Natural Selection Posted by Reef Magazine - 13 August 2014 The feeling you get playing the Hamilton Island Golf Club is one of sheer exhilaration. It begins from the moment you’re on the boat heading over to its incredible location on Dent Island. However, it’s only when you stand on the heroic tees and look out across the stunning vistas that you realise, when it comes to knockout beauty, this course is better than most, not just in Australia but worldwide. Ian Baker-Finch is one of only 10 Australian men to have won a major. Finchy, as he is affectionately known, was mesmerised when he first set foot on the Hamilton Island Golf Club. “It’s absolutely spectacular, right up there with the top 10 most spectacular courses in the world. When you see those panoramic views over the Whitsundays, you think of Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers, Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, it is that memorable,” he says. Baker-Finch is exposed to all the great courses in the world and despite being almost two decades removed from his playing days, he’s still hooked on the game, getting in about 4-5 rounds a week. A more passionate golfer you’ll struggle to find. “Cypress Point Club in Monterey, California is the most beautiful course in the world and I’m lucky to be able to play it with friends once a year, along with the Wednesday at The Masters where I get to play the Par 3 Contest - they are my two most favourite days of the year,” says Baker- Finch, adding “I’m very much looking forward to taking my family to Hamilton Island, to stay at qualia and play the course again later this year.” While his 1991 Open Championship victory will be the signature moment of his career, Baker- Finch is carving out an impressive career as a broadcaster with CBS. The 2006 US Open winner, Geoff Ogilvy says, “My favourite course in the world would be The Old Course at St Andrews. It may or may not be the best, that could be debated, but it’s my favourite to play,” he says. Ogilvy won the 2006 major, at famed Winged Foot, a brute of a course that tested every bit of his game, including patience. Ogilvy is a student of golf course architecture, and has recently joined forces with friend and fellow professional Michael Clayton to form Ogilvy/Clayton. Their philosophy: strategic golf - born from the brilliance of the Scottish links courses. He says, “While I’ve not played Hamilton Island, I would say views and settings are very important. Golf is a game that is great to play anywhere, but the experience is greatly enhanced in beautiful locations. I think it’s one of the game’s most enduring appeals.” The PGA of Australia contests the National Club Pro title at Hamilton Island Golf Club every year. Nathan King from Manly, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, winner of the inaugural championship in 2012, and Craig McLean from Sorrento Golf Club in Victoria, who took out the championship in 2013, both agree that Hamilton Island Golf Club is the most beautiful course. “It’s incredible” says McLean, “No matter how good or bad your round is going, you just look out over that expanse of blue water and forget about how you’re playing.” What they have in common is the ability to play in the wind and they both agree the key to playing well on the course, is keeping your ball in play. “I think only three players have broken par in the two years we’ve been up there.” says King. “It’s ok to hit 3 wood or long irons off the tee, as long as you keep your ball in play. I like to give myself the opportunity to hit good approach shots because the greens are pretty true.” he adds. McLean says the course reminded him of The Old Course at The National Golf Club, one of this country’s great designs which is also exposed to strong wind on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “It’s either on the fairway or you’re dead off the tee, but in saying that the fairways are pretty generous. I guess being a straight driver is an advantage.” “Amazing, incredible, picturesque, it’s definitely one of the best courses I’ve played. You stand on certain tees and just go… wow!” King says. “For your diehard golfer, you’ve got to play Barnbougle (Dunes) and Lost Farm, but then you’ve got to play Hamilton Island.” Karrie Webb, Australia’s most successful female pro golfer agrees “The Hamilton Island Golf Club has the most stunning backdrop of any golf course I have ever played. With 360-degree views of the Whitsunday Islands and passage, it’s hard to get in the right mindframe to play such a challenging course where the winds can definitely blow. I think the four par 3’s are four of the best holes on the course with some of the best views on the island. The only other golf course that I have played around the world that took my breath away for its natural beauty and views is the New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney. About the Author 'REEF Magazine – Hamilton Island & the Great Barrier Reef' is a magazine that showcases all that Hamilton Island has to offer, from events, to an exciting array of activities, attractions and more. You can pick up your complimentary copy of 'REEF Magazine' at any Hamilton Island hotel, and you can also access some of our feature articles right here on The Island Blog.