NEARLY 12 months have passed since one of the most anticipated golf courses in the world opened for business.
But one year on from the October 2015 unveiling of Cape Wickham, co-designer Darius Oliver still can’t name a favourite hole.
“The first time I stood on the 17th tees was like a spiritual awakening,” recalls Oliver. “That spot always gives me goosebumps. I love 18. I love the first. I love 12. Standing on the 10th fairway looking down at the ocean is breathtaking. Nine is great, but then there’s the 15th green – and 16th tees … oh who am I kidding? There are just too many.”
Golfer feedback from Cape Wickham – which Oliver co-designed with US architect Mike DeVries – has almost mirrored Oliver’s own feelings toward the King Island layout.
“The feedback has been overwhelming; most people understand what we’ve tried to do,” says Oliver. “And that was to build a course that was great fun, in an unbelievably beautiful location.
“People try tell me their favourite hole or part of Cape Wickham and end up having a debate with themselves.”
Selecting a standout feature is indeed difficult – there are eight holes adjacent to Bass Strait, and two others with greens on the coastline. Three holes boast tees against the water’s edge and each hole on the card has sea views across Bass Strait, while the spectacular 18th wraps around the beach at Victoria Cove.
Another inviting quality of Cape Wickham is its playability; there are some intimidating tee shots here, but just as many holes with generous driving zones. Forgiving bailouts around the greens keep higher handicappers enjoying the round, while the rough isn’t too penal for a course so exposed to the Bass Strait winds.
It is this seemingly endless list of highlights that earned Cape Wickham a debut ranking of No.24 in Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses list in January.
“We were absolutely delighted with debuting at No.24,” says Oliver, author of global course guide, Planet Golf. “I’ve seen every one of the Top 100 courses in the world and I think Cape Wickham is where it belongs given its age. Personally, I think it will end up a little bit higher on the list as it gets older.”
When we visited in late July, Cape Wickham had aged like a fine wine. The only change was its crown jewels were now complemented by a more mature fescue turf base.
“As a fescue course, the establishment will take a while, but under our superintendent, John Geary, the course maturity has exceeded all my expectations; it’s in fantastic condition for its age,” says Oliver. With this month’s opening of Ocean Dunes, the island’s emerging golf industry is ecstatic that travelling golfers now have three layouts to choose from.
Visitor numbers are also expected to surge once Cape Wickham erects accommodation on site.
“It’s an exciting time for King Island,” says Oliver. “A large percentage of golfers enquiring about Cape Wickham said they were deferring travel until Ocean Dunes opened, and variety is great for tourism. “Hopefully they also play the old course – the nine-holer (King Island Golf and Bowling Club) which is really fun.”
While Cape Wickham has been a dream start to his golf course architecture career, Oliver says it was certainly earned. But he wouldn’t change a thing.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into Cape Wickham; I spent 250 days living on King Island while we built it.
“The past 12 months have been a dream, really.”
While You’re On King Island
King Island Golf and Bowling Club boasts a nine-hole course with some of the most spectacular views you’ll see. Located on the rugged west coast of King Island, this charming nine-holer was the first course constructed on the island and is only minutes from Currie.
You can also play an 18-hole composite course here with alternate tees (17) and greens (12) on 10 fairways. With three par 3s, 12 par 4s and three par 5s on a 5,476-metre layout, there are plenty of challenges – and inspiring ocean vistas.
GETTING TO KING ISLAND
The good news for golfers is travelling to King Island is becoming much easier, with several commercial and charter airlines now landing at Currie Airport. Sharp Airlines flies direct from Essendon weekdays and weekends, with only a one-hour flight separating golfers from King Island’s golfing spread. For interstate tourists, Sharp Airlines is also running a shuttle service between Melbourne (Tullamarine) and Essendon airports. Fares start at $154 with no hidden charges (not even for your clubs), and packages can include airfares, accommodation and course fees. Golf groups can also opt for tailored private charter packages. To contact Sharp’s reservations team, visit sharpairlines com.
Also servicing the island is Vortex Air, a private charter company specialising in golf packages to King Island and Barnbougle (mainland Tasmania). Departing Moorabbin airport, Vortex has started the Bass Strait Triangle package. From $700pp, groups fly in a private aircraft and play all four courses in the Triangle – Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm, Cape Wickham and Ocean Dunes. Visit vortexair.com.au.