Australia is blessed with a host of world-class golfing destinations and Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula ranks among our finest where great golf, food, wine and accommodation are par for the course.
Brendan James discovers why Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is a world-class golfing destination.
The Mornington Peninsula boasts the greatest concentration of top ranking courses in Australia. In fact of the 17 courses featured here, 13 are ranked in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Courses in the country.
Combine the five star golf courses with the Mornington’s reputation for sophisticated o course attractions, and you will find yourself planning a return trip before heading home. And it’s only a shade over an hour south of Melbourne’s CBD.
Enjoy the food, the wine and the sights, but best of all enjoy the golfing delights the Mornington Peninsula has to o er.
Back in 1998, the then named Australian Golf Union (AGU) had a masterplan to create two championship courses, a state-of-the-art teaching and practice facility as well as a resort and residential development in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula.
It was the birth of Moonah Links and it became known as the ‘Home of Australian Golf’. Millionaire businessman and farmer Paddy Handbury owned the property and oversaw the completion of the Open course.
Designed specifically to host the Australian Open on a regular basis, the Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett-designed par-72 opened for play in 2001. The layout has been routed over, through and around rolling sand dunes that are a real feature of this Cups region of the peninsula.
For the average golfer, the Open course provides a sti , but fair, challenge. Thomson likes to refer to the Open layout as a “leviathan” and, indeed, at 6,783 metres from
the championship markers it can be a monster. The peninsula is prone to being bu eted by strong winds and the Open course really bares its teeth on such days. But the strength of the challenge here is the enjoyable aspect of any round across the Open course’s fairways. You know if you can play to your handicap here you have indeed played well. The Legends course may have been the second course opened at Moonah Links but today it is generally ranked slightly higher than the neighbouring Open course. Legends opens with a series of holes that rise and fall through valleys and in between long and dense stretches of ancient Moonah trees.
The course then takes on a new complexion as the Moonah trees thin out and wild, rugged bunkering, high sand dunes alongside gently rolling fairways give rise to a links-style course.
Very little earth was moved in the creation of the Legends course, which gives the impression it has been here for decades. Perrett did a wonderful job in routing the course to follow the pitch and roll of the land, sticking to the low ground wherever possible, while the aforementioned bunkering is not only intimidating but it adds to the visual appeal of the layout. Handbury sold Moonah Links for $18 million to a Chinese-Australian consortium in 2015. Since taking over, the new owners have invested strongly in both courses, which is evident in the high standard of conditioning of the playing surfaces that now greet visitors. Green fees: $75 (June-Sept); $85 (March-May); $95 (Nov-Feb). www.moonahlinks.com.au
All of the courses that have been added to the Mornington Peninsula landscape during the past 25 years can be found within 10 minutes’ drive of each other in what has become the famed Cups area. Lying right in the heart of this area is the under-rated Eagle Ridge course.
Eagle Ridge began as the Carlogie Golf Course but during the past three decades it has undergone several major redesigns, the latest being in 1999 under the eye of Pacific Coast Design’s Phil Ryan.
In 2007 all 14 fairways were converted to Santa Ana couch and the greens surrounds were changed to Penncross bentgrass.
The grass conversion was a resounding success and, 10 years on, the playing surfaces are excellent.
Eagle Ridge is definitely a quality alternative to the neighbouring links layouts. Trouble lurks on most holes, with well-bunkered greens and fairways common throughout.
The bunkering of this par-72 is plentiful and can be visually intimidating, especially if you find yourself in the sand with more than
a wedge required to reach the green. Ryan’s sandy hazards are a mix of small deep pots and expansive stretches of irregular shapes. The downhill par-3 8th hole, for example, features a pot bunker in front of the tee, while a 60-metre sprawl of sand lies just beyond. A further six bunkers can be found around the edge of the large green.
Eagle Ridge’s penal bunkering is no more evident than when you head down the final stretch to the clubhouse. The 522-metre par-5 18th is a great closer that calls for length and accuracy as well as good strategy. A steep hill descending to the fairway may assist the longer drive but that’s all the help any player gets here. Large bunkers hug the edges of the fairway for most of the remaining 200-plus metres to the green. The green is massive and almost entirely surrounded by a picturesque lake, with more than two-thirds of the green’s fringe sloping steeply down to a watery grave. Like nearby Moonah Links, Eagle Ridge was sold to a Melbourne-based family early last year. The new owners immediately updated all the machinery in the maintenance shed and have signalled an intention to further improve the course, which has previously been ranked in Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses. Green fees: Book online, prices given in real time. Winter special through to August 31 includes 18 holes golf in a cart plus a pie and chips for $48. www.eagleridge.com.au
Devilbend Golf Club is one of the lesser known clubs of the Mornington Peninsula, especially to those living outside Victoria, but is certainly worth a visit.
Opened for play in 1975, the layout was designed and constructed by Eric Horne, who decades earlier had worked under Sam Berriman, the acclaimed long-time curator and builder of Huntingdale and a host of other Victorian courses.
While the land at Devilbend was not ideal for golf – combining several steep hills with swampy lowlands – Horne was still able to create a good, challenging course that has gradually been improved bit-by-bit during the past four decades. Over that time all the greens have been reconstructed, the fairways converted to Santa Ana couch and bunkers added.
While the hills at Devilbend provide the platform for some good looking holes, the standout hole plays across a slope and adds to the challenge of hitting an accurate approach. The 408-metre par-4 12th is rated the hardest hole on the course for good reason. Played from an elevated tee, your drive needs to find the right half (or high side) of the fairway to avoid a lake to the left. With the ball sitting above
your feet (for right-handers) you need to hit a straight second to keep your ball out of the bunkers that surround the green. Green fees: $30 (18 holes midweek); $39 (weekends). www.devilbendgolf.com.au
PORTSEA GOLF CLUB
Portsea Golf Club used to be regarded as one of the best-kept secrets on the Mornington Peninsula.
Today, a modern $12 million clubhouse with 24 four and a half star hotel rooms – oering panoramic views over the course and beyond to Port Phillip Bay – gives Portsea a resort feel.
While Portsea remains a private club, the public is welcome most days to experience a visually striking layout that occupies rolling terrain near the tip of the peninsula bordering the Point Nepean National Park.
It is classically designed layout that has evolved from a nine-hole track created by Scottish professional Jock Young to a par-71 that was ranked No.36 in Australia by this magazine in 2016.
Young, born to the game in St Andrews, was the club professional at Melbourne’s Commonwealth Golf Club for many years and often consulted on course design for other clubs. As did Commonwealth’s long-time secretary Sloan Morpeth. Morpeth created 18 new holes for the club in 1965, which remained unchanged for more than three decades.
In the late 90’s, Michael Clayton was commissioned to remodel the layout. Holes were lengthened, bunkers reshaped and large
PORTSEA GOLF CLUB USED TO BE REGARDED AS ONE OF THE BEST-KEPT SECRETS ON THE MORNINGTON PENINSULA.
Wild expansive bunkering is a feature of a round on Moonah Links’ Legends course.
The lengthy par-3 11th hole of the Open course is a touch of Ireland on the Peninsula.
The bunkering at Eagle Ridge is not only plentiful but it is visually intimidating as well.
The Devilbend layout covers undulating topography that adds to the challenge of a round.