Bridport, Tasmania. Tom Doak and Michael Clayton, 2004. Paraparaumu’s singular supremacy among the links of the Southern Hemisphere (see below) rested in part on the fact that most of Australia’s best courses are in the Melbourne Sandbelt and its one great seaside track, New South Wales, is more a cliff-top course like Pebble Beach than it is a true links. But five years ago I visited Tasmania for the first time to see the ground that is now Barnbougle Dunes, and I could see the handwriting on the wall. Tasmania, the island state off Australia’s southeastern tip, is very reminiscent of Britain: Most of the towns are laid out around the coast, there are sand dunes aplenty thanks to the windy climate of the "roaring forties," and the air is cool enough that the fescues that dominate the links will thrive. The only question was whether anyone would come to play; Tasmania’s population is quite small, so golfers from Melbourne and Sydney must adopt the course as a regular holiday spot if it is to succeed. I hope it does: It includes some of the best holes I’ve ever built, like the fourth, seventh and thirteenth, which may make my career "eclectic eighteen" someday. 011-61/363-560-094, barnbougledunes.com.au
Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand. Alex Russell, 1949. For many years, this compact links in a beach-town suburb of Wellington had the reputation of being the best links in the Southern Hemisphere—and deservedly so. Modern development came to this part of the world before golf did, so the dunes along the shoreline are covered with beach homes and the golf course is behind them. Architect Alex Russell, who worked with Dr. Alister MacKenzie at Royal Melbourne, made the very most out of a tight rectangular property with small dunes and small trees throughout. The best holes are the par threes, where missing the green always leaves a difficult recovery, but most memorable is the long par-four thirteenth (pictured), its green set high in dunes framed against the rugged coastal mountains. 011-64/4902-8200, paraparaumubeachgolfclub.co.nz
Bandon and Pacific Dunes
Bandon, Oregon. David McLay Kidd, 1999; Tom Doak, 2001. Some strict constructionists do not consider the courses at Bandon true links because they sit on cliff tops a hundred feet above the ocean. But just like the courses on Gullane Hill, their sandy and undulating character derives from the beach below, and they play more like links than some real links do.
It was the success of Sand Hills, a course a thousand miles from the ocean with linkslike playing characteristics in its own right, that inspired Mike Keiser to look for a spot of secluded sandy coastline to build his own dream course. He found it just north of Bandon, Oregon, where alluvial deposits from the Coquille River are blown back ashore to create a sandy paradise for American golfers. David Kidd’s Bandon Dunes and the lucky thirteenth course on my own résumé, Pacific Dunes, don’t just play like links—with the maritime climate, a healthy maintenance budget and a lot of TLC, they might well provide the finest playing surface in all of links golf. You can sometimes putt from fifty yards off the green if it suits you.
Best of all, the success of Bandon Dunes has turned others into believers: Developers from Tasmania and South Africa to Iceland and Canada and Argentina are starting to think links golf could work there, too. I hope that when someone else writes this article fifty years from now, there will be a number of worthy new candidates for inclusion—a possibility that seemed quite unlikely not so long ago. 888-345-6008, bandondunesgolf.com