THE BEST GOLF COURSES TO PLAY IN WINTER
Unlike many parts of the world, the beginning of winter in Australia doesn’t mean your golf gear needs to be mothballed until spring.
If you can get past the cold but crisp mornings, the odd rain shower/cold front and the inevitable firm, wet sand in the bunkers, Australian winters are a great time to hit the course.
Here are the best places to play winter golf in Australia, State by State.
Carved through old limestone quarries, Joondalup’s 27 holes offer the whole buffet of golf in winter.
With lakes straddling fairways and greens, nerve-jangling carries over deep quarries and undulating terrain, all set amongst pristine WA bushland, Joondalup bares its teeth in winter when the ground starts getting soft.
Joondalup’s three nines are named Quarry, Lake and Dune and the breeze plays a big factor on some of the holes that sit higher on the property, with the course located only a couple of kilometres from the Indian Ocean.
Joondalup offers a Winter stay and play package, with overnight accommodation at the luxury resort, buffet breakfast and two rounds of golf with a cart from $299.
WEMBLEY GOLF COURSE
With 36 holes spread across the Old Course and Tuart layouts, Wembley is Perth’s premier public access course.
The complex is a winner in winter by virtue of its undercover double-storey driving range, which enables you to keep swinging even in the worst weather to cement those swing feels.
Both courses slice through stands of Tuart trees and feature undulating terrain, with the highest points offering a spectacular view of the Perth skyline.
Wembley is a popular choice all year round and its conditioning is always first class, even in the depths of winter.
SEA VIEW GOLF CLUB
If you’re the kind of golfer who enjoys watching the version of golf that only the British Open can provide, Sea View Golf Club serves up much of the same in winter.
The shrubs grow sideways at this windy 9-hole layout in Cottesloe and as the only genuine links club in Perth, it offers spectacular views of the bordering Indian Ocean.
But in winter it is susceptible to the fiercest of winter weather and gale-force winds, the type of conditions that place a premium on ball striking and flight control. Breaking 80 at Sea View in those conditions is a considerable accomplishment.
THE VINES RESORT
Nestled at the base of the Perth hills in the Swan Valley, The Vines is a resort style layout located 40 minutes from Perth.
This place gets as hot as hell in summer so winter is the best time for you to sample its wares and it’s famous for playing host to European Tour tournaments such as the Heineken and Johnnie Walker Classics in the past.
There are two 18-hole courses to choose from and the venue offers a midweek winter special around the Ellenbrook course.
The Vines also offers resort accommodation for a cosy weekend golfing getaway in winter, which is handy given its proximity to neighbouring wineries.
BROOME GOLF CLUB
If you're heading north into sunnier climes during winter, a round at Broome Golf Club is a must.
Broome Golf Club is the pick of the courses in the Kimberley, with 18 holes of lush, fully reticulated fairways and greens near Roebuck Bay.
Golf is relaxed in Broome and you’ll be able to appreciate the warmer winter weather from the clubhouse, which features stunning views over picturesque Roebuck Bay.
NEW SOUTH WALES
MOORE PARK GOLF COURSE
Moore Park is Sydney’s leading public access course and is located only five minutes from the CBD.
The 18-hole parkland course is always in peak condition and is popular with locals and visitors alike, with stunning views of the city skyline a constant companion during your round.
And boasting an all-weather driving range, Moore Park gets the tick of approval as a perfect place to play golf in winter.
BONDI GOLF CLUB
Bondi Beach might be famous in summer but Bondi Golf Club is the place to be in winter.
This nine-hole track sits atop the cliffs overlooking Sydney’s most famous beach and offers a links-style test, with reasonably fresh breezes regularly blowing in off the Tasman Sea during winter.
Keeping it low and playing along the ground is a must in winter at Bondi and its spectacular location is matched by cheap green fees.
Often dubbed the Australian version of Augusta National, Bonville is located at Coffs Harbour on the north coast of NSW.
It’s far enough north to take the edge off winter temperature wise, and the course drains exceptionally well if there is a winter deluge.
The course winds its way through dense stands of towering gum trees and features the kind of dramatic elevation changes that mean the course is too tough to walk – it’s carts only at Bonville.
There is also onsite accommodation at Bonville for a play and stay at what has been described as Australia’s most beautiful golf course, so it might be worth a look this winter.
Eighteen holes around Pacific Dunes, located in Port Stephens, a 35-minute drive from Newcastle, should keep your winter blues at bay.
The course was established in 2005, which makes it a young pup in golfing terms, but it oozes character through a playable design that will have you questioning whether to play it safe for a par or take a risk and possibly have an easy birdie chance.
Featuring plenty of water, with lakes and creeks a distraction on many holes, it has a secluded feel as it meanders through a landscape of tall gum trees that obstruct your view of other holes on the course.
And with Santa Ana Couch on the fairways, Pacific Dunes looks green even during the depths of winter.
ST MICHAEL’S GOLF CLUB
If you’re itching for some winter golf in Sydney on a seaside course, St Michael’s won’t disappoint.
St Michael’s is a neighbour to New South Wales Golf Club, one of the best in the country, and is located on the Little Bay peninsula in Botany Bay.
The wind is often a factor around this 18-hole layout, which borders the Tasman Sea and blends into the natural surroundings seamlessly.
The spectacular views on offer are worth your green fees alone but the course is always in top shape, even in winter.
Winter in Victoria can get a little depressing, especially if your footy team is Carlton.
But if you head to Barwon Heads, 1½ hours from Melbourne or 20 minutes from Geelong, you’ll be saying goodbye to your winter blues/Blues.
Two 18-hole courses, Creek and Beach, are waiting for you and your mates to get stuck into and they’re far enough away to make a weekend of it, if you wish.
13th Beach hosts the Vic Open, a combined European Tour and LPGA event, so it’s fair to say the course is always in impeccable touch.
YARRA BEND GOLF CLUB
Rated as one of the leading public access courses in suburban Melbourne, Yarra Bend is only 10 minutes from the CBD and tracks along the banks of the Yarra River.
For a public course that gets a lot of traffic, it’s maintained to a high standard all year round and its layout has been recently redesigned by the Ogilvy/Clayton team.
It’s not too long, which helps in the sodden winter months, and beginners should be able to get around without losing too many balls.
And with an undercover driving range, you can get your golf fix not matter how bad the weather is.
At the other end of the spectrum is Moonah Links on the Mornington Peninsular, which offers some of the most testing golf in the country.
Now, if you’re into that kind of thing, winter’s the season when it gets even tougher as stiff breezes regularly pound the Moonah Links courses, which are routed through sand dune country.
When it first opened, Moonah Links was rated as too difficult for average golfers to play but different sets of tees now make it a fairer test for all abilities.
And the Moonah Links championship course offers easy access to an Australian Open standard track, having hosted the championship in 2003 and 2005.
ALBERT PARK GOLF COURSE
If your footy team is in finals contention and you want to stay close to the city this winter, Albert Park is about a close as it gets.
The Melbourne city skyline dominates the view around all 18 holes of the course and while it’s geared more to beginners and the conditioning is best described as fair, Albert Park is just fine for a quick afternoon winter hit.
But the biggest drawcard in winter is the Albert Park driving range, a double-storey, undercover complex that is open till late.
Melbourne’s sandbelt courses are world-renowned, but are difficult to access unless you are a member or know someone who is.
However, Cheltenham Golf Club is a nine-hole course in the sandbelt that neighbours elite courses such as Victoria Golf Club and Royal Melbourne, the host course for this year’s Presidents Cup.
While Cheltenham is a members’ course, the public is welcome to play and experience a taste of the sandbelt this winter for a very reasonable green fee.
The great thing about Indooroopilly, located just 20 minutes from the Brisbane CBD, is that you are spoilt for choice.
This 36-hole parkland layout is split into four nines, meaning you get to choose which 18-hole combination you'd like to play (there are six different combinations).
And with the course tracing along the banks of the Brisbane River, Indooroopilly is a haven for wildlife - a bonus if your golf game is up the creek.
A huge practice facility features a driving range, a trio of practice putting and chipping greens and bunkers, making it the perfect hangout for winter golf.
If you're thinking of beating a hasty retreat from winter to chase some golf AND sunshine, Hamilton Island Golf Club in the Whitsundays wouldn't be a bad place to start.
But spoiler alert: the course isn't actually on Hamilton Island - it's built on neighbouring Dent Island and you have to take a five-minute ferry ride to get there.
The course is one the best in Australia and winds its way through dense tropical scrub up to an elevation of over 100m above the crystal-clear waters of the Coral Sea.
A cart is essential at Hamilton Island Golf Club as the design necessitated long paths between greens and tees (getting from the 17th green to the 18th tee alone is a 1km trek) and it is frequently windy so bring your A-game.
Golf on the Gold Coast can be appreciated with a round at Sanctuary Cove this winter.
No expense was spared when this 36-hole resort course complex opened in the late 80s to great acclaim and it has now matured into a bucket-list course.
While the Arnold Palmer-designed Pines course is a members' only course, you are able access it if you stay at the onsite resort.
But the shorter Palms layout is open to anyone and is a fun test of strategy and nerve - your approach shots need to stop precisely on the undulating greens to have a chance of making the putt.
LONGREACH GOLF CLUB
Looking for something different to snap out of the humdrum of winter?
Longreach Golf Club, in Central West Queensland, is an 18-hole golf course that has sand and oil greens, the ones that require a scraper to roll a flat path to the hole.
Grass often isn't an option on the fairway and the flies can be overly friendly, but Longreach Golf Club offers an experience of golf in outback Queensland.
Longreach Golf Club is also part of the Outback Queensland Masters series and hosts a tournament in June.
You’ve no doubt seen what Royal Pines has to offer during the Australian PGA Championship or Australian Ladies Masters.
And if you like what you see, winter is the perfect time to play this recently renovated Gold Coast course.
There are three nines on offer at Royal Pines, with the Championship course comprised of the Green and Gold nines, and despite being situated on an almost dead-flat piece of Gold Coast real estate, the course presents an enjoyable challenge.
There is plenty of water to negotiate and the re-sculpted greens are some of the best on the Gold Coast.
BARNBOUGLE DUNES/LOST FARM
An hour’s drive from Launceston lies Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm and both are ranked among the best courses in Australia.
Perched on the north coast of Tasmania, both courses are routed through sand dunes bordering Bass Strait and are a true links test.
Some of the most severe winds whip off the strait in winter but don’t let it put you off because Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm are 100 per cent bucket-list courses.
And with an option to stay in on-course accommodation, you can take your time to enjoy the stunning scenery in this spectacular part of Tasmania.
It’s a little hard to get to but a trip to King Island is a must for golfers.
Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes are two King Island courses that are firmly in the links mould and like most things in the middle of Bass Strait, cop a battering from winter-time weather.
But you’ll be rewarded with a golf round unlike anything else you've ever experienced and if the golf is no good, there are picture-postcard views on nearly every hole to take your mind off it.
You’ll have to catch a charter flight to get to King Island but both Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes are worth it as they are ranked as the top public access courses in Australia.
It’s the oldest course in Australia and Ratho Farm still retains its ties to golf’s heritage.
Ratho Farm channels the earliest St Andrews traditions, with sheep roaming the fairway and square greens fenced off from the flocks; tee shots over livestock yards and plenty of rock walls to negotiate.
Originally a 12-hole course, Ratho Farm has been extended to 18 holes and its quirkiness will provide a golfing adventure unlike any other you’ve experienced.
And hickory clubs are more than welcome.
FREYCINET GOLF CLUB
This nine-hole rural gem is located on Tasmania’s east coast, 2½ hours from Hobart or Launceston.
Set on the edge of the pristine Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay, the course is at the foot of an imposing granite mountain range with a name that is rather in-tune with the golf course: the Hazards.
It’s a narrow, woodland course that overlooks nearby bays and interestingly, the course has three par3s, three par 4s and three par 5s.
And if you’re keen in the middle of winter, the Freycinet Golf Club also offers camp site accommodation.
CLAREMONT GOLF CLUB
Claremont Golf Club is surrounded by the Derwent River and offers stunning views of the water and nearby hills.
This 18-hole members’ course situated just outside Hobart welcomes visitors and is in top-notch shape, with lush fairways and greens.
Claremont Golf Club is relatively short but when the winds pick up, the course begins to bare its teeth.
LINKS LADY BAY
This coastal resort course is located 70km from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsular and is the perfect place for a winter break.
The 18-hole course is a links layout beside the Gulf Of St Vincent and the holes run in the opposite direction to the previous one - it's fair to say you'll need a good gauge on wind strength and direction in breezy conditions.
The course is well bunkered and the often feathery rough is similar in appearance to that found on links courses in Scotland or Ireland.
Links Lady Bay has resort accommodation that offers a stay-and-play deal and is an excellent place from which to explore this strip of South Australian coastline, which is only 30 minutes to the famous McLaren Vale wine region.
MOUNT OSMOND GOLF CLUB
Only 15 minutes from the Adelaide CBD, Mount Osmond Golf Club has stunning views of the city, coast and Mt Lofty ranges.
If you're a golfer who enjoys playing amongst the Australian bush in winter, Mount Osmond Golf Club is Adelaide's answer to Lake Karrinyup, just not quite as refined.
The 18-hole course welcomes visitors and provides an excellent great chance to escape winter for a few hours with a quick nine.
And Mount Osmond's clubhouse is exactly how clubhouses should look and feel: grand but not in a flashy way.
COOBER PEDY OPAL FIELDS GOLF CLUB
Golfers will usually tee it up just about anywhere and that most likely explains how the Coober Pedy Golf Club came into existence.
Nine hours’ drive from Adelaide and smack bang in the middle of the desert, Coober Pedy is an outback golfing gem, which seems appropriate given the number of opals in the region.
There's no grass at Coober Pedy. But the tees are astro-turfed and you get to play off your own square of artificial turf on the fairways. The greens are quarry dust mixed with oil and need scraping before you putt.
But there's something about the almost Mars-like landscape of Coober Pedy's 18-hole course that'll leave you with a sense of awe of the outback and a greater appreciation of the lengths some people will go to play this great game.
MOUNT COMPASS GOLF COURSE
Another course on the popular Fleurieu Peninsular is Mount Compass, which has had a recent makeover to bring it up to scratch.
It's a design that could almost belong in Melbourne's sandbelt and the 89 bunkers that lie in wait at Mount Compass have been modelled on those found at the great Scottish links courses.
And yes, there are quite a few pot bunkers to negotiate.
The conditioning is now first-rate and if you want a good test of both your on-course strategy and bunker play, you should play Mount Compass this winter.
Stretching for 1675km across South Australia and Western Australia, the gun-barrel straight Nullarbor Plain can be pretty flat and boring to drive across.
But there's good news if you're a golfer: there's actually a golf course on offer in this huge patch of treeless desert.
And not just any course: it's the 1375km-long Nullarbor Links, the world's longest golf course.
Teeing off with two holes at Ceduna Golf Course in South Australia, the rest of the course is comprised of purpose built holes at Nullarbor roadhouses (hundreds of kilometres apart) before ending with holes at Norseman Golf Club and Kalgoorlie Golf Course in Western Australia - which is one of the best courses in the country.
It'll certainly break up the trip.
ALICE SPRINGS GOLF CLUB
It's in the middle of this wide, brown land of ours but what's surprising is just how green Alice Springs Golf Club is.
Framed by the Macdonnell Ranges, winter is the perfect time to play this desert course to avoid the baking temperatures associated with summer time.
It's a long way to go but Alice Springs Golf Club recently hosted the NT Amateur Championship and is in sparkling condition - there's never been a better time to play golf in the red centre.
DARWIN GOLF CLUB
Tropical Darwin is a nice respite from the chilly southern winters and Darwin Golf Club is one reason to throw the clubs in for your winter getaway.
The 18-hole course is the Top End’s premium course but retains the relaxed charm Darwin is renowned for - even dogs are welcome here (if they are on a lead, of course).
And a floodlit driving range means you can grind away long into the night if the weather is too humid for you during the day.