A mix to soothe the soul
The Mornington Peninsula offers a feast of opportunities for people looking to escape. Sarah Nicholson reports on the best of the best Best for golf
FORGET the best in Victoria, or even the best in Australia, the Mornington Peninsula is one of the best places in the world for golf.
While it’s hard to settle on an actual number of courses – locals can’t agree on how many golf clubs sit between Frankston and the Bass Strait breakers, with the count ranging from 18 to 28 – everyone accepts it’s the sandy soil, coastal hinterland, and changeable weather that make it the perfect place to swing a club. Peter Tate, manager of golf operations at RACV Cape Schanck Resort, describes the region as ‘‘ a haven for golfers’’ with some of the world’s best course designers drawn to the area’s private and public compounds.
‘‘ Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones Jr and Tom Doak have all designed courses here,’’ he says.
‘‘ This whole region is a sand belt, and when a course is based on sand the water drains faster, making for consistent conditions on each hole, and there isn’t another area in the world that has a similar selection of world-class courses so close to each other and so close to a capital city.’’
Peter Thomson designed the Open Course at Moonah Links, with the circuit playing host to the Australian Open in 2003 and 2005, and visitors can play holes designed to challenge the best.
The Dunes and St Andrews Beach are two fine examples of natural sand belt links, there are ocean views from 12 holes at Cape Schanck, Flinders is perched on the cliffs above Western Port Bay, and Portsea is ranked 44th on the list of the country’s best courses.
When it comes to rankings you can’t go past The National Golf Club – one of Australia’s most exclusive and prestigious offerings, and the only one in the country boasting three courses inside a vast boundary – and the Old Course, Moonah Course and Ocean Course are all ranked inside the top 40.
Best for gardens
Victoria is known as the Garden State, and the Mornington Peninsula is home to generations of green thumbs that have toiled to create captivating outdoor spaces. The McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park is a 16ha space – half is landscaped to complement the natural bush that occupies the rest of the block – that’s home to more than 100 permanent works of art, with the array of modern and traditional monuments scattered through the gardens.
The casual Langwarrin compound, considered to be the only ‘‘ large and permanent’’ outdoor sculpture park in Australia, is free and family friendly with lots of spots beside the lake or under the gum trees to picnic between sorties around the grounds to gaze at the inventive creations.
Heronswood in nearby Dromana, which is home to The Diggers Club and an extensive nursery, is a traditional garden, with the crew maintaining the grounds around the 1860s house planting seasonal displays to show what can be done with the vast array of seeds on sale in the shop.
Another patch of land worth seeing is the Australian Garden in Cranbourne where a spray of natives have been arranged to simulate the landscapes of the continent’s dry heart.
Shoreham is home to Ashcombe Maze & Lavender Gardens, you will find the Enchanted Maze Garden in Arthurs Seat, and those looking for something a little more personal can stroll the Portsea Artists’ Trail – also known as Millionaires Walk – to see
MYRIAD DELIGHTS: (clockwise from left) Play a round at Flinders Golf Club; Ashcombe Maze& Lavender Gardens; the Spa Dreaming Centre’s private pools at Peninsula Hot Springs; and the Enchanted Maze Garden in Arthurs Seat.