The links course at the Dunes runs through, as the name suggests, sand dunes a few hundred metres from the Mornington Peninsula shore. The nearest towns are Blairgowrie, Rosebud and Sorrento at the very tips of the southernmost claw of the Peninsula.
The architect, Tony Cashmore, has fulfilled his brief of creating a championship style course that is suitable for public access play. It is neither too long, too narrow or too arduous to put off the casual player and yet it is crunchy enough to tempt back the single handicapper.
Since The Dunes’ 1997 completion, other links courses of comparable merit have been completed in Australia. Kennedy Bay near Perth, Barnbougle Dunes on the north coast of Tasmania and the Moonah at The National are all strong contenders for the title of the best new links course in Australia.
The two nines of The Dunes Golf Links describe concentric clockwise loops so there is plenty of variation in angle of breezes to be played. The accent is very much on novelty and variation so the golfer will be asked to perform many direction changes, cope with side hill lies and fire to hill top greens.
The par threes for example are very different to each other: The 124-metre 3rd is very exposed to the breeze and plays to a long kidney shaped green with a pronounced back tier. The 6th is a very long downhiller where the best strategy is probably to land short, the 160-metre 13th calls for precise clubbing to hold a fairly narrow and well bunkered surface with a distinct frontal slope, finally the 179-metre 17th is in the spirit of the Sandbelt and would not look out of place at Kingston Heath: a raised complex, well bunkered green structure that calls for a firm spank into the prevailing breeze.
My favourite of these is the 6th, certainly very traditional Scottish in its conception and unusual for the fact that it calls for a running shot and the best approach is not always directly for the flag. The water hazard at the back, in my view, deals a harsh penalty.
The above passage is a brief edited extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
The Dunes is fun. Now that’s as a good a review as you should need. It has many really fun holes with shapes and contours and questions that make you wonder if there was a better way to play the hole you just finished.
Take the 4th. A short Par 4 that you feel like you could drive, except for those bunkers that you just might not carry. So you blast away off to the left but then the green which is long and thin is on the wrong angle and you have no depth to play to. So maybe you should have used an iron off the tee and played short of the bunkers?
There are a few of these holes that allow different strategies and have great shape and interest to them. On the down side there are a couple of holes that I’m not keen on but only a couple. That includes the 17th a par 3 with a board that will tell you that Tom Watson thinks it’s a great hole. Maybe for a professional or scratch player, most weekend players won’t enjoy it.
Interesting that the introductory reviewer named the 6th as his favourite hole when for me it was my least favourite and clearly so. It’s a hole you could play with a putter as successfully as a 6 iron. I just find the result too haphazard to rate it highly because you’ve got little idea where your ball will end up. Try it and see.
I also think the 1st is also too tough a start to a round. I’ve played The Dunes many times and have never ever started with a par. It’s 409 meters uphill so it plays like 420 or more and yet the green is not particularly receptive. Probably the strategy there is to play it as a 5 to ensure you don’t start with a 6 and take the 4 if you happen to hole the putt.
But for the rest, well I’m happy to play there anytime.
I don’t rate it as highly as its next door neighbours at Moonah Links. I think both those courses outpoint it but you will have a much better time at The Dunes than you will at St Andrews Beach the other course in this great piece of golfing land.
After a rough financial start I'm glad the Dunes successfully made it out the other side. I've been privileged to of played the Dunes Medal here on several occasions and find it a fair test for golfers, that appropriately awards and penalises golfers in a tournament setting. Unlike some of the other course in the Mornington Peninsula, The Dunes does a great job in blending with surrounding natural landscape.
The Mornington Peninsula is home to an extensive region of rolling sand dunes know as 'The Cups'. This region is home to some seriously good golf courses and is becoming one of the great golfing destinations in Australia.
It all started when golf professional and golf course developer Colin Campbell opened The Cape Country Club in 1972 on what is now the site of the National and Cape Schanck Golf Clubs. Twenty years later Campbell was employed by the owner of more 'Cups' land just down the road to build an 18-hole links course. It was called Limestone Valley.
In 1994 Duncan Andrews purchased the property and committed to further development. He appointed architect Tony Cashmore to completely redesign the course. The 'new' course was named The Dunes Golf Links and opened in 1997 and is now 27 holes – a nine hole 'executive' course and the imposing eighteen hole links.
With undulating sandy terrain as a base, 'The Cups' region is perfect for a golf links. Cashmore has crafted a course where the design has been dictated by the land rather than his hand. No two holes are alike! The two nines loop around in such a way to expose play to winds from all directions.
The course is challenging enough for even the best, but playable by all. It is a second shot course, with wide fairways keeping everybody in the game, and a variety of well-bunkered green complexes to sort the men from the boys. But at the end of the day it is the wild, natural bunkering that defines The Dunes – a world-class links – and one of Australia's best.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Green fees not bad either. Play this or an equally great track, something like Moonah Links, for approx 30 pounds twilight (which you'd want in Oz summer) or 45 pds peak time. Many others around the area as well.
Recently I had the privilege of playing The Dunes and at first i thought this course was very over rated, but once i got to the top of the 3rd hole - a 148m (off the black tees, challenge yourself) par 3, I could see numerous holes from this location that just have the wow factor