Although not the length of modern championship courses, Barwon Heads is a fair test of golf. The course lies on the south coast of the Bellarine Peninsula 20 minutes from Geelong and 75 minutes from Melbourne. It’s located on land adjacent to Thirteenth Beach Golf Links sharing a strip of coastline that gives way to the Bass Straits.
Barwon Heads was founded in 1907 in Geelong and was initially a nine-hole links on land north of the village of Barwon Heads. The links on the present site was developed in 1920, being laid out by Victor East, then the Royal Melbourne Golf Club professional.
The course was initially 5,720 yards with a bogey of 77. The first six holes that circulate on a piece of land across the access road to the beach, northeast of the clubhouse are in fact the most recent additions. These six holes are my favourite combination on the course on account of their closeness to traditional Scottish links in both atmosphere and playing character. They are also closest to the dunes and the beach beyond. This section of the course has a very open feeling to it. You play all holes within sight of the traditional weatherboard clubhouse, one of the most handsome golf structures in Australia.
The above passage is an extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
Nestled along the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula of Victoria, Barwon Heads is a links style course. The first half dozen holes at Barwon Heads encompass true links style land and holes, as it's the most open area of the course, undulating fairways and deceptive green complexes with fine subtleties within. The remaining 12 holes have more demanding tee shots as the fairways feature the same natural contours as the first 6 holes, but with tighter and more severe rough areas. The highlight of the back nine is the famous "postage stamp style" par three 13th, its tiny green is bunkerless but surrounded by wicked undulation and totally exposed to the elements. Excellent bunkering can be seen here and the recent updates from Crafter & Mogford have certainly enhanced the courses playability and overall feel. Tyson.
After a visit to the quirky two-storey weatherboard proshop, the first 6 holes at Barwon Heads head out into classic links land, open and exposed to the elements before returning to the clubhouse.
The course is relatively short, playing only 5591 metres off the members tees. But the weather has a major say at Barwon Heads with the turf firm and fast like the classic U.K. links, so controlling your ball in the wind can be challenging.
Those first 6 holes are exposed and many feel this is the strongest section of the course. Certainly the long par 4 third hole, which often plays into the prevailing wind, is a good hole. Players must choose their line carefully off the tee with a vast sandy waste intimidating on the inside of the dogleg.
Hole 4 is a beauty! This short par 3 with a tee set high on the primal dune requires a tee shot to carry over tea tree and valley to an elevated tiered green sculpted into the sand dunes. With cross winds in play it requires an accurate iron to find the playing surface, and a deft short game to recover.
Hole 6 is also a favourite. It is an uphill mid length par 4 with the clubhouse prominent in the background. It's just a lovely links golf hole.
The course then plays past the clubhouse and away from the more open links land. These holes are framed by tea tree and some consider them less links holes, more links style...It matters not. Certainly the tee shots are tighter with trees now a visual obstacle, but the sand dune base is still there- as are the quality holes.
In recent years one of Australia's leading Golf architectural firms – Crafter & Mogford Golf Strategies – have been employed to rethink and refresh the classic old course. They have widened some fairway surrounds, and taken out tracts of tea trees giving the back twelve holes a linksier feel. Perhaps the best example of this is the dogleg par 4 ninth hole where an awkward, severe hole has been transformed into a real classic.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.