Sometimes things are just meant to be. Our trip to Cape Wickham Golf Links was one of those times.
It surely didn’t start out that way, however. Cape Wickham ranked very high on our bucket list, and so when we finally made it to Tasmania, we started looking into how to get to King Island. We thought that once we finally made it to Tassie, it would then be an easy ferry ride. Little did we know at that time that just getting to King Island wasn’t as easy as we assumed.
As we started to Google how to get to King Island, we quickly found out that there are no ferries to the island. The only way to get there is to fly. And all the flights that we found were expensive! Like really expensive! Reluctantly, we somewhat put it out of our minds.
During our 4-month journey through Tasmania, we had a chance encounter with a fellow golfer on the World Heritage Cruise through the incredible Macquarie Harbour in the Western Wilds of this magnificent island. I noticed the Cape Wickham logo on his golf shirt and quickly struck up a conversation. Asking him how to get to King Island, he told us that there were Sharp Airline flights from Burnie, our next destination.
We decided that evening over coffee that we really should put Cape Wickham Golf Links back on the table. It was going to be expensive, but after all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Who knows if we would ever be this close again? Now we just needed to figure out when we should go.
An Unexpected Invitation
Unbelievably, the very next morning we woke to an email that was sent overnight from our mate Mr. Greg Ramsay asking us if we had plans for the weekend!!! Greg is the engaging and entertaining host of Ratho Farm, the oldest golf course in the Southern Hemisphere, and we had met him after our incredible day there. “I’m heading to King Island with a golf pal on Friday for 3 days playing 3 fabulous golf courses, and have a spare room, car hired, and space in our tee times if you two wanna join us, save some $$$$, and hang with fun folk,” he wrote. We often consider ourselves to be the luckiest golfers on the planet. But to receive an email the following morning after deciding that we should put Cape Wickham back on the table was simply fate!
Arriving in Awe
King Island was an easy 30-minute flight from Burnie, Tasmania. With views of the Bass Strait and multiple tiny islands that dot the brilliant blue sea, the flight itself was incredible!
Cape Wickham, in fact, all of King Island, is synonymous with the wind. This part of the world lies on what is known as the Roaring Forties, the strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere. But our day there couldn’t have been more perfect!
The golf course is located on the very remote northern end of the island. As we arrived and looked out over the property, we could not believe our eyes! There was nothing but incredible golf and blue skies as far as we could see. And better yet, there was no wind, and we felt warm in our short sleeve shirts.
Cape Wickham measures 6726-yards from the Blue tees, and 5199 from the forward Red tees. Par for the course is 72 from both.
With the sound of crashing waves below, and views of the famous Cape Wickham Lighthouse, there aren’t many more scenic opening holes in the world than the 372-yard par 4 first. With the ocean on your right, take a moment to relax, because the fairway is much wider than it appears from the tee. The best angle to approach green is to hug the right side of the fairway. However, that best angle is also the scariest. Armed with that knowledge, Menekse confidently ripped one down the right-center.
Approaching from the safer right side of the fairway, I was confronted with the beautiful but treacherous small pot bunkers that dot the left side of the green. With nothing but shades of beautiful blue behind the green, my approach found the center of the opening green, and I could exhale again. Hitting the green in regulation would, unfortunately, become a novelty for my day.
Make sure you follow the signs to the tee of the relatively short 489-yard par 5 sixth hole. This dogleg right has an enormous fairway that borders the thirteenth. Hitting your tee shot down the right helps cut off much of the distance. But it also invites a large waste dune area into play. Pulling your tee shot is completely safe, which I did.
I laid up to 87-yards, what I thought was a perfect distance. From there, it is uphill to an elevated green that felt like a small target. With deep bunkers protecting the front, I must have given my 54-degree wedge a little extra sauce, because to my surprise I didn’t find it resting next to the pin. Rather, it was one step long of the putting surface, in the tussock, just a couple yards long of the pin. In a nearly unplayable lie.
The OMG Golf Holes
The 534-yard par 5 ninth is the start of four consecutive holes that will absolutely blow your mind! Playing towards the ocean, we had the advantage that both Greg and Rod have played here before, and they pointed out the best target. There are 2 large bunkers on the right side that will surely capture your attention, if not your tee shot.
If you get around the bunkers and find the fairway, there are a thousand options for how to play the remainder of the hole. Just pick your option carefully, because the cliff on the left and a huge bunker on the right protect the punchbowl-like green.
The best approach to the straight downhill 358-yard par 4 tenth is from the left side of the funnel-shaped fairway. Playing the hole down the right, as I did, brings the lone small bunker into play. Take a selfie because the direct ocean view is one of the greatest on the golf course!
The 149-yard par 3 eleventh is an absolute wowser of a golf hole! The hole runs parallel to the ocean, and the waves crash on rocks so close that it feels like your feet could get wet at any moment! Just hit a straight ball, else your feet won’t be the only thing getting wet!
At only 326-yards, the par 4 twelfth tempts you to go big or go home. The safe play is to aim at the bunkers and knock a mid-iron somewhere out there in the fairway. But with the course record safely out of reach, I grabbed 3-wood and took an aggressive line. We loved everything about twelve and have added it to our list of favorite golf holes of the world!
An Incredible Finish
Everything slopes towards the sea on the 412-yard par 4 sixteenth, so make sure you take aim down the left side of the fairway on Cape Wickham’s number 1 handicap hole. I pulled another tee shot left, while Menekse managed to stay on the fairway right. Once you find the fairway, danger surrounds the green on all sides!
I studied our course guide on the 179-yard par 3 seventeenth, measuring, reading, calculating, and watching before finally putting my faith in a 6-iron. I struck it solidly but watched it land on the back half of the green and run out long. The story of my day!
Menekse meanwhile, continued her decent round. Her tee shot landed just left of the green, which is the perfect spot, but her ball surprisingly didn’t roll on. Unphased, she dropped a money-winning 2&1 putt that saw her and Greg close the door on Rod and me.
With a beach that is in play down the right side, go ahead and take off as much as you dare on the closing 432-yard par 4 dogleg left eighteenth! Menekse played the hole just as Greg had instructed, up the right side of the fairway. Meanwhile my partner Rod made an incredible par from the beach! With plenty of room left, I choose the longer approach that forced me to navigate the greenside bunker. As we walked up the final hole, a huge sense of gratification rushed over us. We were so happy that we made the effort to get here because we knew that we had just finished one of the world’s greatest golf courses!
The Reward for the Intrepid Golfer
Cape Wickham has fescue from tee through green, so the course plays tight, firm, and fast. You won’t find better fairways anywhere, and you will be tempted to go for it because the lies are always perfect.
I felt like I struck the ball decent all day but really had some unlucky bounces. I missed edges just slightly but was punished. Never was it unfair, but rather just unfortunate. But that is just golf sometimes, right?
With today’s wind, a respectable score was very possible. The fairways were wide but narrowed where they should. It took me too long to realize that you need to land it short of the greens or be faced with delicate chips back to the hole. The greens rolled perfectly true, but three putts lurked at every moment. Just ask me!
Afterward, I nervously added up my score which was my highest score in all our travels! It was probably my highest score in years. But, at the end of the day, what you write down on the scorecard isn’t really what matters.
Cape Wickham is an absolute must-play! It may be an arduous journey to get here for Australians, and especially for anyone else in the world. However, the adventurous golfer is rewarded with one of the greatest in the world! Make the effort- we can promise that you will be happy that you did!