King Island, Australia: Ocean Dunes King Island remains on track to open at least nine holes in late October and is set to thrill both Australian and international golfers with its stunning local wildlife.
Situated in Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia, King Island’s soon-to-be spectacular offering of golf courses at Ocean Dunes and nearby Cape Wickham will be complemented by regular sightings of an array of fauna including wallabies, sea eagles, seals, echidnas and peacocks.
Just as golfers visiting Australia are spellbound by the famed presence of kangaroos at courses including Royal Canberra, Lake Karrinyup and Sanctuary Cove, players at Ocean Dunes will marvel at its own reputation as a haven for beautiful wildlife.
Ocean Dunes Director and course designer Graeme Grant believes seal sightings have increased this year.
“A couple of months ago, a baby seal wandered several hundred metres inland and was found on the sixth green by one of our ground staff. We called the local vet to see what could be done because it was so far out of its territory,” Grant recalls.
“It was a baby seal only a couple of days old, it had lost its mother so they picked it up and took it back to the surgery, kept it warm, fed it and then took it back to the coast to be released. Before long, as the vet predicted, we heard it calling for its mother.”
Grant – who was superintendent at Kingston Heath for almost two decades and has spent more than two years living on King Island – says seals are also starting to make themselves comfortable on Ocean Dunes’ tees.
The par-three 10th hole – which calls for a spectacular carry across a small cove – has been home to the recent seal sightings. “Three weeks ago, one of Ocean Dunes’ directors was driving by the 10th and a big bull seal had dropped itself on the edge of the tee. It just goes to show what golfers are in store for.”
With a wingspan of two metres, sea eagles are perhaps the most majestic birds featured on King Island.
“At various times we see a pair gliding over the first hole – a par-five threading its way down to the coast between bold sand dunes. At times, nature at work can be both exhilarating and distressing. Leaving the course one evening, I noticed a magpie had met its waterloo in the talons of one of the sea eagles. The next day, I saw a family of these magpies continually swooping the one sea eagle so I guess they can take only so much.”
There are no foxes or rabbits on King Island, which means other small animals and birds have free rein and sightings of peacocks, echidnas and pheasants are quite common while wallabies have the most dominant presence at Ocean Dunes.
Grant estimates that at least 100 inhabit the course and he had originally feared the marsupials could jeopardise his ability to create world-class grass coverage across the layout.
“In fact, we see the wallabies as a great feature of the site without posing any threat or harm to the turf. Every evening I would see 20 or 30 wallabies as I drive around to inspect progress and turf development. During the day, they can be seen feeding on the fine fescue on the fairways or on windy days sheltering behind tussocks or marram grass on the lee side of dunes. They have become quite familiar with machines and people during the construction and tend to get out of the way only at the last minute.”
The 17th hole is also proving a comfortable spot for the peacocks that call Ocean Dunes home.
“The peacocks live on a big dune between the 18th and 17th and are most noticeable late in the day when they leave the scrub to feed in the open. The iridescent blue and green plumage is spectacular when the peacock fans his tail. There would be 15 to 20 around the 17th and 18th holes so quite a sight is in store for those finishing their rounds late in the afternoon.”
Meanwhile, it has been announced that Ocean Dunes’ front nine will open for play on October 31 and Grant is hopeful the 10th and 17th holes will also be ready to create a loop of 12 holes along with the already established par-four 18th.