By Ron Perlman
I was finalizing the itinerary of our trip to Australia to visit my daughter and her Aussie husband, but an important piece of information was missing. I called up my son in law.
“Byron, since you’re a member of Royal Queensland, can you get us on Royal Melbourne?”
“No problem, Mate.” My heart jumped a beat.
“However”, he continued “since you’re flying half way around the world, I want you to check out these two courses. They’re only an hour flight from Melbourne. It would be a shame to miss them.”
Sometime later, I got on line and looked up “Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm”. I only needed about twenty seconds to make a decision. I looked at my wife.
“Nadine, I’m making a slight adjustment to our trip. We’re going to Tasmania.”
Now I’m not some Mr. Money Bags who can afford to jet set around the world just to play the hottest new course of that year, but Nadine’s pretty good at parlaying flight miles and hotel awards points. After all, it was “only a one hour flight” and these two beauties were ranked #35 and #47 best on the planet by the Top 100 Golf Course of the World, respectively. I couldn’t miss this opportunity.
We would eventually fly to Tasmania to meet my daughter and hubby, but first Nadine and I spent a night in Melbourne and then woke up early the next morning to drive the magnificent Great Ocean Road. Stretching about 200 miles southwest of Melbourne along seaside cliffs and surfing towns such as Torquay, Lorne, and Apollo Bay, the road even twisted inland through a rain forest. Like every other tourist, we were blown away by The Twelve Apostles, the huge limestone outcroppings that stand majestically offshore.
Two days later the four of us drove for about an hour from Launceston Airport thru the hills via winding country roads towards the north shore of Tasmania and the town of Bridport. Only a very simple white roadside sign with an arrow pointed the way towards the resort, and I couldn’t help but think, “what if this place doesn’t match the hype? There’s nothing else out here.”
But, to Nadine’s delight, there were wallabies and a few kangaroos grazing in a field as we drove by, and then I saw the clubhouse in the distance sitting impressively high atop a very large dune. As we approached, roller coaster fairways and wild looking sand bunkers sprung into view, looking just like the pictures on the website. It was everything I had hoped for.
After registering, we had lunch in the dining room with full length windows that sported a fantastic panoramic preview of the links below. I gazed out at elevated tee boxes perched on top of high fescue covered dunes and fairways that heaved, dropped and snaked through these dunes. The tan colored fescue grasses framed both sides of fairways while craggy edged deep sand bunkers appeared to be perilously placed everywhere. In the far distance to the west I could see the blue mountains of the Central Highlands. Just outside the clubhouse window the 8th green of the Dunes Course sat alongside the beach and waters of Bass Strait. We would play the Coore-Crenshaw designed Lost Farm Course in a few minutes. The next morning we’d tackle Tom Doak’s Barnbougle Dunes.
I have to tell you, I’m particularly fond of courses where when standing on the first tee I can’t help but say out loud, “Wow, this looks really cool.” I don’t think I said that on the first at St. Andrews a few years ago and I didn’t say that a week later into this trip at Royal Melbourne. But I said it on every tee box here. I might have substituted “awesome” for “really cool” a few times.
There’s no way that I could choose one course over the other. Of the 38 holes I played (Lost Farm has 20 holes, cool, right?) I can honestly say that each hole emphatically stood out on its own. 38 signature holes and I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I walked from green to tee in eager anticipation of the next scenic challenge I would face. Would I be hitting down to the fairway from atop a dune? Would I have to clear some wild bunkers to a flag on the other side of a hill? Is that a wallaby or a kangaroo hiding in the grass staring at me?
I didn’t make it easy on myself playing the back tees with my plus 1 handicap son in law, but I was having a blast. These courses are pure adventure and simply a lot of fun. Of course, I don’t think my daughter was having too much fun trying to escape one of the deepest and largest bunkers I had ever seen…but I got a great picture of it.
The hotel rooms at Lost Farm were fine and the restaurant excellent. But I had made one tactical error. I had promised the girls that after our second round we’d be on our way to spend a few days at Cradle Mountain Lodge to hike and explore Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake. We should’ve stayed a second night. Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm need to be played more than once!
For more information on Barnbougle in Tasmania Australia visit www.barnbougle.com.au