Why Barnbougle Dunes is Worth Flying Across the World For
I’ll be honest, once COVID hit and 6 weeks later my wife got pregnant, I figured my dreams of seeing Barnbougle Dunes were shot.
At least for the next decade or so.
As you might expect, getting to Tasmania from Portland, OR isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.
Convincing my wife I needed to leave her with our 2-year-old so I could go see Australia’s best golf courses? That’s recipe for divorce.
So when the opportunity came up for her to take a few weeks off from work?
I decided to bring them along.
And boy am I glad I did. Tasmania, and Barnbougle Dunes Golf Resort in particular – are something special.
The only problem with our big Australian adventure, was the fact we didn’t book a single thing until 2 weeks before we left. Full disclosure, we didn’t even decide to go until 2 weeks before we left…
When I inquired about our family staying at Barnbougle for our time in Tasmania, they were unfortunately sold out of lodging. I was informed February was their busiest month.
Fortunately, we found a wonderful AirBnb just outside Launceston, less than an hour’s drive from Barnbougle.
So on our first full day in Tasmania, I woke up at the crack of 5am to make the journey to Barnbougle for a full day of golf playing all three of their courses: Barnbougle Dunes, Lost Farm, and the wonderful short course Bougle Run.
In this post, we’re going to cover the Barnbougle Dunes course and give some information on the resort as a whole. I’ll publish separate articles about Lost Farm and Bougle Run.
Crazy enough to make the trek down? Then let’s get going.
First Impressions of Barnbougle Dunes
The drive over was mostly pitch black, but as I crossed by the nearest town of Bridport and reached the resort, the island was showing off with a spectacular sunrise.
My GPS was telling me I still had a mile and a half to go before arriving, but the giant sign to the left of the road said otherwise.
When in doubt, trust the sign.
I drove up the driveway just before 6:30 in the morning for a 7:10 tee time.
As I reached a parking lot there was a row of cottages to the left surrounding a generous-sized putting green.
A building was perched up above the parking lot.
My first thought was genuine, “hmmm I wonder if that’s a maintenance building?”
After all, there were only 2 cars in the parking lot, and I still wasn’t even entirely sure I was in the right place.
But as I got closer, it was clear that it was indeed the main clubhouse for Barnbougle Dunes, and the building wasn’t quite as small as it appeared, with a nice-sized restaurant towards the back of it.
It wouldn’t be until after my round that I’d learn Lost Farm was really the hub of activity for the resort. This is where you’ll find the primary restaurants, spa, and check-in for lodging.
Before entering, I walked up to a little deck that was perched on top of a sand dune.
It looked out over the ocean and back 9 of Barnbougle Dunes.
My first thought “This really is the Bandon Dunes of Australia.”
All it needs is a little bit of gorse, and you could have dropped the course on the Southern Oregon coast and it’d fit right in.
When I’d booked my tee times online, it said there was only one spot available all morning on the day I could play. It was a 7:10 tee time, and it looked to be with another threesome.
But when I checked in the pro told me that I was welcome to go out anytime I’d like.
I jumped at the chance to get out before anyone else, if for no other reason than to get some photos without anyone in front of me.
Front 9 at Barnbougle Dunes
The opening hole is the perfect introduction to the course. A par 5, with beautiful fescue-covered dunes framing a hole that’s not a pushover, but not overly challenging either.
It introduces recurring themes of deep bunkers, wonderfully undulating greens, and missed fairways that are basically lost balls. More on that soon.
Throughout our entire time in Australia, my wife was bummed we hadn’t seen a kangaroo or wallaby in the wild.
Too bad she wasn’t at Barnbougle. I saw at least a dozen wallabies during the first 5 holes on the dunes course. I get it, to Australians this is probably a regular occurrence. Perhaps, like seeing deer on a golf course in the Pacific Northwest.
Novelty aside, it was fun to see.
The third hole was a great mid-length par 4. The elevated tee shot made for a fun drive. But just keep in mind if you’re up there, you might be inclined to drive to the fairway on the right-hand side that looks like this:
PSA: This is not the correct hole.
The approach to the actual hole is lovely with Bridport in the background, is well defended by bunkers in the front, and has a fun amphitheater setting.
The 4th hole at Barnbougle Dunes might have been my favorite hole on the property, and one of my favorite short par 4s I’ve played.
It’s only 280 yards, but if you can clear the bunker at 240 you’ll have a good chance of kicking onto the green.
Often short par 4s are still out of reach for a mid-handicapper. And while this is still true here, 240 is no slouch of a carry, it’s just short enough to tempt you.
The penalty is brutal, as this is one of, if not the largest bunker on the course.
But the reward for making it over is great.
Fortunately, you also have “smart” bail-out options left and short.
Left gives you the better angle to the green, but if you go left and hit it too far, you may find a bunker or lost ball.
Everything about this hole does it for me. The strategy, the fun, the scenery. It’s world-class as far as I’m concerned.
At 5 you’re met with a long downhill par 3 with nice views of the coastline.
One of my only real critiques of Barnbougle Dunes has to do with the routing. While it fits within the land extremely well, all of the holes run East/West.
So while yes, there’s a lack of variety there, my concerns actually are more from lighting than anything else.
Granted, I played early and I played pretty fast. So this may not be an issue for most groups, but from hole 5 to 11 I was playing directly into the sun on all but 2 holes.
Playing by myself without a caddie, resulted in a number of lost balls, and was the only downside to my experience.
To be clear, playing Barnbougle Dunes by myself first thing in the morning on a perfectly sunny day is one of the best golf experiences I’ve ever had. But had it been an hour or two later, it might have made the golf itself a little bit better.
The majority of the finishing holes are also heading directly West, so I’m curious if a similar issue happens here in the evening as well.
I loved how the par 4 6th used a natural dune jutting out into the fairway to force you to be more strategic with your tee shot. Depending on where the pin is located, it’ll require a precise and well-planned drive to give yourself the best angle in.
And if you’re too far right? You’ll have a blind second shot.
The par 3 7th was another stunning par 3, and my personal favorite on the course.
At only a 120 or so yards, you might think it’s easy. But a miss, anywhere, is trouble.
And when the wind is up, this gets even more brutal.
I thought I hit a perfect pitching wedge, only to find it had run off the back of the green.
8 is a good example of Mr. Doak not really caring about Par. It’s a nearly 460-yard par 4 to an elevated green.
You could easily call this a par 5, and I feel most will play it as such. I certainly did.
But regardless of whether it’s a 4 or 5, it’s an excellent hole with numerous options on every shot, and a cool ravine that protects the green on your approach.
The Back 9 at Barnbougle Dunes
The 10th at Barnbougle is the biggest hole on the course. Not necessarily in terms of length, but in terms of scale.
It’s got a wide fairway, a huge green, and some scary bunkers.
I hooked my approach into the deep bunker on the far left, and took an X on the hole because of it.
Not to mention the trek of just getting down into the bunker to retrieve my ball. Beach sand is a different beast than the sand you’d typically find in bunkers back in the States.
12-15 is one of the best stretches of golf on the course.
One thing I learned early on in my Australian travels was just how well-known it was for having epic short par 4s. I’m not sure how I wasn’t more familiar with this fact beforehand, but I loved finding out about it.
Barnbougle is no different. I already mentioned the excellent 4th hole.
The 12th is another great one.
It’s a big dogleg right that screams “go for it.”
I hit one of my better drives of the day, but I thought it was too far left and might have rolled through the fairway.
After 45 seconds of looking for my ball, I look over to the left of the green, and there it is, sitting down in a swale just past the green.
It was deceptively easy to get the ball there. Either that, or I just hit a better drive than usual.
It’s a typical fun Doak green with lots of undulation to provide defense for what might otherwise be seen as an easy hole.
The 13th is an excellent par 3, that kind of vaguely reminded me of the 5th at Royal Melbourne West.
The 14th was my favorite par 5 on the course.
A trio of bunkers needs to be cleared off the tee, with the one on the right being deceptively far away.
This hole is another example of a fantastic green site built into the natural land. Doak did this so well across the course.
15 is one of my favorite holes. You get a nice little peek of Lost Farm across the river from the tee:
It’s a shorter par 4, with one of the best greens on the property.
Miss right and you’ll have to get out of a challenging bunker with the slope running away from you.
Miss left, and you’ll have a nasty swale you’ll have to navigate to get back on the green.
It’s as fun to play as it is aesthetically pleasing.
16 is the final par 3, and is a fun downhill tee shot. My 8 iron ended with a much better result than the swing deserved, and I wonder if this is often the case on this hole based on its contours.
17 is fun for the tee shot that’s right near the beach and river.
And 18 while a perfectly solid par 4, felt a little anti-climactic to me based off so many dramatic holes throughout the rest of the course.
Final Thoughts on the Barnbougle Dunes Course
Barnbougle Dunes is a wonderful golf course. If you’re traveling from the States, yes, it’s a journey to get there.
But if you can handle the long flight you’ll be treated to one of the finest golf courses in the world. But more than that? Tasmania is fantastic. Whether it’s the secluded beaches, excellent wineries, or countless outdoor activities – it’s a special place.
Something I also don’t think gets talked about as much, is that Barnbougle Dunes is a challenging golf course.
The area is known for having a number of poisonous snakes, so I was told that if I lost a ball in the fescue or woods (at Lost Farm), I’d be best off not going to look for it.
While I didn’t see any snakes, the group in front of us mentioned there was a tiger snake about 10 meters off the tee box where we were standing on 13a at Lost Farm.
Another guest showed me a photo of a giant brown snake they saw on 16 at Lost Farm.
So when you combine the inability to look for balls, with some challenging hole designs – you better bring your A game. Especially if the winds are up.
It’s not very often that I find myself playing alone when traveling for golf. This specific round took me back to my round on the Bahia Course at Punta Mita. Playing there in April was the last time I had an experience like this, and there’s something very special about being able to be present and just appreciating where you are.
And when it comes to Barnbougle Dunes? There’s a whole lot to appreciate.
Unfortunately, it was a whirlwind 52-hole day, and I didn’t get a chance to play the courses a second time. But this makes me that much more excited about returning at some point to see it again.
How Much Does it Cost to Play Golf at Barnbougle Dunes?
I’ve often talked about how Bandon Dunes might be the best golf value in the world.
I think that may have just been surpassed by Barnbougle.
Greens fees for the day I played in peak season, in late February, were $149 AUD.
As of this writing, that comes out to $99.84 USD.
To play this caliber of course for $100 is insane.
2 rounds of golf on 2 top 100 in the world courses for $200.
Throw in a round on Bougle Run which is $85 Australian (or $57 USD), and for $257 you get to play two top 100 golf courses and one of the best short courses in the world.
During peak season.
Bandon rates do get a little lower than that during the off-season – so maybe you call it even.
No matter how you cut it, this is a wildly good deal for the quality of golf.
Where to Eat at Barnbougle Dunes?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get a chance to eat anywhere at Barnbougle.
After my rounds at Barnbougle Dunes and Bougle Run I was ready for some food, to say the least.
I had 30 minutes until I teed off on Lost Farm, and it was a hot day, so I wanted a quick bite and something to drink.
The Sports Bar
I first walked into the Sports Bar at Lost Farm – which looks awesome. I imagine in the evenings this is a larger version of the Bunker Bar at Bandon. It’s big, had great nooks to hang/gamble, and plenty of drink options.
Unfortunately, the only thing they had for food was pizza. Which, for as delicious as that sounded, I didn’t quite have time for.
The Restaurant at Lost Farm
I was directed to the restaurant at Lost Farm, which was a short walk up a ramp, and perched up at the top of a dune.
Upon walking in, I was taken aback. It was elevated over the 15th green, but it was the view of the ocean that was most impressive.
And I mean, really impressive.
At this point, it was 11:40 and I asked for a menu.
“We don’t open until 12.”
Alright, I’ll just take a Coke and a water.
I enjoyed the views for 10 minutes before grabbing a sandwich from the pro shop and heading out to Lost Farm to catch my tee time.
Had I planned for it, I imagine I would have been able to get food at Barnbougle (which was a couple miles away), but squeezing in a round on Bougle Run took priority over sustenance.
From everything I’ve heard the food at Barnbougle Dunes is excellent, I just never got a chance to properly experience it.
But from what I saw? I’d plan for at least one nice meal in the main restaurant, and I’d plan to spend evenings enjoying the patio and camaraderie to be found at the Sports Bar.
So, Should You Visit Barnbougle Dunes?
Bottom line, yes. Absolutely, yes.
Barnbougle Dunes is one of the very best golf courses in Australia, and Lost Farm isn’t far behind it. In fact, there were certain aspects of Lost Farm I liked more than the Dunes Course. But we’ll talk about that in our dedicated Lost Farm recap.
Over the years I’ve heard the phrase “It’s like the Bandon Dunes of _______” about at least half a dozen places.
But this is the first time that I haven’t walked away at least slightly disappointed. Barnbougle truly is “The Bandon Dunes of Australia” and I think that might be the best compliment I can give it. It’s a special place, and well worth the adventure it takes to get there.
Again – an excellent review. My thanks.
In equal measure… It is fantastic to see you reviewing Australian courses and giving a World view… just don’t tell too many people or they will get crowded!
The extent to which you’ve seen many world courses is really valuable in calibrating reviews. As per a comment in another thread, if you get/got to play a Western Australian course that would/will be cool.
Most of us do not get to play 100% of our bucket list, so being given this direction on how to filter that list, and hit a few real highlights is so helpful.