading back down the dune is the shortest hole on course, as well as the easiest index. Playing from an elevated tee, it is a steep drop down to the green complex. I always find these holes challenging, when it really is just a case of a little bit of maths, selecting the club and committing to the stroke.
Looking across to the 14th green
The green complex is long and narrow, with a waste area short and bunkers to the left and rear. Beyond the waste area, a large slope runs down to the green. Hitting this will see the ball propel forward, possibly running off the sides or rear. There is almost two tiers, with the front portion lower than the rear. To the left the bunker assists in creating a large slope, which can be used as a back stop for the lower portion. Nice design, with good hazard placement and contouring of the green. A truly challenging hole. Whoever said short holes were easy.
Hole 15 – 389 meter par 4 – Jaranjo
Heading back in the opposite direction, this long par 4 plays up a hill with a blind tee shot. The fairway is very wide, although being too far right will find a depression, leaving a blind shot.
View from the 15th fairway
Play from the top of the hill leaves a clear shot into the double green. Anything slightly short will be repelled down the false front. Too far left will be swallowed by the numerous sand traps. The green angles away to the left, but has some strong contours, which can be used to feed the ball closer to the hole. Bit unsure how I feel about this hole. Logically with the green structure, an approach from the right would be the best line, however there is a low point this side which leaves a blind approach. From the center to left, the bunkers mostly have to be carried in reaching the green. I don’t think much more could have been done with this dune though. We have played around, over and down it. Has been incorporated well with 3 holes.
Hole 16 – 353 meter par 4 – Bern
Moving away to ground which is much flatter, we had back towards the coast with this mid length par 4. Water runs down the right side of the entire length, whilst a large bunker is found at the end of the fairway. Around here the green juts out to the right.
Bunker leading into the 16th fairway
The green is drive able if down wind, although an accurate shot is required. A large ridge runs through the middle, which will test putting from the wrong side. A fairly basic hole where everything can be seen, which is a rarity on the second loop.
Hole 17 – 372 meter par 4 – Peacock
The penultimate hole is a long par 4 which turns to the right. Playing through what feels like a canyon, really just a couple of dunes, leaving an almost blind shot. A bunker and part of the fairway can be seen in the distance, but luckily a pole is available showing the ideal line. This involves a bit of risk playing over the right side dune, where getting it wrong can lead to trouble.
Hazards down the 17th fairway
Ample room is available on the fairway to land the drive, with the safer option being left. This can cause a slightly blind shot due to the bunkers located on this side, but leaves mainly a longer approach. A large bunker to the right of the green is best avoided, as the approach will be extremely difficult.
Looking back at the 17th green
This green had many contours and undulations. Most sides feed to the center left, in particular from the front portion of the green. Quite liked this hole, which offered risk and reward from the tee, but also lead to different difficulty in approach shots. I don’t think the fairway bunkers are in play as much, with most trying to play to the center of the fairway to shorten the hole.
Hole 18 – 380 meter par 4 – Hame
Finishing the round is a long par 4 which has a split fairway. The smaller upper portion involves risk to reach, but leaves a straight forward shot to the green at a similar height.
View from the upper 18th fairway
The lower portion is much wider but leaves an uphill approach, making distance control a bit more difficult, and bunkers more in play on either side.
Looking back from the 18th green
This green slopes mostly from the rear to front. A ridge is found on the mid left section and a few small contours to the right. Blind from the fairway are the two sand traps located right of the green, sure to leave a shock for those finding the sand. Enjoyable finishing hole which has some strategic merit.
Looking at the course makeup:
- Hole Directions – There was a good variety allowing for conditions to have wide ranging effects during play. Most had either an easterly or westerly direction. No holes faced directly north or south which was interesting, probably to avoid strong winds blowing across the hole. The first three holes played in a similar direction, great with a favourable wind, not so much if it is a howling breeze into your face
- Hole Lengths – Ocean Dunes is your traditional par 72 with 4 par 3, 4 par 5 and 10 par 4 holes. Par three holes had a good variance in distance, the majority in short length. Par four holes ranged from short to long with the majority being either mid or long length. Par 5 holes ranged where all long in length. The par types were balanced over both the front and back nine, although a majority of the long par 4 holes were in the last nine whilst the front had the majority of par 5 holes.
- Hole Layout – There was a some mixture in how the holes played, although an overwhelming majority tended to favour turns to the right, where two shots or more were required to reach the green. This outnumbered those turning to the left two to one, with two holes playing reasonably straight
Conditions overall were very good. Tees were maintained having a regular rotation. They were also relatively flat, but the ground was quite hard. Thought a hammer might be required at times to put the tee in. Fairways were well defined, firm and had good grass coverage. Certainly quite a lot of run being gained. The bunkers I did look at seemed to be well maintained, having a decent amount of sand coverage. Edging was rough, suiting the terrain. Green complexes were great, with grass being fairly short on the surrounds and consistent overall. The putting surfaces had a true run, although on some, in particular the 17th, there were a few small humps in a collection area. After putting I thought I was imagining the ball jumping up and down, or had hit incorrectly. After trying again and having a friend also putt, it was clear some small speed humps were present.
It is hard not to be enthralled by the holes sitting adjacent to the coast, still others inland where of a high standard. But views do not necessarily mean good architecture. The true standout holes were 2, 3, 10, 12, 13 and 14. Throw in the use of a couple of template holes, makes playing the course very memorable.
In summary the course was a pleasure to play. Some extremely well designed holes and very good conditions. Playing by the sea is always a pleasant location to play golf, although I don’t have issues with inland courses either. There were lots of teeing areas available, something we had not found to be the case at Cape Wickham the day before. However the colour coding, using rock as tee identifiers, really was confusing. Only a minor thing but still a problem. There is quite a lot of commentary saying the course is quite hard and too many blind shots. They are only blind the first time and can add to the challenge of the game. I had someone mention power lines along the 18th hole, but to be honest did not even notice them as I was taken in by the design and how the hole would best be played. Have to say that is a good thing, where the surrounds can be overlooked due to design.
By far the biggest issue with the course is the routing. With some long walks between holes, approximately 1km extra distance between tees has to be covered. Add this to dealing with the terrain, this becomes quite a hike. Certainly makes a cart look appealing, especially if trying to fit a couple of games in on one day and I’m not a cart fan.
The big question is would I return. Would have to say that at some stage down the track I would love to. Certainly would be a lot easier on subsequent visits, as the number of surprises would have reduced with blind shots, have been revealed on previous visits. The main issue is getting to the island and finding somewhere to stay.
How to play at Ocean Dunes Golf Course:
1. Ocean Dunes is a publicly accessible golf course. Contact the pro-shop to make a booking