The National Golf Club is Australia’s largest private golf club and it’s situated in two locations, downtown Frankston North and Cape Schanck on the dramatically undulating and beautifully sandy seaside land of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
There’s no shortage of golf to be played at The National Golf Club's Mornington site, with three courses to choose from… the Old, the Gunnamatta (formerly called the Ocean) and the Moonah. All three courses appear in Australia’s Top 50 but if you only have the chance to play one round at The National Golf Club, make sure it’s on the Moonah course, which was designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison.
The Mornington Peninsula could easily be one long stretch of golf holes and it must have been a challenge for the architects to decide on their routing plan. The rolling topography is perfectly suited to golf but the property is irregularly shaped which no doubt made the routing even trickier. The links-like land pitches and rolls across swales and hollows in a most pleasing manner, but when the fickle prevailing winds are up, hold on to your hat and ignore your scorecard.
You’ll need good mastery of the low bump-and-run shot to get close to the pin on the Moonah’s raised, but open-fronted greens. This is a very traditional course with outstanding bunkering and you’ll need the old-fashioned game to score well here at the fabulous National Moonah. If the club could somehow assemble a stronger collection of one-shot holes, we think the raw and memorable Moonah would warrant permanent inclusion in the World Top 100.
In 2015, the members of Long Island Country Club and The National Golf Club voted in favour of a merger to create the first 72-hole private golf club in Australia. Club members can now enjoy full playing rights across four Top 100 ranked courses.
Greg Norman needs no introduction. As a golfer Norman held the world no 1 ranking for a massive 331 weeks. He won 91 international tournaments including 20 PGA events, and 2 majors. As a golf architect he now has over 100 courses around the world that he has designed. His services are in great demand and new courses in Vietnam, Oman and Mexico continue to enhance his reputation.
With the help of his trusty sidekick Bob Harrison, Norman was engaged by the National GC to design The Moonah course on some links land that appeared perfect for golf. Members had for years peered down on 'The Cups'- as this stretch of sandy farmland was called-with thoughts of how perfect the land would be for golf holes.
Norman produced a very strong out and back routing, although Initial thoughts of a crossover hole were rejected by the club before Norman settled on the routing now in use. In the end of the day, Norman & Harrison have fashioned one of the few true links in Australia , and a championship links at that.
Moving through and over the dunescape, with no two holes alike, the course builds to a championship finish.
Holes 4 through to 11 are full of interest and fun to play, but then the inward holes starting with the long par 5 twelfth hole conduct a thorough examination one one's golf- even if the conditions are benign. And when the weather does come in- as it is wont to do every now and then- then The Moonah can be be a brute.
Norman has brought the best out of a wonderful golfing site and produced a course that could host The Australian Open without much preparation- yet is playable (and very enjoyable) most days for the club member. That's a neat trick!
The highlight for me is the dramatic natural looking bunkering throughout- both fairway and greenside bunkers are well positioned, and imposing in a natural blown out kinda way. Norman is a fan of the MacKenzie style bunkering found in the Melbourne Sandbelt and his designs reflect those influences.
On the Moonah course the clusters of bunkers were made up of smaller cavities as dictated by the wind, and each was deliberately roughly shaped and then refined by the wind to give that rugged jagged appearance that The Moonah course is known for.
The green complexes have movement which can test the golfer without being overdone, and as with each of the courses at The National they are in 'mint' condition.
It is a world class course, and currently rates as a world top 100 and Australian top 10 course (Golf Digest USA).
The Moonah Course is a terrific test of golf and one of Australia's best championship links. Greg Norman has done justice to a great piece of golfing land.
I think it is amongst his best efforts as a golf architect in an impressive portfolio world-wide. And it is fun to play!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
In my opinion, Greg Norman does not design nor build many good golf courses. At least he does not in the USA where I consider the resort course at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando the best I have played followed by The Medalist. Trump Ireland (Doonbeg) is pretty good but it is on spectacular land so it should be. I did like Cathedral Lodge.
At Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula, Norman built a very good golf course. The fairways are generous and the course builds throughout with the better holes nearer the end. The strategy on most of the holes is obvious but hitting your approach shots into the greens can be tricky if you get a bit off line. You think you have hit a good shot but sometimes it runs through the green or off a side of a hill. The fairways are wide with large greens. The “rough” is pretty easy to locate your ball and still have a reasonable play on it. The land is hilly and rolling and the routing takes very good advantage of all the hills.
I would play this course often. I have not played the “new”course being designed by Tom Doak nor the Old so it would be great to get back and play them to decide which one might be my favorite. The Doak course was under construction and we rode in a cart to look at some of the Old course, but playing a course is often very different than what one sees.
The Moonah is a very picturesque golf course. I gave the course high marks for the routing, the terrain, the playability, and the consistency of the holes. The one negative with the golf course is that the required tee shot is pretty obvious due to the width of the fairways. On many holes even the approach shots into the greens. The course does lack a bit of strategy. The bunkering is fairly obvious. The fairways have a lot of ripples and saddles to them but they are very smooth like a carpet. The greens run true and are rarely difficult to read so three putts are less likely here with the exception of the short par 3 eighth hole which offers a very tilted green with a lot going on.
The holes I liked at Moonah were 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 14 and 15 with 8 and 14 being the standouts. The members rave about the finishing four holes but I did not appreciate them as much as the middle holes on the golf course. I thought the par 3’s and par 5’s are more demanding than the par 4’s.
The first offers an elevated tee with a nice long view to a wide fairway going left ending with a raised green and fronted by a bunker left and a back bunker on the right. It is a nice par 4 starting hole of 370/400 yards.
The second hole is a par 5 playing downhill to another wide fairway. The longer hitter has to contend with cross bunkers nearly going across all of the fairway. For the average player, the second is played down the left side to provide a better angle to the green that is positioned to the right and fronted by bunkers. Much like the first hole, it is very player friendly.
The third is a longer par 4 of 400/440 yards with the fairway narrower. The green has no bunkers surrounding it and has a spine through the middle. This is another player friendly golf hole.
The fourth is a slightly longer par 4 with a tee shot playing over a waste area and trees on either side to a slightly narrower fairway. The green is perched on a shelf with a false front, large bunkers and has a good tilt to it. I liked this hole as it fits perfectly into the land.
The fifth is a short par 3 with a collection of bunkers front left, a bunker on the right, and a nasty one hiding at the back of this plateau green with run-offs to either side. It is a splendid hole and once again takes very good advantage of the terrain.
The sixth is a short par 4 hitting uphill. The big hitter can let it go on this hole given after the fairway crests there are two valleys sloping down towards the green which is perched high above the bottom of the valley. It is another well placed golf hole.
The seventh is a longer par 5 playing as sort of a gentle double dogleg. The green is nestled into the mounds surrounding it with the back part of the green obscured by the hill on the left. It is an okay hole but has that good disguise of the green.
The eighth has a really nice raised green with a grass bunker left, false front in the middle and a set of four bunkers front right as well as the tilted green. The land falls off behind the green. I thought it to be the best par 3 on the golf course.
The ninth is a short par 4 of 310-340 yards playing to a green that is guarded on the left side by bunkers as well as a spine in the green on the left. This hole is designed to tempt the big hitter to drive it but for me I thought it was the weakest hole on the golf course.
The 410/390 par 4 tenth hole has a weather vane on it and offers a wide fairway to a green with another spine through the middle. It fits with the land but it is not a special hole.
I really liked the eleventh hole, a shorter par 4 hitting over a rise in the fairway and then down to a green that is above the land in front of it. The green is well defended by a series of bunkers on the left and bunkers to the back of the right side. It has a fair amount of subtle break in the green. It is a good hole taking advantage of the rolling land.
The par 5 twelfth hole is played up a slight rise to a very wide fairway. The second shot is also straight forward. It is the third that requires a well struck shot to avoid all of the bunkers to the right side of this raised green. The one critique I would have of this hole is that a miss to the left side of the green offers too easy of a chance of recovery.
The thirteenth is a par 3 playing 175-190 yards over waste area to a green that is flat on the right side but has two depressions on the left side.
The fourteenth is the second longest par 4 on the course with the fairway situated atop a ridge line with both sides falling away. The green complex is perhaps the best on the golf course given the bunkers and the setting of the green with a substantial fall-off front left and little room to go long due to the vegetation behind. This is another hole perfectly placed on the land.
The fifteenth is a long par 5 winding its way through the hillside. The fairway feels slightly narrower than it is. The second shot requires one to take on the hill on the left side as the green is situated to the left. In a sense it is a blind shot. The approach shot must clear the bunkers fronting the green. I thought this to be the best par 5 on the golf course and one that once again was nicely incorporated into the surrounding landscape.
My hosts raved about the sixteenth and perhaps I need to play it again to make a better assessment. It is a long fairly straight par 4, the number one index, of 465/500 yards playing uphill at the end. There is a tree on the right side that one can find off the tee. I found this to be just a long golf hole.
The seventeenth is another long par 3 at 220/190 yards that I found to be a bit odd in that the bunkers are all behind the green which was pretty simple.
I disliked the eighteenth hole due to the seven trees either in the fairway or on its edges. It is out of character to the rest of the golf course and for me, it ruined what looked to be a fun hole to finish on. Perhaps the trees are protected. The green is one of the better ones on the course, sort of in a saddle, but I could only think of those trees. It is a disappointing end to Moonah.
The Moonah is a delight to play, it is beautiful, is well conditioned, it offers a fair amount of difficulty although not enough strategy. The National offers four courses in its membership, with three located right next to each other, so it would be a fine club to join. The clubhouse for the three courses is superb with awesome views. The Old course has been ranked in the top 100 in the world.
The National. Australia's largest golfing complex. The Moonah course. No. 8 on Australian Golf Digest Top 100 list. Designed by the shark and what a tough little cookie it is to crack. It scores well on design and memorability, and its bent greens and couch fairways oversewn with fescue are great all year round.
This course is just as much fun to walk as it is to play. It is very firm and certainly favours those golfers who can play the ball along the ground. The rolling terrain offers endless opportunities to use your imagination to figure out how best to keep the ball on the slick greens. I encourage golfers, when appropriate, to look around you and just see how vast the property is. There is a frequent sense of great openness and exposure to the elements. There are many memorable moments around the course, including the difficulty of the last 3 holes. The uphill par 4 16th hole may be the toughest par 4 in Australia, and it really plays like a par 4 and a half. If you hit your drive into either of the fairway bunkers, you pretty much can’t hit the green in regulation. The very long par 3 17th is just as punishing surrounded by hazards. Although you are beside the sea, you can’t see the water from the golf course, which I felt was a little disappointing given the location, and the wonderful ocean view you have from the new clubhouse. The Ocean course borders the Moonah with commendable land and opportunity. One would argue why the club didn’t pick the best holes from both courses and make a stunning 18 hole routing that takes advantage of all the natural benefits sitting on your doorstep. It’s just a theory. The popularity of this golfing area is growing each year, and with a large membership that has to travel to get here, it’s a surprise that the enormous clubhouse doesn't have bedrooms. Put this course on your OZ itinerary, as it is part of the greatest golf complex in the country.