Driving holiday

Craig Tansley looks at the best golf courses you can play this summer in Australia and New Zealand.

Barnbougle Dunes

When the wind roars down here, straight off Bass Strait and stinking of salt and kelp, Barnbougle Dunes can bring any golfer - even professionals - to their knees. For this is one of the world's toughest links-style courses, the equal of golf's greatest challenge - the Old Course at St Andrews (in Scotland). But when the wind dies, Barnbougle Dunes is a place of rare beauty, sprawling across 80 hectares of rugged coastal dunes and pastoral land and tumbling onto a desolate sandy beach - all that separates you from that notoriously feisty strait.

It's Australia's top-ranked public golf course - and like two of the world's best courses, Pebble Beach and St Andrews, it's entirely open to the public and not members (unlike most of Australia's top-20 courses) - but is tucked away in a forgotten corner of Australia.

Built beside the tiny fishing village of Bridport on Tasmania's north-east coast, it's the world's seventh-highest-ranked public-access golf course, and is ranked as the 35th-best on earth.

As it's built within sand dunes bordering the ocean, golfers must play in among the rugged coastal ecosystem. Each hole offers stunning vistas over ocean or across the hinterland, while extreme care must be taken to avoid an overwhelming array of natural obstacles.

And right next door, you can play Barnbougle's Lost Farm course, an immaculate 20 holes also overlooking Bass Strait.

Where is it? Barnbougle Dunes is one hour's drive north-east of Launceston, beside Bridport.

How much? Eighteen holes costs $99, or $70 for nine; $130 all day.

Why do the pros love it? Because it's like playing a British Open in Australia. This is Australia's premier links course, so is the ideal training ground for a British Open challenge.

Services for beginners and amateurs? You can take a local expert as caddy for $65 to plan your lines through the contours and against the wind. Former touring pro Brett Partridge offers lessons.

What's unique about it? There will never be a members' competition on when you want to play. You can also fly in on your own chartered light aircraft to a runway beside the second hole.

Where to stay nearby Stroll from the first tee to one of 22 two-bedroom cottages or three four-bedroom self-contained deluxe villas with one of Tassie's best restaurants.

More (03) 6356 0094, barnbougledunes.com.au.

Moonah Links

Where is it? Moonah Links is on the Mornington Peninsula, 1½ hours' drive south of Melbourne.

How much? Eighteen holes costs $95 between November and January, $85 in October and between February and April, and $75 between May and September.

Why do the pros love it? They have no choice. As the site of two previous Australian Opens and with five more to come, the best pros have to overcome the long length of Moonah Links' Open course - the first built for a national championship.

Services for beginners and amateurs? Moonah Links has Australia's best golf training facility (including a three-level driving range). If you want to fix your swing, then come to the same place that started Geoff Ogilvy's career.

What's unique about it? At Moonah Links, golfers can choose between one of Australia's longest and most challenging 18 holes - the Open course - or take it easier on the shorter, friendlier Legends layout.

Where to stay nearby Sleep beside the 18th green of the Legends course at Moonah Links' own suites and lodge rooms.

More 1300 362 386, moonahlinks.com.au.

Cape Kidnappers

Where is it? Cape Kidnappers is at Hawke's Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand's north island.

How much? Eighteen holes costs $NZ285 ($225) from May 1 to September 30 and $NZ385 from October 1 to April 30.

Why the pros love it? When the wind's up (which is often), there is no bigger test in Australasian golf. Built on cliffs 140 metres above the ocean, it forces golfers to hit along deep ravines to heavily sloping greens.

Services for beginners and amateurs? Cape Kidnappers offers an unprecedented five tee-offs on each hole, meaning less-experienced golfers can play the course with less trepidation. Instructors are available to play the course with you, providing advice both on your game and on mastering the course.

What's unique about it? Cape Kidnappers is recognised as one of the world's top courses. It's almost impossible to believe the designer could fashion it among such rugged seaside cliffs. On two holes (the sixth and 15th) you'll have to hit across a huge ravine to reach the green. If you miss, watch your ball on its 10-second journey to the ocean.

Where to stay nearby Stay beside the golf course at The Farm, one of New Zealand's premier five-star accommodation options.

More +64 6873 1018, capekidnappers.com.

Bonville Golf Resort

Where is it? Bonville Golf Resort is a 10-minute drive south of Coffs Harbour on NSW's mid-north coast.

How much? From September to May, 18 holes from Monday to Thursday costs $115 and $130 from Friday to Sunday (from June to August, 18 holes costs $105 and $120 respectively).

Why do the pros love it? Bonville imitates Augusta National's feeling of isolation and privacy on every hole - on each one you won't see the fairway you played before.

Services for beginners and amateurs? Bonville Golf Resort offers an Academy of Golf incorporating all aspects of improving your game, under the tuition of club pro Richard Sheridan.

What's unique about it? Bonville has been acknowledged as the most beautiful course in mainland Australia for 10 years running by The Golf Course Guide. Each fairway meanders into the Aussie bush, where koalas, swamp wallabies, goannas and kangaroos reside. Its restaurant - Flooded Gums - is also the only restaurant in a golf resort in Australia with a chef's hat from The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

Where to stay nearby The golf resort has 30 accommodation rooms with views over the first fairway.

More 1300 722 444, bonvillegolf.com.au.

Jack's Point

Where is it? Jack's Point is 20 minutes' drive from Queenstown in New Zealand's South Island.

How much? Eighteen holes costs $NZ175 but there's a replay rate of $NZ99 (if you play again within a week).

Why do the pros love it? Quite aside from the stunning views, pros value Jack's Point's world-class conditioning - New Zealand's most famous golfer, Sir Bob Charles, says the fairways are as good as anything in the world, even Augusta National (the home of the US Masters).

Services for beginners and amateurs? Jack's Point provides lessons for all levels of golfer, with its pro shop home to some of the country's best golf professionals - multiple tee-off boxes offer all levels of player a fair round.

What's unique about it? Location, location, location. Jack's Point is one of the world's most scenic courses, running alongside Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu and in the shadows of Queenstown's Remarkables mountain range.

Where to stay nearby You're on the doorstep of one of the world's most famous ski towns, Queenstown, which offers more than 100 accommodation options. Try The Spire (thespirehotel.com), or the Queenstown Hilton (queenstownhilton .com) is only five minutes away.

More +64 3450 2050, jackspoint.com/golf.

The Vintage

Where is it? The Vintage is in the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney.

How much? Weekend golf costs $129 for 18 holes; midweek costs $104 for 18 holes. Or play unlimited daily rounds for $125.

Why do the pros love it? It's a Greg Norman course - simple as that. Norman only makes challenging courses and pros certainly earn their stripes when they tame his beasts.

Services for beginners and amateurs? Former pro Richard Mercer runs an academy on site, offering players of all levels everything from half-hour lessons to multiple day workshops. There's also a nine-hole-dash rate (after 4pm), for $42, making rounds here more affordable.

What's unique about it? The Vintage is the only public-access Greg Norman-designed course in NSW. You'll also be playing among the vineyards of the Hunter Valley (Bimbadgen Estate is a neighbour) and have access to 18 spa treatment rooms.

Where to stay nearby The Vintage offers two on-site options - luxury spa suites and villas at Chateau Elan or apartments at Grand Mercure Hunter Valley.

More (02) 4998 6789, thevintage.com.au.

Trip notes

Golfing there

Barnbougle Dunes Fly to Launceston with Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com.au, 136 789), then take a hire car for the one-hour drive to the golf course.

Moonah Links Fly to Melbourne with Tiger Airways (tigerairways .com.au, (03) 9999 2888), then hire a car for the 1½-hour journey.

Cape Kidnappers Fly to Auckland or Wellington with Air New Zealand (airnz.com.au, 132 476), then fly to Napier with Air New Zealand, where resort staff can meet you.

Bonville Fly to Coffs Harbour with Qantas.

Jack's Point Fly direct to Queenstown with Air New Zealand or Qantas, with Jacks Point just a 10-minute drive from the airport.

The Vintage is in the Hunter Valley, which is a 2½-hour drive north of Sydney.

The story Driving holiday first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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