Laid out on Tasmania’s wild north coast, Hamish Cameron finds Barnbougle Dunes and sister course Lost Farm are two of the world’s finest public golf courses.
For many guys a golf trip —I doesn’t include much golf. Typically, you drag a bunch of mates away from their incredulous significant others, hire a mini-van, whack clubs and eskies in the back, and get on the road. Whether you later make it onto the first tee in a fit state is beside the point.
But the legendary Bambougle Dunes course in Tasmania completely redefines the golfing holiday. In truth, ‘holiday’ barely does the experience justice this is more of an adventure undertaken by crusaders in search of Australia’s golfing Holy Grail.
The addition of a second world-class course on the property–the ‘Lost Farm’ layout – a few years back ensures there’s little doubt that Australia’s finest golfing experience is not on the Gold Coast, the Hunter Valley or Mornington Peninsula, but along the wild, north east coastline of the Apple Isle.
So what is it that makes Barnbougle the ideal destination for the gentleman golfer–and had a group of visiting members from Royal Melbourne hiding in the sand traps and refusing to get back into their shuttle bus?
In part, Barnbougle’s reputation stems from the fact it is in such a far-Flung corner of the world. This is destination golf at its purest – an odyssey where the desire to play challenging, picturesque tracks is uppermost and getting there isn’t necessarily half the fun.
With Its mix of rugged, natural good looks and stunning design courtesy of American course designer Tom Doak, ably assisted by former Aussie pro Michael Clayton –’Barny’ swiftly assumed the title of Australia’s best public access course and slotted into the echelon of Top 50 tracks worldwide. Word spread and soon up to 40,000 pilgrims from all corners of the globe began descending on the hallowed Tassie turf each year. But more than a hundred hackers tearing through the course each day took a toll on the greens and fairways. To satisfy demand, and take pressure off the course, a new set of holes was needed. Fortunately with 13,000 plus acres of stunning, windswept land on offer, there was plenty of room to expand.
Though it sits directly across the Forester River from the first course, the steeper terrain at Barnbougle Lost Farm yields a different brand of golfing drama. Sure, there are similarly gorgeous views of the water and surrounding countryside, tricky undulating greens, nasty bunkers and plenty of fescue grass rough ready to gobble up wayward shots. But designer Bill Coore has fashioned a more sprawling layout that rolls both inland and along the coastal terrain. This may have something to do with Coore’s method of finding the optimum position for each of Lost Farm’s 20 holes (that’s right, it’s a par 78): the American walked the property following the tracks made by wandering herds of cattle. Makes sense when you realise cows prefer trudging the flatter spots rather than up steep, sandy dunes.
Like the best golf courses, strategy and brute force share a level footing here. But even more importantly—and just like its sibling— it’s fun to play. It wouldn’t be the stylish gent’s ideal golfing retreat, though, if all the pleasure were confined to the fairways. Both courses have well appointed clubhouses offering pre-round food and caffeine hits, and a place for post-round tall tales with an ale in hand, as well as late-night fine dining. On-site accommodation is the epitome of low-key luxury—visitors to the original course choose between two-bedroom cottages and deluxe villa accommodation, while Lost Form guests stay in a 50-room Lodge that overlooks the course.
Then there’s the Lost Farm Health Spa. Despite jokes about golf being as physically demanding as chess, walking around seven kilometres chasing an errant ball does have an impact. Revitalising those weary bones and aching muscles can involve reclining in a vitality pool; sweating out toxins in a steam room heated to the temperature of earth’s core and being massaged with an heady mix of Tasmanian peppermint, lemon myrtle and rosemary oils Thankfully, there’s no Enya on the stereo to kill the manly experience.
For anyone who loves the game, the Barnbougle courses deserve a place on the golfing bucket list alongside the Old Course at St Andrews or California’s Pebble Beach. That’s because both links allow you to experience golf the way it’s supposed to be played. Nothing ruins the atmosphere: no passing cars honk during your backswing, no vulgar holiday homes encroach upon the windswept fairways, and without the carts, there are no boy racers trying to be Mark Webber. Instead, it’s just you with a club in your hands and a ball at your feet, enjoying the challenge set down by an expanse of grass and whatever Mother Nature throws at you.