Way back in 1932, the locals understood that the land in their possession was a natural wonder that lent itself perfectly to the links-style golf courses found in Scotland and Ireland. The locals knew they were sitting on something pretty special, even back then.
Nearly 90 years on, and it’s little wonder that King Island Golf Packages have been added to the bucket list of thousands of golfers worldwide and why not? With courses like Ocean Dunes and Cape Wickham offering up astonishing views and a once-in-a-lifetime golfing experience, who could blame them.
Ask any golf course designer or architect, and they tell you that one of the most critical aspects of building a golf course is the land that it sits on. Architects are constantly looking to utilize the intrinsic characteristics of the site they’re developing in order to create an experience that golfers will remember for a lifetime.
Would you believe me if I told you that every hole on Cape Wickham has unprecedented panoramic views of the ocean; that’s right, every hole. How many times have you read a golf course review and read “no two holes are the same”? Far too often, right, But at Cape Wickham golf course, this often overused adage is fitting.
The routing of the land seems to lows naturally from hole to hole, and the course almost feels like it’s been there since the dawn of time. But of course, we know it hasn’t.
Designed by renowned American golf architect Michael DeVries and Australia’s own Darius Oliver, the course was completed in 2015 and immediately began earning the attention and recognition of golfing experts from around the world. From America to Japan golfers have flocked to Cape Wickham links to experience the wonders of this superb course.
Darius Oliver first paid a visit to King Island in 2011 while working on a story for Golf Digest on the King Island Golf Club, an enchanting 9-hole layout with its own rich history and dramatic scenery. The secretary of the club, Jim Cooper, took Darius to see the site where businessman Duncan Andrews planned to build a new golf course.
Little did Darius know that he was looking at the future site of Cape Wickham Links and that years later, he would become an integral part in designing the course. Oliver is quoted as saying, “the site took my breath away, and so began a new career for me in golf course design.”
So how do you go about designing a memorable golf course? The undulating landscape at Cape Wickham is rugged and unique and offers endless options, but with that come a plethora of complex problems. There’s no doubt about it, Cape Wickham is a genuine links-style golf course. With its fescue grasses, rockhard fairways, and sandy base, the course is both brutal yet majestic.
Cape Wickham is located in the middle of the Bass Strait, commonly known as one of the world’s gustiest and ferocious stretches of ocean. Every element of the land was utilized, right down to the limestone used to construct the road leading to the entrance of the course. Even the groundwater was utilized to help supplement irrigation.
Throughout the course and across the vast open expanses, majestic sandstone formations make it hard for even the best of golfers to focus on their tee shots. On the 1st tee, you’re greeted with a daunting tee shot that looks out onto the headland of Cape Farewell; one bad swing here, and your ball will be sailing farewell too.
Standing on the 2nd tee, you look west, and in the distance, you can see a green that looks like it’s posing above the rocks. It’s easy to overthink this hole, but the fairway is wide giving you a decent shot at birdie.
Next up is a formidable par 3 that straddles the coastline; it’s a beautiful hole that has you only meters from the crashing waves on the rocks beneath. The 4th hole is a long par 4 that forces you to hit a semi-blind tee shot, but if you aim to the right of the lighthouse, you should be safe; anything left could spell disaster.
The fifth hole, a short par 4, is the first hole on the course that requires some strategy. The views out to the headland are spectacular as the hole traverses along the coastline. The hole plays predominantly downwind, so take one club less.
The 6th hole shares the same location as the 13th and offers one of the most breathtaking looks out to the western coast and two little islands off in the distance. The next four holes are the most challenging on the course with their undulating fairways and views that remind me of a Bob Ross painting. The 6th is long but is reachable in two if you’re a single-figure handicapper, but be warned, danger is everywhere on the approach to the green.
The tee shot, and view on the ninth hole is one that most golfers will never forget. Perched up high above the waters, the hole is reachable in two, but the wind plays a major factor, and in most cases, you’re better off laying up and approaching with your 3rd.
The staff at Cape Wickham links refer to the 10th as “OMG Corner,” aptly named because it’s the reaction that golfers give standing on the tee. Getting close to the pin will require a “Tiger-like” imagination as mounds surround the green. The eleventh is a par 3, which literally makes you feel like you’re standing in the middle of the Bass Strait. The eleventh is tough and making par is like making birdie.
If you play off single-figures, the par 4 twelfth offers the chance to hit the green in one. Depending on how courageous you are, you can thread your tee shot through the bottleneck, but unless you’re extraordinarily accurate with your driver, I’d lay up. The hole is littered with bunkers along the right-hand side, making the hole even more challenging considering the best layup position is as close to the bunkers as possible.
The thirteenth is a par 5 with undulating fairways and has you heading back toward the clubhouse for the first time. Although the 15th measures longer, the 13th plays directly into the wind, so you have to accept it will take 3 or 4 shots to reach the green. Walking off the 13th provides the perfect opportunity to grab a sneaky beer and a clubhouse sandwich before heading to the 14th.
The 14th is a long par 4 that signifies the start of the “lighthouse loop” and the last five holes of Cape Wickham. The 14th is characterized by dramatic changes in elevation and five diabolical pot bunkers on the left of the fairway. Your best bet is to play to the right-hand side, where the fairway is open and expansive. Your approach shot here gives you a superb view of the Cape Wickham Lighthouse, built back in 1861; to this day, the lighthouse is still the tallest in Australia, standing at 48 meters.
Speaking of the Cape Wickham Lighthouse, the par 5 fifteenth brings you up close and personal with this functioning piece of Australian maritime history. The tee shot is downhill and forces you to hit over the sand. The carry is only short and shouldn’t worry high-handicappers; in saying that, my dad saw more sand the David Hasselhoff. There is a large mound five meters to the right of the green, so use it to get your ball close to the pin.
The 16th is “stroke index 1,” designating it as the most challenging hole at Cape Wickham links. Standing on the tee is intimidating yet soothing as the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks is meters away. Ideally, you should approach the green from the center of the top tier, although you’ll have to hit an accurate tee shot to find this position. If you miss your tee shot to the right, forget about looking for it; unless you fancy a dip?
The seventeenth is the last of the majestic par 3s at Cape Wickham links and provides golfers with an unobstructed vista of both the Cape Farewell Headland and the Victoria Beach Cove. Although every hole on the course is spectacular, there’s no hole quite like the 17th, especially an hour or so before sunset. Beware, though; bunkers surround the green with a gigantic “hump” in the middle that causes havoc.
The adage “save the best last for last” is often overused, but when you have a finishing hole that many golfers have described as the “best finishing hole in all of golf,” the saying is fitting. The 18th is one of those holes where any shot that finds the fairway is a job well done.
If you spray your tee shot, you’ll find some steps down to the beach, where you have a chance of salvaging par. Off the tee, aim directly at the clubhouse and commit.
Sitting in the middle of the Bass Strait, King Island seems like another world with its distinctive scenery, fine art, and exquisite local produce; I never wanted to leave. Oh, and did I mention King Island is home to three of the most stunning golf courses in the world?
King Island offers much more than just spectacular scenery. Chic boutique hideaways, beef and seafood to die for, and the chance to meet some of the island’s unique characters is just some of the fun you can expect. Waving to every Tom, Dick, and Harry as you drive is mandatory, and get this; the airport baggage handler is the hotel concierge; a busy fella.
As mentioned, King Island is home to three splendid golf courses, all of which have received distinction from golf’s top experts. Cape Wickham, Ocean Dunes, and the King Island Golf and Bowling Club have become “bucket-list” courses for golfers not only in Australia but globally.
If golf doesn’t float your boat, there’s plenty more King Island has to offer, such as:
- Walking and Hiking
- Wellness, Meditation, and Yoga and
- Regular events designed to make you feel like one of the locals
If you’re considering King Island Golf Packages, Ocean Dunes is a must-visit for any avid golfer. Covering a massive 290 acres, Ocean Dunes offers golfers unparalleled views of the Southern Ocean as it meanders its way along more than 2kms of rugged coastline that seems like it was made for golf.
The greens at Ocean Dunes are undulating and firm and use bent grass for the ultimate putting surface. If you like putting on fast greens, you won’t be disappointed because some of the greens are like putting on glass.
The Ocean Dunes course rewards risk-taking and definitely favours the brave. In saying that, the club has various tee boxes to choose from so players of all levels can enjoy a round. Two spectacular par 3s offer unprecedented 360° views of King Island and make for unforgettable memories.
Fairways are wide and expansive at Ocean Dunes, which helps to make your tee shot a lot easier, especially when the wind is howling.
Check out our King Island Golf Packages for the ultimate Tassie golfing luxury.