The best golf courses you should play before you kick the bucket

Kim Felton Columnist

By Kim Felton, Kim Felton is a Roar Expert New author!

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    Laucala Island Golf Course

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    When I was playing golf professionally on the American tour I used to get wrapped up in the one-week tournament schedule, moving from one course to the next.

    If I could do my whole career again, I would do a lot more exploring and would absorb the history of the places I was playing at.

    At this stage of my life, I’ve got a completely different mindset.

    I don’t want to score, I don’t want to do any of that serious stuff. I just want to go out and have fun as it’s no longer a full-time job.

    After turning professional in 1999, I was lucky enough to play at some of the best courses in the world.

    I’ve played St Andrews for the Dunhill Links, and obviously, it includes Carnoustie and Kings Barn.

    I also played Royal Troon in the 2004 Open Championship.

    There’s always the famous courses like Augusta National – where the Masters are held – and Pebble Beach on the west coast of America but I’ve always enjoyed the hidden gems.

    A great golf course must cater for everyone, including my Dad who’s a 21 handicapper.

    We can get caught up these days with distances and equipment and we create these huge golf courses to counteract the advances in technology.

    It’s great to see guys like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy pounding a white ball more than 300 metres but the people that play week in and week out have to enjoy the game and the golf course needs to be fair.

    With that in my mind, here are my favourite courses that I recommend you put on your golfing bucket list:

    Country Club of Scranton

    Country Club of Scranton (Pete Creedon)

    The Country Club of Scranton – Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

    This is an old school course, I was lucky enough to play on it during the week of a tournament close by.

    On the Tuesday, my friend’s caddy said, “Mate I’ve gotta take you out to play this golf club of Scranton and you’ll be amazed.”

    I’m one that doesn’t usually get excited about golf courses, and I look back now at what this was and this was just an incredible layout.

    This was designed in the 1920s era when golf was still new in America.

    Once again, it’s not long, they’ve kept the original design.

    It features wide fairways, which makes it accessible for any kind of game and experience level.

    It has rolling green lush fairways and I would go back in an instant if I had to chance to play here again.

    Natadola Bay golf

    (Natadola Bay)

    Natadola Bay Golf Course – Natadola, Fiji

    The game of golf is really growing in Fiji.

    Major winner VJ Singh has helped put Fijian golf on the map.

    He’s given back to the country with some golf design and created awareness for me and my mates that rave about how good the courses are.

    Who wouldn’t want to go to Fiji?

    Hopefully one day in my job I’ll get to head over there and help out with the Fiji International. That’d be pretty cool.

    I’ve never been to the country but playing there has always been on my bucket list.

    When the Fiji International is played and I see it on television, it’s probably the only time I get jealous that I’m not experiencing it.

    Natadola Bay Golf Course is one of the courses I’d love to play, but there’s another one over there as well which caught my eye for its vibrancy.

    It’s called Laucala Island, and was purchased by one of the guys who was involved in the Red Bull air races.

    Looking at the pictures of each hole, it’s easy to see why so many make the pilgrimage for a golfing holiday. It would be a great week of golf in Fiji and I’d love to take my Dad over to play those courses.

    Denarau Golf Racquet Club

    Denarau Golf Racquet Club

    There’s another one on Denarau Island in Nadi called the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club.

    It has these cool bunkers in the shape of marine creatures to remind you that you’re right on the Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen images of the par-4 15th hole and it looks absolutely breathtaking.

    Water is certainly a big theme on the course and it’s definitely a challenging layout with four of the par-threes requiring the player to hit their tee shots over the blue stuff.

    Golf course in Ariona

    (Talking Stick Golf Club).

    Talking Stick Country Club – Scottsdale, Arizona

    I lived in Arizona with a few of the other Aussie golf pros.

    Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Allen and I would regularly play this little golf course around the corner from where we lived.

    It was great to have two golf courses to choose from at Talking Stick (north and south).

    It was designed by Ben Crenshaw and his partner Bill Coore.

    The north course reminded us of playing at home.

    It was wide open, not many trees on it, and it was more of that sand-belty kind of feeling, but right in the middle of the desert.

    I know the guys still go and play there just because it’s such a cool golf course in the backyard of where we were living.

    Flinders Golf Club

    (Visit Victoria)

    Flinders Golf Club – Melbourne, Victoria

    Legendary golf course designer Alister MacKenzie added his special touch to this course and you can tell in some of the similarities to the Royal Melbourne and some of the other courses he was lucky to design.

    It’s close to the coast, so it has great views, and every hole has something special about it.

    The short par four opening hole gives you a false sense of security and it’s simply a warm up for the test ahead.

    It’s one of those courses that’s easier to play in the morning before the wind gets up – in fact, it’s about 12 strokes different for a player like me.

    The locals certainly love telling everybody that MacKenzie had been there and why not? The history makes this place.

    Kalgoorlie Golf Course

    Kalgoorlie Golf Course

    Kalgoorlie Golf Course – Western Australia

    I’m a bit biased with this course considering my involvement with West Australian golf and the PGA Championship but I really believe this is one of the most underrated courses in the country.

    I talk about Scottsdale, Arizona and the desert and golf courses there, but this is something so unique in Australia.

    It’s hosted the WA PGA Championship for the past seven years.

    I played the first five and loved every moment.

    It’s a stunning location with the grass meeting the red dirt, and all the players rave about it.

    The course has the black tees (for professionals) and guys play off the far back to make it more challenging, but then it’s perfect for the weekend hacker with the white and yellow tees up a lot further.

    I was never really a big hitter which is part of the reason why I got out of the game. However, I enjoyed this more than any other long course I’ve played.

    Even if you’re having a bad day on the course you can’t help but smile when you play at these locations! Experience the ultimate golfing holiday in Fiji and discover why the professionals can’t get enough of the stunning scenery. Check out Tourism Fiji for more details.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • Columnist

      February 20th 2018 @ 8:19am
      Brett McKay said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Gee Kim, if you need a playing partner for your Fiji trip *PLEASE* get in touch!! How good do those courses look!

      Love the idea of Kalgoorlie, too…

      • Columnist

        February 20th 2018 @ 9:04am
        Geoff Parkes said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Count me in too!

        (Bit surprised Royal Edithvale didn’t get a look in)

        • Roar Rookie

          February 20th 2018 @ 2:17pm
          Dan said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

          Ha! Good ol’ Royal Edi. Still gets a wry grin everytime I go down Edi Rd.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 10:37am
        lik said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Hi Brett.

        No way you need a comma after Kim and Kalgoorlie there.

        It makes it read differently to how you would speak the sentence.


        • Columnist

          February 20th 2018 @ 11:53am
          Brett McKay said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          Lik, I appreciate you making your point, but I’m going to respectfully disagree on both of them…

    • February 20th 2018 @ 9:20am
      BennO said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      Hard to get excited about the use of water for a golf course in the desert of WA.

      I’m sure they have a legitimate way of getting it, they paid for it, no one else is using it so… or something like that, but it sure seems crazy to me, no matter how it came to pass. I imagine it’s artesian water, which would mean it isn’t getting replenished any time soon. And that’s not mentioning Arizona and all the water issues they face.

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2018 @ 11:42am
      BigJ said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

      i love these bucket list articles, gives you a laugh while setting a life goal, love it.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 11:55am
      Simon G said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      In regards to the massive distances the likes of DJ, Rory and co are hitting these days, why doesn’t the PGA and European Tours tax the distance that the ball currently flies?
      By simply taking 15% off how far the ball flies, the current 350 yard drives would become drives of just under 300 yards. This helps the game in a few regards:
      1) We don’t need 550 yard Par 4’s to “tame” the big hitters, which means that courses don’t need to keep buying and maintaining more land to keep expanding holes, which saves on costs.
      2) It allows the average Joe golfer to still get enjoyment from playing these courses without having to go driver, 3 wood into most of the holes, a 400 yard hole could in theory be played the same way whether you are a pro or a 15 handicapper.
      3) Because the courses don’t need to be as long, it won’t take as long for people to walk the course and complete their rounds.

      There may be problems for those who are on the verge of going pro, having to adapt to a ball that doesn’t fly as far, but I’d imagine the balls could be made to feel the same, it’d just be getting used to hitting the ball 15% less with each club that would take some practice.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 3:19pm
        I ate pies said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

        What about those of us who can drive 300 metres as amateurs? You want to take away our advantage.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 4:50pm
          Simon G said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

          No not at all, only the pros. For the majority of the time, an amateur wouldn’t face a 500 metre Par 4. The main reason for my suggestion is to not need to make courses so ridiculously long and to preserve the integrity of some of the great courses. The pros currently make a mockery of the Old Course at St. Andrews, flying fairway bunkers with absolute ease, and the majority of them can go driver, PW into the 13th at Augusta, which takes the water out of play on what has traditionally been a risk reward Par 5.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 7:46pm
      Chuznut said | February 20th 2018 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

      I can definitely vouch for the Kalgoorlie course. I was one of the original members there until I moved away from Kal several years ago.

      For many years there, they used to have 3 very below average dirt courses which everyone played on, because there were no other options. Once they announced a grass course being built there, most of us were under the impression that it’d just be a very basic, flat, straight course, but with grass. I was blown away the first time I played on it, with how intricate and detailed it was.

      It’s challenging enough to make you want to come back every week, but not hard enough to scare beginners away.

      And the way that they’ve incorporated the red dirt with the grass definitely gives it a certain charm that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

      I haven’t played on a huge amount of famous/exotic courses in my lifetime, but this one is definitely one of my favorites to play.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 6:11am
      AR said | February 21st 2018 @ 6:11am | ! Report

      Cape Wickham on King Island.

      Currently Australia’s No.1 public course and #24 in the world.

      The clubhouse isn’t finished but the course itself is a joy. Beware a breeze though…you’ll be lining up your tee shot into the ocean!

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