Ocean Dunes; A Bucket List Golf Course For Any Golfer

Situated on the majestic coastline of King Island, Ocean Dunes Golf Course sits in the top five of Australia's best public golf courses and has quickly become a bucket-list destination for golfers from around the world.

Commonly known as one of the gustiest stretches of ocean globally, King Island and Ocean Dunes can be found smack bang in the middle of the Bass Strait and are officially part of Tasmania. King Island itself is affectionately known as "the belly button" of the Bass Strait because it sits midway between the Aussie mainland and the rugged Tassie coastline.

King Island is home to three world-class golf courses. Ocean Dunes, Cape Wickham, and the King Island Golf and Bowling Club. All three courses offer unique challenges and majestic views of the windswept limestone rocks and sandy beaches that sit down below.

Ocean Dunes Golf Course at King Island

Ocean Dunes Golf Course

Spread out over 290 acres of the most spectacular rolling terrain you’ll come across, Ocean Dunes provide golfers with unforgettable panoramas of the Southern Ocean. The course snakes its way through over 2kms of wild coastline on land that has you thinking God must’ve been a golfer.

Whether you’re a high-handicapper, a good club golfer, or a touring pro, Ocean Dunes Golf Course is very accessible and provides numerous teeing options. Sitting on the West Coast of King Island, Ocean Dunes is ever gusty as the winds sweep in from Antarctica and the Great Australian Bight. In fact, the course is much windier than its Cape Wickham counterpart.

Ocean Dunes is a traditional links course and would look right at home if it was located on the coasts of Scotland. But at Ocean Dunes, there’s no escaping the unique Australian landscape highlighted by windswept geography, fescue grasses, and bunkers that are quite frankly diabolical.

The course is aptly named after the terrain it sits on, with six holes straddling the coastline, offering golfers remarkable views of the Bass Strait. Most golfers choose to hire an electric cart but in my opinion, driving in a cart takes away from the magnificence of the course.

One of the hallmarks of Ocean Dunes Golf Links is the breathtaking par 3s that challenge golfers with elevation changes, strong winds, and undulating greens. The par 3 fourth hole at Ocean Dunes is the “signature hole.” The smallish green sits below the tee box while two bunkers await either side of the green, ready to devour any wayward shot coming their way.

The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and the majestic ocean views provides the ideal chance for golfers to capture a memorable photo on every hole.

Ocean Dunes Practice Facilities

The practice facilities at Ocean Dunes are not what you’d typically expect from a bucket-list golf course. However, the facilities are more than adequate, especially considering the location and the fact that most golfers stay for only a day or two.

To be honest, you’re not spending your hard-earned cash going to Ocean Dunes to practice; you’re there to enjoy the challenge of the course and marvel at the breathtaking views on offer. Most short-stay golfing destinations don’t warrant dedicated practice facilities.

That being said, the Ocean Dunes club does offer pitching and chipping greens and, of course, a putting green, which you’d be well-advised to spend 15 minutes on.

Ocean Dunes Clubhouse

Featuring panoramic views of the surrounding coastline and the expanses of the rolling fairways, the Ocean Dunes clubhouse won’t disappoint even the most travelled golfer. Offering the chance to eat inside or out, golfers can choose from the best of both worlds while enjoying the local cuisine.

Seafood, cheeses, and King Islands’ famed beef are all on offer, as are a wide range of drinks from the bar. The pro-shop won’t let you down either, and while it’s not stocked like a pro-shop on the mainland, there’s plenty of branded merchandise to pick up for yourself or as souvenirs.

The staff is friendly and professional and went out of their way to make our round memorable and enjoyable. They were keen to give little tips and were a great resource of local course knowledge, invaluable when playing a course for the first time.

Ocean Dunes: A Strategic Golfing Masterpiece

The Ruggard Ocean Dunes Landscape

The untouched and rugged landscape is one of the unique and charming qualities of any links-style golf course, and Ocean Dunes is no exception. Rolling fairways, undulating greens,

and magnificent sand dunes are links hallmarks, but the views and terrain of King Island make this links-style course quintessentially Australian.

Ocean Dunes Golf Links wouldn’t look out of place in Scotland; instead, it calls King Island its home, and boy, what a home it is. Stretching along the King Island coastline, the course is “well-thought-out” and feels like it’s been there since the beginning of time. Not only is the backdrop majestic, but the golfing challenge is one that will test even the lowest of handicappers.

Renowned course designer Graeme Grant teamed up with architect Bernie McMahon to transform the untouched landscape into a links-style golf course for the ages. As a result of their expertise and devotion to the project, Ocean Dunes is not only a sensational course but a strategic challenge that will push every level of golfer.

Ocean Dunes is many things, but predictable is not one of them. The weather in the Bass Strait is wild and unpredictable at the best of times, which gives the course a different feel each and every time you tee it up. Depending on the wind and, of course, your handicap, Ocean Dunes offers golfers the chance to make plenty of birdies; However, if the southerly wind is blowing, the course can go from calm and tranquil to a brutal bogey-beast.

That being said, Ocean Dunes provides multiple tee boxes allowing juniors, ladies, seniors, amateurs, and even pros to enjoy the links-style course. For me, though, it’s the howling winds that make playing links-style golf courses challenging. The raging west wind that blows in off the Southern Ocean is what playing links golf is all about, and it’s one that every golfer should experience.

Grant and McMahon have designed the course with an emphasis on golfers’ imagination and creativity, particularly when it comes to approach shots and the short game around the greens. Many links-style courses favour long bombing players who can drive 300-yards, so it’s refreshing to see a course rewarding skill rather than power.

Ocean Dunes Golf Links at King Island

Ocean Dunes: Course Overview

The Ocean Dunes starts its impressive 18-hole layout with a par 5 that winds its way around the corner, forcing you to hit a straight arrow drive across the dogleg. The tee sits up high and provides a visually striking vista of the fairway down below and the shoreline off to the right. It’s one of the most impressive opening holes I’ve been privileged to play.

Up next, you’ll find a green that is unusual, to say the least, and looks like it belongs to a links-style course in Ireland. This hole requires plenty of strategy on your part, but for longer hitters and lower handicap players, birdie is a real possibility here. At just 280 metres, the fairway is narrow, and its widest point is 45 meters, with the two-tiered green nestled between the sand dunes. If you laid up short, then your approach shot will have to come in high and soft but be forewarned; the wind is usually howling.

The par 3 is one of the true highlights at Ocean Dunes, especially considering the green had to be laid three times because high tides submerged their original two attempts. At 130 metres, the green looks like it’s perched in the Bass Strait; Grant and McMahon truly created a masterpiece on this hole. Your tee shot travels over a rocky travene to a split-level green with dysthymia flowers that, when in bloom, are simply stunning.

The wind typically blows in from the ocean, and let me tell you, the tee shot will test your nerves and your iron play. The day I played, I was forced to start my short-iron 30 metres out over the ocean and let the wind go to work. My heart was in my mouth for what seemed like an eternity, but to my delight, my ball found the back edge of the putting surface.

The 10th hole is a par 3 that offers views to golfers that rival those on the par 3 fourth hole. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks surrounding the green is not much comfort when you’re faced with one of the most fearsome tee shots on the course. The 10th is nearly 80 metres longer than the fourth, meaning it will test even the best players. If you’re not keen to take the shot on, there’s a landing area short of the green.

Once you get to the 12th hole, the course meanders its way inland, and according to course developers, the next stretch of holes required a massive amount of earth-moving equipment to get the routing right. Grant and McMahon did an exquisite job designing the inland holes, particularly the 13th, which is one of the best short par 4s I’ve ever played. Although only 271 metres long, if you’re hitting into a headwind, you can forget about reaching the green, which drops off nastily to the left and leaves you with a tricky, if not impossible, chip shot.

At Ocean Dunes, the wind plays a strategic role in every shot you play, and the par 3 fourteenth is no exception; in fact, it could well be with the gustiest hole on the course. The tee shot is elevated, so your best bet is to play a “Tiger Woods stinger” to keep the ball low and out of the wind. Bunkers guard the green, and the ocean provides a stunning backdrop.

There is debate over the closing hole, with some golfers believing it doesn’t do the course justice by finishing inland, but I beg to differ. Yes, the ocean views are spectacular, but at the end of the day, you’re playing a golf course, and the 18th is easily the most challenging and appropriate finishing hole on the course. At 430 metres long, you’ll be greeted with a westerly wind, and if you finish with a par, thank your lucky stars and run for the clubhouse.

Ocean Dunes is one of the most visually impressive golf courses I’ve ever played, but it’s more than that. The course emphasizes strategy and ball-striking and provides a challenge for every level of golfer.

Cape Wickham Golf Links

Cape Wickham Golf Links is also located on the rugged and stunning King Island and is one of three bucket-list golf courses on the island. As a matter of fact, in 2016, Cape Wickham was voted in the top 25 golf courses in the world by the famed golf magazine, Golf Digest.

You can find Cape Wickham at the island’s most northern point, and the location provides unprecedented views of the Bass Strait. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you had time-travelled back to Scotland in the early 1800s. Still, once you’re out on the course, the uniqueness of the Aussie flora and fauna makes Cape Wickham Golf Links indisputably Australian.

The fairways at Cape Wickham are vast and expansive and allow for plenty of shot-making creativity. Elevation changes, howling winds and deep fescue rough provide a formidable challenge for even the best of golfers. Remarkably, every single hole at Cape Wickham offers golfers spectacular ocean views.

One of my favourite features at Cape Wickham is the 12-hole practice putting green that prepares you for what lies ahead on the course. You’ll also find a well-manicured chipping area to help you warm up before play; believe me, you’ll want to get a few chip shots in before you head out.

After your round, relax in the clubhouse and try local cuisine like crayfish, cheese and the internationally award-winning King Island beef; Oh, and don’t forget to wash it down with some of the best wines Tasmania has to offer.

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