Work will begin this year on a new golf course over sand dunes at Seven Mile Beach in Hobart, Australia. The project will be the first newbuild for the Clayton, DeVries & Pont firm, with partners Mike Clayton and Mike DeVries leading the design for a group led by Hobart native and tour pro Mathew Goggin.
Speaking with GCA, Goggin recalled his early memories of the site: “My grandfather was obsessed with Seve, so when I was a kid we would go together and hit three-irons along the beach. It was always a bit of a mystery to me why there wasn’t a golf course on the dunes.”
Goggin’s efforts to realise his long-held vision for golf on the land intensified in the late 2000s. He turned to friend and fellow Australian tour pro Clayton, who had recently completed the design of Barnbougle Dunes on the north coast of the island state of Tasmania alongside Tom Doak.
“Clayts had already heard me rambling about this place for 10, 15 years or so,” said Goggin. “I sent him a couple of pictures and he said: ‘I’ll come down tomorrow’. We spent a whole day on the site and he was impressed.”
“The first time I walked the land at Seven Mile Beach with Mat I could not believe it,” said Clayton. “Here was a beautiful tract of sandy dune land on the edge of the beach, ideal for making a course to match the standards set by the very best in Australia.”
“It’s Pine Valley by the sea,” Clayton told GCA. “It’s incredible – an amazing site for golf.”
Goggin’s firm, The Golf Preserve, secured permits from the state government in Tasmania to build a course on the land in 2014. “After Barnbougle had so much success, it was a little easier to explain how we could have a great golf course on phenomenal land here in the south,” said Goggin. In 2020, he acquired the lease for the land and site preparation is now under way.
Seven Mile Beach lies on a peninsula to the east of Hobart’s airport and both Tasmania GC and Royal Hobart GC, where Goggin learnt the game. Dunes rise to 22 metres in height along the ridge line that bisects the peninsula.
The golf course will be laid out on land that begins approximately three kilometres into the peninsula from the current access point to the beach. It will be routed among the large dunes that occupy the southern side of the ridge line. Clayton said: “It has big contours, but lots of really cool small stuff as well, which we don’t want to wreck when we pull the trees out and get machines on there.”
Those trees are non-native radiata pines that propagated over the dunes as a by-product of forestry work on the peninsula. “In one way, radiata pines are a horrific tree along the coast, because nothing can grow underneath them – all the native vegetation is gone off the site, basically – but they also stopped the marram grass that was introduced from taking over and ruining the dunes,” said Goggin. “So the dunes are unstructured, pretty crazy, interesting landforms. It’s untouched, as raw as it can get.”
Clayton said: “The land is so good there it’s a matter of just planting the grass, shaping the greens and figuring out where you might put a few bunkers – the golf course is there, really.”
Goggin said his approach to the course design is to “hire really good people and let them do their thing”. He continued: “The site can go in any direction – you’re not pigeon-holed along the topography. There is an abundance of riches – good holes everywhere.”
Clayton agreed: “The question for us is: ‘is this the best routing?’ Every time we have walked it we have seen different holes and different ways to route it.” Explaining that the site falls firmly into the ‘don’t mess it up’ category, Clayton recalled Perry Maxwell’s famous quote about Prairie Dunes – ‘There are 118 holes here, and all I have to do is eliminate 100’. “To make just a ‘really good’ golf course there would be a bit of a failure,” continued Clayton. “I don’t think anyone will ever build a better golf course than Royal Melbourne in Australia, but this needs to sit right underneath that.”
Mike DeVries – who already has one Tasmania design to his name that sits right underneath Royal Melbourne in rankings, Cape Wickham on King Island – joined Goggin and Clayton at Seven Mile Beach for a week before Australia’s Covid-19 lockdown. Goggin said they spent “all day, every day” walking the land to develop the routing, which will take golfers back and forth from high dunes to the beach.
DeVries said: “Seven Mile Beach’s design will take full advantage of the diversity of the site, from the high dune that serves as a ridge on the north side of the course down to the low-lying dunes at the beach. Holes will tumble across the bigger dunes, have quieter links terrain in the lowlands, and hug tight along the shore, all the while highlighting the vistas of the ocean and nearby Hobart.
“The climate is ideal for the growth of fescue and that turf will provide for a running game and creative shots that are found with true links golf. The routing is continuous but has multiple junctions that give it intimacy while also providing for opportunities to play the course in a different sequence or as a shorter loop. The design will stretch to about 7,000 yards at a par of 72 and encounter all points of the compass, despite its predominant east-west orientation.”
Clayton explained that the team are already able to clearly visualise some holes, such as the first two and those that run along the beach, but others, like the par five third along the high dune ridge, will be more difficult to picture until clearance work is complete. “You get a real sense when you walk it and have an idea of what holes will look like, but I’m sure there will be a few nice surprises,” said Clayton.
Unlike previously proposed golf developments on the land at Seven Mile Beach, Goggin’s plans are for pure and publicly accessible golf, with no reliance on real estate or other amenities. And in contrast to other destinations with a golf-focused ethos like Barnbougle and Bandon Dunes, Seven Mile Beach has the benefit of being very accessible, just a few minutes from the state capital’s airport.
The development team’s permit allows them to build 18 holes and associated facilities on the site, but there is space for more golf if the project is a success and the authorities allow it. The land on the north side of the ridge line provides scope for a contrasting second course, with gently rolling dunes that extend to the lagoon. “One side is completely different to the other,” said Clayton. “When you are on the Five Mile side, it’s like a London heathland course, but by the water.”
Construction work is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2021.
Goggin’s dream is on the verge of reality. “It’s been a labour of love,” he said. “I have made a lot of trips and spent a lot of time out there because I know how special a place it could be.”