CapeWickham (002) (PDF)

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Cape W
King Isla m

Brace yourselves. The world’s most highly anticipated new golf course
opens its gates later this month. We thought we’d get in early and play
Cape Wickham on Tasmania’s King Island following a wave of international
fanfare. Our verdict? Believe the hype. By THE EDITORS
66 | october 2015

october 2015
2015 || 69

Access onto King island is by plane only, from Moorabbin and
Tullamarine in Victoria and from Launceston via Burnie on the
Tasmanian mainland. Beyond schedule services offered by REX, Sharp
Airlines and King Island Airlines are chartered services from companies
like Vortex, Kirkhope, Air Adventure and Flight Group. Flight time from
Tullamarine is under 45 minutes.
successful golf entrepreneur Duncan
Andrews to the property. Andrews, the
owner and developer of Thirteenth Beach
and The Dunes over in Victoria, was
immediately smitten and agreed to finance
the project subject to a long-term lease
being issued by the Tasmanian authorities
to use the coastal crown reserve. This land
was essential to the routing of the golf
course, with parts of the first three, final
four and 10th through 12th holes touching
this government land.
While the virtues of a golf course on
some marginal dune land on a remote
island might have seemed an easy argument
to mount, in the case of Cape Wickham
it was anything but simple. Building the
golf course would mean destroying several
thousand Short-tailed Shearwater burrows
on the site, some of which were on the


OU’RE building a
golf course where?
It was a common
question asked of
those involved in
the development
of the highly anticipated
Cape Wickham golf course
on King Island. Isolated and
seemingly inaccessible in
the middle of Bass Strait,
King Island is known on
the mainland for its cheese,
beef, seafood and, perhaps
if a really eager historian, its
maritime narrative.



crown land. Shearwaters, or
mutton-birds as they are
more commonly known, are
the most abundant seabird
in Australia and breed in colonies across
mainland Tasmania and its islands. Cape
Wickham is home to as many as 40,000
burrows, and permission to build the golf
course relied on the development team
convincing the authorities, as well as the
environmental lobby, of the project’s social
and environmental upside. These upsides
included obvious benefits like jobs and
tourism onto the island, but equally the
protection of the mutton-bird colony.
Each of the birds displaced by golf course
construction at Cape Wickham would have
ample room to relocate, and protection into
the future through the closing of the rookery
for local recreational harvesting and the

In the shadows of this epic structure is an irregularly
shaped shoreline and sand dune terrain that Mother
Nature seemingly left here for the purpose of great golf

The western coastline here was once
regarded as one of the most dangerous
in the world. In the 1860s, after several
deadly shipwrecks, action was taken with
the construction of the Cape Wickham
lighthouse near the island’s northwestern
tip. Measuring close to 50 metres, it remains
Australia’s tallest.
In the shadows of this epic structure is an
irregularly shaped shoreline and sand dune
terrain that Mother Nature seemingly left on
earth for the purpose of great golf. This really
is the ‘kitchen sink’ of links golf sites, with
everything from a dramatic rocky headland,
sandy white beach and cove, enormous
dune corridors and holes set right down on
the rocky shoreline thrown into the mix.
Plus, you have the highest lighthouse on
any golf course in the world. From all angles
the Cape Wickham development looks a
knockout, with the course likely to debut
highly in Australian Golf Digest’s Top
100 Courses ranking in March. Despite its
many accolades already, this was far from a | october 2015

sure thing and an almighty risk for developer
Duncan Andrews to take.

Overcoming obstacles

THE Cape Wickham site was actually
discovered by Andrew Purchase, former
boss of golf course construction company
Turnpoint. Purchase first ventured onto the
island in 2011, falling in love with the site
and buying a large chunk of freehold land
immediately south of the lighthouse.
The land was dramatic but steep, and
overlooked some of the most spectacular
coastal frontage anywhere in golf. After
enlisting the help of Australian Golf
Digest’s own Darius Oliver to study the land
and explore the possibilities, it became clear
they would need to access crown land along
the ocean as well as some additional dunes
further to the south.
It was around this time that Oliver
introduced little known American
golf course designer Mike DeVries and
october 2015 | 71

The finishing run is ridiculously scenic. A four-hole
stretch, from holes nine to 12, might trump anything
we have in Australian golf
removal of invasive weed species and threats
such as cattle and feral cats. Although there
are some areas where the birds appear to
have tried digging into the fescue playing
surfaces, generally the relocation looks
to have been a big success with the birds
and the golf holes surviving and thriving
Golf often gets a bad environmental rap,
but King Island is an example of sensible
planning and thoughtful development
working together to produce favourable
results for the island. There are certainly
lessons here for future developers to follow.

Building world-class holes

BEYOND the success of the planning process,
the chief lesson to take from Cape Wickham
is not to compromise on the
golf. As Andrews and Oliver
both pointed out, the only
way for them to combat the
remoteness of King Island
was for the golf course to be



King Island attracts less
than 8,000 tourists per
year. Cape Wickham is
hoping to bring at least
that many for golf alone. | october 2015

singularly outstanding.
“It would be hard to see this thing making
any financial sense at all unless you were
able to build something truly world-class,”
Oliver says. “We knew from day one that the
site was good enough, and after considering
hundreds of different options, that the
routing was as well. It was then just a matter
of building great holes.”
Australian Golf Digest played the
course in August and the greatness of
some of those holes was apparent at first
glance to the editors. The opening stretch
is incredible, and played atop a rocky
peninsula the locals call Cape Farewell. It
seems an appropriate name for the journey
golfers embark upon. The very first hole
features about as exhilarating a tee shot as
you’ll find anywhere in the world, with big
Bass Strait views and water lurking down
the right. Although the fairway is quite wide,
the landing area seems to shrink when the
crosswinds pick up. The second fairway is
even wider and almost impossible to miss
unless aggressively trying to drive up the
narrow side. Its green rests spectacularly at
the western tip of the Cape, near a collection
of rocks often populated by visiting fur seals.
The third is a longish par 3 played towards
a pair of offshore islands, and with disaster
waiting for those missing right. Fortunately
there is a huge bailout area to the left and a
green of 1,000 square metres to hit.

The most incredible part of the opening
sequence is not how good the holes are, but
how quickly they appear overwhelmed
by the rest of the golf. The finishing run is
ridiculously scenic. In between are some
glorious inland holes and a four-hole stretch
(9-12) around the turn that might trump
anything we have in Australia – a part of the
course Andrews aptly titles “OMG Corner”.
Pleasingly, the course that DeVries and
Oliver designed is extremely wide and
forgiving for the average golfer and bunkered
sparingly around the greens to allow all
sorts of creative approach and recovery shot
options. The coastal scenery is ever-present
but varied, and the lighthouse stands like a
beacon on a number of holes, most notably
the fourth where the golfer first turns inland
and hits straight towards the giant target.
The vegetation is another beautiful

feature of Cape Wickham, and wonderfully
diverse with a mix of native grasses like
marram and dune tussocks, to an array of
low-growing succulents and bushes along
the shoreline.
The risk of sensory overload at Cape
Wickham is very real and at times
unexpected. Of the inland holes are a couple
of genuine showstoppers, each with design
features or settings not seen in this country
before. The tiny par-3 seventh is angled
like the 12th at Augusta but played across a
pronounced chipping valley rather than a
creek, and with the back of its shallow green
set at the base of a rock escarpment rather
than a flower bed. Again the lighthouse
stares you down as you hit the tee shot. The
next is an intimidating par 4 with a partly
blind tee shot played across a natural sandy
waste, to a fairway that is enormously
october 2015 | 73


There will be 20 twin/
double rooms available on
site at Cape Wickham by
the end of the year. Each
has breathtaking views
north across Victoria Cove
and straight towards the

undulating and far more forgiving than
it appears from the tee. Just as the rocky
bank on 7 was unexpected, so too is the
dizzying valley fairway that most closely
resembles what you find somewhere like
Barnbougle Dunes. The final inland hole is
another beauty. Played downhill and with
the prevailing wind, the long par-4 14th
bends around a string of bunkers and heads
towards a charming natural punchbowl
green set at the base of an enormous 80-foot
sand dune known to the design team as ‘The
Beast’. The next is a par 5 that gets closest to
the lighthouse, and a green pushed against
the water looking out towards Victoria.

A finish to remember

THE final three holes at Cape Wickham are
set along the ocean and are, quite simply,
unforgettable. The views from the 16th
fairway and 17th tee across Bass Strait and

towards the Cape Farewell holes are
sublime, while the 18th will make
strong claims for the best finishing
hole in the country – its fairway
bending directly above the Victoria
Cove beach, which is in play from the tee
and also on the approach. The design here
couldn’t match the setting any better, just
one solitary bunker front left of the green
to complicate play for those who drive too
safely away from the water.
All told, there are eight holes at Cape
Wickham that run along the coast and
another couple with greens that appear
directly on the water. Every hole has an
ocean view, and it’s hard to imagine any
course anywhere on earth with quite as many
thrills. Pebble Beach is the most obvious
comparison because of its irregular coastline,
but Wickham’s inland holes have far more
drama and interest than Pebble’s and the site
itself is much more rugged.
Ultimately, Cape Wickham is a one-off
and hard to compare to anything else. It’s a
credit to Andrews, DeVries, Oliver, Purchase
and all those involved in its creation for
having the patience and resolve to see the
project through and pull this off. Whether
golfers visit King Island in sustainable
numbers to play the course remains to be
seen, but what is clear is this – those who do
visit will get to experience one of the world’s
best new golf courses.

“Cape Wickham is easily the most picturesque
course I’ve ever played and probably the
most fun. I think it took me 4 hours to play
because I took so many pictures.”
Jeff Bertch, New York, USA
“My husband and I have played golf courses
that are rated in the top 10 in the world. Cape
Wickham truly is the most beautiful course
we have ever seen. It is a masterpiece.”
Sheela Bertoldi,
River Landing Golf Club, USA
“Golfers tend to want to compare courses they
have played, some all over the world. There
is nothing to compare Cape Wickham to –
anywhere. An awesome golf experience.”
Sue Hennessy, USA


Now open for bookings (play from October 30, 2015)
18 Hole Rate – $150; All Day Rate – $195
Carts – $45; Hire Clubs – $50; Pull Buggies – No charge
Contact to book a round
Golf packages are available through, and
74 | october 2015

october 2015 | 75

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