Making sense of an Australian golf trip

Australia is a big place. It’s also potentially a really long way away from wherever you are in the world. Let’s get those facts out in the open. Australia is also one of the best golf trips you will ever take if you choose to take on the challenge. Dozens of world-class courses offering public access, unique scenery and golf layouts, and friendly culture to blend it all. I can’t recommend embarking on an Australian golf odyssey enough.

As per the majority of the advice via Golf Drifter, a successful Australian golf trip starts with the decision to allocate ample time to both the planning and eventual execution of the trip. If you are planning on traveling halfway around the world, plan to spend at least 2 weeks on land, or longer if you want to tag on New Zealand.

There are many ways to attack creating your dream Aussie trip, but by following these tips, you will be off to a great start;

Where to go

It would be possible to review over a dozen spots in Australia with their own blog, such as this gem about Tasmania.  But for the sake of this article, I will focus on 5 primary areas of golfing joy. It is completely up to you how many you try to tackle, but rest assured that you can have a great holiday by visiting even 1 of these spots on its own.

  • Melbourne – Most passionate golfers have heard of the ‘sandbelt’. A famous collection of 8 instantly recognisable courses plus other not so well known tracks. Unique in appearance and always hard and fast, the sandbelt has been home to many of the world’s best golfers playing in events such as The Presidents Cup. The unique thing with these famous clubs is that they are generally playable by the public, but for hefty fees and in limited periods of the week. So you will need to do your research, be active in your communications with the courses, and pay a lot of money. The good news is that not all golf in Melbourne has to be played on the big 8 courses. There are dozens of other amazing tracks such as St Andrews Beach or The National that are worth your investigation. The great thing about Melbourne golf is that you can base yourself in one spot for a week plus, without needing to move, and have an amazing time.
  • South Australia – Dominated by Adelaide, South Australia offers many of the characteristics of Melbourne in a more relaxed and affordable manner. The likes of Royal Adelaide, Kooyonga, The Grange and Glenelg are world-class clubs well worth your attention. South Australia is also the perfect spot if wine tasting is high on your agenda.
  • Southern Queensland – The areas of the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast are outstanding golf locations. All areas famous for surf, sunshine, and fun and playable golf courses. Whilst lacking some of the history of Melbourne or breathtaking beauty of Tasmania, Southern Queensland is best if you have non golfers in tow as there are an array of amazing theme parks, beaches and other activities to enjoy. Golf can still be played at an elite level but generally will cost a bit less than the likes of Melbourne. I would compare the Gold Coast to more of a Myrtle Beach type location. If you do spend your break in Queensland you may also want to consider the fabulous Hamilton Island golf club, which is often stated to be one of the toughest courses in the world. It is further north however.
  • Sydney – Perhaps unfairly the Sydney golf scene can be lost in the hype of other more talked about Australian destinations. However the New South Wales Golf Club alone makes the area worth a visit if you have time. However of all the spots on this list this would be the lowest on my priority list due to many of the other top clubs in the area being private. Sydney however is Australia’s largest city and a must visit if you have non golfers in your group.
  • Tasmania – Certainly the late bloomer in regards Australian golf, but perhaps now the star of the show. Barnbougle, Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes all now feature on the world’s Top 100 lists for every good reason. Just be prepared to put in the effort to access these hard to reach locations.

When to go

As already stated, Australia is BIG. Meaning there are lots of different climates in lots of different areas. The good news being that this means you really can go whenever you want and find a part of Australia suitable for you.

Australia is also very hot at times. Hot enough that many golf courses will physically close for the safety of players, staff, and the course in the peak of summer, particularly around Melbourne.

Australia can also be very rugged in parts. During winter, more southern areas such as Tasmania, another hotbed of Aussie golf, can be pretty miserable with rain and wind.

As a general rule, depending on where you plan to head, these would be my recommendations :

  • Melbourne Area: Shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are best (remember summer is January to March down under). You will also miss fly season.
  • Southern Queensland: Playable all year round. Heat is also a factor in summer but if you wish to travel in the Australian winter this is the place for you.
  • Sydney: A good all round choice with a mild climate through winter, and normally playable conditions in summer.
  • Tasmania: I would really just avoid the absolute middle of winter. June through September. The rest is playable.

Getting there and getting around

Depending on where you are coming from globally, expect to lose at least a day in the air and suffer from jet lag at either end of your flights. Build this into your plans, and perhaps don’t schedule 36 holes for the day after you arrive.

Remember that driving conditions may vary a lot from what you are used to, so if you are not comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to, book a driver or shuttles.

Equally, it’s not worth trying to drive between states. Whilst it may look doable on a map, you are much better to fly between areas if you want to sample more than one golf mecca.

The Golf

There are over 1500 golf courses in Australia, so that you will be spoilt for choice. From AUD 20 rounds up to one of the most expensive ‘guest rounds’ in the world at Royal Melbourne at over AUD 800, what you can afford to pay will have a big bearing on what you decide. Keep in mind if you can somehow snag a member’s invite to a course like Royal Melbourne, costs drop well under $200, so it’s worth the effort to find this.

Courses are typically hard and fast, and you will need to cover up from the sun. Australia is also home to many creatures that can kill you. Take it seriously when people tell you not to venture into the rough because snakes could be in there… I’ve seen them.

Some top Aussie private courses will also require letters from your home club vouching for you, so do your research, so you are not stuck at the front gate knowing where to go.

The Cost

How long is a piece of string, and how shiny do you want that string to be? Everyone will have a different budget for their trip and different needs based on where you are coming. I will not price up the flight component as that is unique to each reader, but I would budget on the following for golf and accommodation:

  • Accommodation: $150 per night AUD – Assuming you are sharing with someone else
  • Golf: $150 per day AUD – This is a blended rate assuming some world class and some more standard courses

Package deals, including rounds at some of the more famous courses, may also be a great option for Australian golf. You may pay a tad more than you would by figuring out things yourself, but a lot of hassle will be taken out of your life. You can find dozens of companies offering packages of all levels, but if you want a very comprehensive tour, something like this is a good starting point.

For the non-golfer

Non-golfers will love Australia, and if you are traveling with non-golfers just need to find out what spins their wheels as part of deciding where you want to go. Being based in a larger city may suit those wanting to shop or explore bars and restaurants. At the same time, those wanting more of a typical resort holiday may favor Queensland destinations. I would possibly stay away from Tasmania if you are concerned about the sanity of your non-golfing friends.

Bonus Points

If you are traveling halfway around the world to golf, think about adding another week to your trip to visit New Zealand. Whilst only a 3-hour flight away, the difference in golf is remarkable and well worth exploring. All of New Zealand’s courses are accessible to the public, so you can be sure to add some more trophies to your collection of bucket list courses played.

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