MAG­I­CAL MORN­ING­TON

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.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY BREN­DAN JAMES

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.

MOONAH LINKS

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

EA­GLE RIDGE

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 GC

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 – o„er­ing 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.

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