Salt-Spume, Seascape, Theatre, Tempest. Cape Wickham is All-Time.
Yes! Cape Wickham. It’s … magnificent. It’s in my top-5 all time with Barnbougle, NSW, Tara Iti and the Old Course St Andrews, and probably couple others, like Kingsbarns and Royal Melbourne and Ballybunion. And North Berwick. The National. Victoria GC. Long Reef, of course. There's a lot.
But! It is top-shelf stunning, Wickham, and definitely the standout best I've played for salty seascape and beauty of rugged coastline, and theatre, and tempest, and holes that cling onto the coast like sweet cungee rock. And so on.
But truly - it's outstanding. And I played it pretty well. And that always helps. And what happened was this:
Hole 1. Par 4
Described as “one of the most exotic opening holes in world golf” by marketing types who on this occasion are not lying IT’S MAGNIFICENT YOU SHOULD PLAY IT NOW IT’S SUPER FUN CHECK IT OUT, it’s Driver over a mighty chasm that feeds down to Bass Strait, and said whacking stick is smoked over the bad things and plonks mid-fairway and there's Zapruder film to prove it (below). Six-iron lasers pin-high left. Floppy bit of kit does okay without channelling the ghost of Seve B., before two putts result in a fun bogey, they do exist.
Hole 2. Par 4
Boom – driver is smoked long and pierces the stratosphere like an avenging eagle of death, something. Seven-iron is chunked, some, and falls off front right. But we’re up and down for a par 4, which is cool and the gang (below).
Hole 3. Par 3.
Brilliant three-banger, it’s 170 metres and four-iron and all of it, and we’re sailing onto the dance-floor with high alacrity. So much alacrity. Three putts follow and don’t do the initial 4-iron truth nor justice. And there is a small flicker of shame. Sorry, golf club.
Hole 4. Par 4.
Driver is belted out on the line of the lighthouse, fading into some chunky heather right. Six-iron is chopped at like mountain axeman, the ball flopping agreeably mid-fairway, a genuine result, it could’ve gone anywhere. Wedge? Oh – go in, wedge, we're at it. But there's little bite on these greens so we’re 15 feet. Two putts, the first a slick little curler. Another bogey you’ll take, true story.
Hole 5. Par 4
Short and straight par-4, take hybrid that scuttles out the heel nowhere flash. Left with 160m down hill with a 2-club wind … it’s a 7-iron that’s … oh my, it’s pure, it's at it, oh go in, it’s shot of the century, it’s … just missing pin and resting back fringe. There follow two putts for a top little par. Top stuff, hole.
Hole 6. Par 5.
Short par-5 so select hybrid, hybrid, 8-iron and putter, and write down a fab birdie four. Hoo-ha, as Al Pacino (below) would tell you.
Hole 7. Par 3
Strong par 3, it’s 160m thereabouts over a chasm to a raised green, wind across, what to do, hit 5-iron out of the heel which sluices hard right and angry, into the tundra. Find it, drop it, chop third up onto the green, and slide down a super-slick 20 foot downhill curler for the bogey-4. Get in there you wretched little beast.
Hole 8. Par 4.
Blind tee-shot over some sandy scrublands, it's hybrid into the ether and middle of the fairway, the most wonderful place in the world. Take hybrid again and hook it to hell. Take hybrid again and hook it to hell, again. Ya! Triple results. Nobody likes them. They are nobody's friend.
Hole 9. Par 5.
Fabulous 5-bunger, the ninth dog-legs perhaps six times, has 14 carries over scrubby sandy badlands, and weaves down to the green – protected by a rock wall left, a gaping chasm of death front left, and some chunky fat heather right – like a velvet tongue through the grass lands South Africans call veldt. It’s a ripper, the 9th. But my first disappears. My third is chunked into scrub. My fourth I just about miss. Scramble double. They exist. But you don't like them either.
Hole 10. Par 4
A 320m downhiller (right) it’s reachable quite easily given the ski-jump quality of the hole tee-to-green, I take hybrid and smoke it long and guts and it rolls down to 50m out, more fun than all the drugs. Wedge is stiffed to 20 foot. Putt lips out high-side. Hoo-ha. Fun hole.
Hole 11. Par 3.
Wickham uses the coast better than any course I’ve played, even one called The Coast which does use its coast to fine effect. But Wickham is golf-coast best practice. And this little 3-banger is case in point. Left is Bass Strait. It’s rocks and crashing surf, and tempest, and seals. The hole’s only 130m, thereabouts. But with wind and salty spume of crashing surf, and a man videoing my man-action, well – you will take 6-iron into the air followed by chip to tap-in, you betcha. Super fun. Below.
Hole 12. Par 4.
Short par-4 that uses the ground to dog-leg left and feed to a big green, take hybrid and smoke it guts, take wedge and thin it long, take wedge again and nearly flop it in. We’ll take that par-4 and run like Forrest Gump away with it.
Hole 13. Par 5.
Tough par-5s here, and no argument. This baby’s index 7, and weaves out through the dunes and fairway bunkers and demands pure driver and pure 3-wood before 9-iron is lasered at the flag. And you'd think that would be good, yet you bound through the WACA-like surface and end up a fair way down town. Good strong wedge back, two-putts, a bogey-6. Tough enough bit of kit, the 13th at Wickham.
Hole 14. Par 4 (right).
My but I love this golf course. Super par-4, right to left, giant fairway with more room right than Cuba (?), I take driver and verily emasculate the Titleist over the bunkers and feeding down to the punchbowl green a long way away. You putt for dough, sure. But you drive for semi-erections. Ha. True story. Wedge! Is at it, and bounds through to the back and rests on bank when earth’s gravitational pull would suggest it roll down. Breathe on putt, it rests on the lip. Damn but I love this game.
Hole 15. Par 5.
Boom – driver soars out blind over the bank and tumbles away to glory. Boom! Hybrid pierces the salty sea mist. Thwack! Wedge sails high and drawing and missing the green by some margin left. Ha. Chunk a wedge up. Thin a wedge long. Think near-evil thoughts. Drain 30-foot bomb for bogey six and a stableford point. Stupid game.
Hole 16. Par 4.
A beast. Perhaps the Beast of Tasmania. Even beastlier than the 8th at Barnbougle. That beastly. What a hole. Over the surf and rocks off the tee, fairway runs left to right, slopes from land to shining sea, feeds to green in a basin bordered by thundering surf. It’s a giant of a golf hole, and hook, chunk, wedge and 2-putts for a bogey seems apt, as if in reverence.
Hole 17. Par 3.
Another hole of such theatre it could be in the Sydney Theatre Company, this thing plays over the rocks and crashing waves to a raised green bordered by a cliff. It’s 170m and into a wind so hybrid it is and hybrid is at it, oh my, I will remember a hole-in-one here every day for eternity. We get to 12 feet though, and make a couple more putts, the first a big bending bit of kit across the whale-back.
Hole 18. Par 4.
Incredible hole (right). What a hole. Curves around the scimitar-shaped nature of the bay. Tee-boxes from sea-level and higher up escarpment. Such a very cool hole. And so I take mighty Driver again and with the camera on smoke it guts, pure. Nine-iron from 115m doesn’t fade on command and flops into trap. Extraction is hot. Putt from downtown rests upon the lip. Tap-in, bogey, take it, kiss the sandy links-land of Wickham. Best fun 85, 13-over and 32 stableford points you will know in a year.
And there you go: Cape Wickham. It is extraordinary. It’s in the personal pantheon. You must play it. I'll play it with you. Because we goin' again.