Moonah Links complex is a large, 600-acre, golf tourism development in Victoria which contains housing, tennis courts, swimming pool, spa and – at its centre – two fantastic golf courses.
Located an hour's drive south east of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula near Sorrento, the Open and Legends 18-hole layouts are laid out over a tumbling coastal landscape ideally suited for constructing modern links courses and the naturally draining sandy soil means that golf can be played all year round.
Home to Golf Australia (formerly the AGU), the Open at Moonah Links is a championship course built and prepared for national competition and the Australian Open will be held here every few years on a rotational basis. It is a course that will really test the professionals from the back tees with lengthy par four holes, tight fairways and heavily contoured greens.
Completed in 2002, the Open course hosted the 2003 Australian Open which was won by Peter Lonard. Two years later, Robert Allenby claimed the title when the championship returned.
The Open course can be set up with five tee placements at each hole to play anything from a relatively genteel 5,912 yards to a mighty 7,461 yards. This flexibility allows the higher handicapped player to still play the same track as the professionals without getting too badly beaten up!
A feature hole on the front nine is the 184-yard, par three, 7th hole which is played from the highest point on the course where cross winds can present a severe obstacle to marking a three on the scorecard. The round ends with the mammoth 640-yard par five which has no fewer than eleven bunkers along its length in an attempt to keep the golfer on their toes right until the end of the round.
The Open course is an absolute beast. As a beast, it is a great track and a great test of golf. These assets do detract from the playability of the course for the average player. Yet if you want a more playable course, go somewhere else; you don’t need to look far to find other superb courses in the area.
Apart from being really hard, the open course has other great qualities. The short(er) par 4’s are just cool. Visually, many holes are aesthetic. The bunkering is both intimidating and beautiful. The par 3’s are memorable. And the course has a reputation for meticulous conditioning.
On the downside, the course lacks playability. Fair, that’s not why you are here, but strategically it can be hard to find your way around. Lay up areas are littered with sand and have narrow landing areas (a common theme across most holes). Again, fair, that’s not why you are here. Yet it can be tiring trying to decipher holes to realise you’ve just got to hit the shot.
Come play this course when you are refreshed. Play off some tees a bit further back than you should; it’ll make you realise just how good the real golfers are. Enjoy the visually stunning nature of the course. And lastly, enjoy the standout holes; there are a few absolute beauties.
I am glad most golf courses are not like The Open course. Equally, I am glad these kind of courses exist. They definitely have their place.
The Open Course at Moonah Links was designed by Peter Thomson & Mike Wolveridge from Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett and opened for play in 2002. It was specifically designed and built for championship golf. Peter Thomson referred to the course as 'The Leviathan', given it's length and difficulty. The links stretches to 6783 metres from the back markers and is littered with pot bunkers at every turn.
A Leviathan indeed!
Moonah Links is located in a sandy dunescape on The Mornington Peninsula known as "The Cups" Although it is set back from the beachfront, it is classic linksland and perfect for golf
Peter Thomson has fashioned a course that threads it's way through the heaving dunescape offering a variety of challenges along the way.
I thought the par fives were the backbone of the course, with the second, fourth and eighteenth holes the most memorable
Notable holes include:
- hole 2, a snaking par 5 with more pot bunkers than blades of grass on the approach
- hole 3, a dogleg par 4 to a green unseen over a hill
- hole 4, a strong well bunkered par 5
- hole 5, a mid length par 3 to an elevated green
- hole 9, a shorter uphill par 4 with the green tucked behind some pine trees
- hole 17, a longer par 3 across a valley to an elevated green
- hole 18, an epic par 5 where pot bunkers dominate the landscape from tee to green. Due to the size of the undulations in the fairway, many of the bunkers are relatively unseen making it a hole you need to play a number of times to have any idea of the lines you need to take..
The Open Course is a nicely presented links course of epic proportions. Playing off the back pegs gives you an idea just how good the professionals are, but is not a realistic option for most of us. Off the appropriate tee, The Open Course is a fine test of golf
With all the dips and hollows and pot bunkers, if this course was in the UK or USA caddies would be in high rotation. But in Australia you need to play the course a few times at least to learn the lines of play so you can plot your way around as Peter Thomson envisaged.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Hi Peter - if you had 5 rounds to split between this and their Legends course, what would you opt for?
BB, an excellent question. There are many good courses on the Mornington Peninsula and life is too short for more than one round here. The Legends again is OK but The Dunes, St. Andrew's Beach, the 3 at The National are better choices for mine. Interesting that a number of Thomson's designs have been modified in recent times.
The Moonah Links (Open) course has some of the best greens I have ever played on they were phenomenal, so pure, so quick and so unforgiving. They say you use your putter more than any other club in your bag and on this course most of the pleasure comes from taming greens that would leave PGA pros rueing missed opportunities.
The course follows the tried and tested Mornington Peninsular links format, you will not be disappointed by what is on offer. The first is fun a par four to get you warmed up. Unfortunately I injured my calf on the third hole and from then on was limited in my shot selection. Taking on the rest of the course with a 5 iron or lower was pretty entertaining and rewarding. Many of the par fours were reachable with two 5 irons but anything wayward was punished. The rise and fall of the fairways can leave shots heading down the right on the left and vice versa. The first cut of rough which is generously wide is playable but the thicker stuff will leave you looking for balls all day long.
If you put all the component pats of this course together it is knocking on the door of the Top 100 but isn't quite there, maybe in years to come it can make it. For now a weekend of golf that involves the Open and the neighbouring Legends at Moonah Links would be reward enough for any and every golfer.