Point Lonsdale Golf Links was founded in 1921 on 45 acres of land with a 9-hole course laid out by George Lowe Jr., the professional at nearby Barwon Heads and son of George Lowe who designed Royal Lytham & St Annes. The club acquired another 52 acres to the south of the original course in 1937, with a view to Vern Morcom expanding the layout.
Four holes were brought into play in 1939 then another three were added in 1947. More property deals were done in the early 1950s to exchange small plots of land before an 18-hole course opened for play in 1954.
During the 1980s, 21 lakeside acres sold thirty years earlier were re-acquired and the course redesigned. As author Toby Cumming says in The Golf Courses of Vern Morcom, “in the decades since, there have been many routing changes, with holes reordered, modified, taken in and out.”
At the end of 2020, Lonsdale Links re-opened after an extensive re-design by OCM, the design company of Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking and Ashly Mead. Five new holes were added on new land to the southwest of the old course, with a new clubhouse built close to where the old 1st green was once situated.
Lonsdale Links is a highly unusual Australian creation; the style is a throwback to beginnings of the Golden Age of golf course architecture. Charles Blair Macdonald’s pioneering design at the National Golf Links of America opened in 1909, featuring a smorgasbord of iconic holes from classic European courses which later became known as "templates", such as Redan, Biarritz, Double Plateau and Road. Here at Point Lonsdale, OCM have created the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of the USA’s NGLA, albeit on a more modest scale. Maybe they'll add a windmill later.
If the measure of a golf course can be summarised by how keen you are to play the course again, Lonsdale Links has hit the mark. Walking off the 18th tee I wanted to start straight back on the 1st.
The strongest feature of Lonsdale is its point of difference in area rich with golf. The course is short, the ground hard, the routing interesting and the greens ridiculously severe. This makes Lonsdale unlike the courses that surround it. The greens are worth special mention; they are something to behold. Getting in the wrong position on the greens can make a three putt a sensational outcome. Such unplayability generally frustrates me, but not at Lonsdale, for it is clearly different. Lonsdale is not trying to be a championship course. It’s trying to be fun and weird, akin to your likeable aunt who drinks too much and farts at the dinner table. I think it has succeeded.
Time will tell if this short, quirky course finds a permanent home in golfers hearts. The conditioning of the course will surely be a factor, as Lonsdale makes sense when the ground is firm. Should this be slowly diluted with time, Lonsdale could easily fade into nothing. Yet as it stands it is outstanding. It is a beacon for the different. While Championship courses and tests of golf have their place, so do interesting and left field routings.
Point Lonsdale Golf Links was founded in 1921. Initially a nine hole course was laid out by George Lowe Jnr. (the Professional at nearby Barwon Heads GC).
Over time the club gradually acquired more land and with the assistance of Vern Morcom finally opened an 18 hole course in 1954.
But change was a constant at Lonsdale as more land was acquired and new holes added and moved. New housing built adjacent to the course caused problems as errant balls broke windows Holes were reversed or taken out of play.. The club was constantly evolving, reacting to outside pressures
But now the club has taken it's future into it's own hands, selling part of the links for housing development, acquiring more land and effectively starting again.
In December 2020 a new 18 hole course designed by OCM opened for play, with impressive modern clubhouse and all facilities including a practice range that converts to a par 3 course.
With Ashley Mead from OCM in charge of the project, Lonsdale Links steers a new path for golf in Australla
Charles Blair MacDonald's 21 template holes are integral to golf architecture in the USA with iconic courses like The National Golf Links and Chicago Golf Club still regarded amongst the best in the world.
But there has been no hint of template holes being used in Australia to date It was a bold move, but a good one.
The short sporty new course at Lonsdale Links is endlessly interesting and challenging, although it rarely tests a player for length
That in itself is road less travelled, but with nine template holes and nine complimentary originals, Lonsdale has a winner on it's hands
The Template Holes
C.B. MacDonald's template holes were based on the strategies of 21 of the best holes in the U.K.
They were not copies of the original holes, but merely adaptions suitable for the local terrain
MacDonald also added original holes with strategies sympathetic to the original 21 templates when building his new courses
At Lonsdale Links Ash Mead and the team at OCM have included 9 classic template holes and nine originals
The nine template holes are:
Hole 1- Alps, first designed by Old Tom Morris as seen at the 17th hole at Prestwick
Hole 2- Biarritz, original concept from France, but introduced to the USA at Yale Golf Course
Hole 3- Plateau, also known as Double Plateau can be found at the 11th hole of National Golf Links
Hole 6- Eden, based on the 11th hole at St Andrews Old Course
Hole 9- Leven, based on the 16th hole at Lundin Links in Fife, but perhaps best known from the 17th hole at National Golf Links
Hole 11- Punchbowl, a natural occurence for greens in early days in the sandy links of the U.K. The 5th hole at Royal Cinque Ports is a perfect example. National Golf Links no 3 announced the hole to the world
Hole 12- Thumbprint, an original concept by C.B.MacDonald first seen at Chicago's 10th hole
Hole 14- Redan, the most popularly used template hole is based on the 15th hole at North Berwick's West Links
Hole 16- Road, based on the 17th hole at St Andrews Old Course
I enjoyed the course, but for my part the most memorable holes were:
- hole 1 (Alps), a heaving, rolling short par 4 with character- welcome to Lonsdale Links!
- hole 2 (Biarritz), a mid length par 3 with a dramatic green and plenty of protection. Par is well earned.
- hole 4 (Buckley's Chance), a driveable par 4 with little room for error
- hole 7 (Gil's Carry), a very short uphill par 3 to a partially blind green
- hole 9 (Leven), a short uphill hole to the clubhouse with small elevated green amply protected by the yawning bunkers dominating lines of play
- hole 15 (Samphire), another short par that demands distance control for both the tee shot and the all carry approach over the marsh
- hole 16 (Road), an outstanding interpretation of the Road hole, this driveable par 4 is a joy to play
Lonsdale Links is an outstanding addition to Victoria's golfing landscape. The template concept is something different for Australia, and great fun, but Lonsdale is more than that
With only 120 acres at their disposal the club has built a course for their members- it's not built for championship golf and does not aspire to test golfers with length.
Lonsdale Links has interesting greens with ample movement and enough different pins positions to change the nature of an approach
Lonsdale won't necessarily suit the big bombers, but will appeal to those who like to think their way around the course
It's a little tight in places and will be testing in the wind, but as the course matures it is sure to be softened in some areas
Knowing your way around will be a great help, so members will be pinching themselves at their good fortune once they get to know the course... I for one, can't wait to go back..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.