Following the runaway success of the Robert Trent Jones Junior-designed Old course in the late 1980s, The National Golf Club acquired additional land in an adjoining property, enabling it to build another two 18-hole courses, both of which opened for play at the start of the new millennium.
Greg Norman and Bob Harrison designed the Moonah course, with Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge setting out the Ocean course. Over time, it became apparent the Ocean course wasn’t as popular as the other two National tracks at Cape Schanck so the club decided to do something about this in 2016.
Members were surveyed to ask their opinions on the playing characteristics of the course and their related levels of interest when playing a round on the Ocean and their responses indicated two things: a number of green complexes and fairway bunkers were too difficult and unfair; and the layout should be more enjoyable and fun to play.
The following year, Tom Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design team submitted proposals for the complete redesign of the Ocean course:
The course closed during 2018 to allow work to get underway and after months of endeavour, a ‘soft opening’ of the newly renamed Gunnamatta course took place in April 2019.
Tom Doak’s brief from The National was to create a course that complements the Old and Moonah courses. It also had to be playable on the occasional very windy day, providing a fun golf experience for golfers of all abilities and, to all intents and purposes, the architect has achieved those objectives.
The course is beautifully bunkered, but the sand
hazards are just the supporting act to the main stars of the show on the new
Gunnamatta layout, the putting surfaces, which are as fine a set of greens as
will be found anywhere, offering a multitude of stimulating pin positions on
Please note the current rankings are based on the Ocean course, not the new Gunnamatta layout, which opened after we'd published our latest Australian chart.
A definite improvement on the Ocean course. I played this new course as a guest and thoroughly enjoyed it - because its now enjoyable. Plenty of traditional links golf on an undulatng property but now the greens are not so penal and the layout is friendlier. More short par 4s make it fun for mid handicappers and I think Tom Doak has given golfers a better chance of admiring the views out to Bass Strait! Even the gentle (!) sea breeze was not too difficult to handle. And of course the National Club House is brilliant for a post-round cleansing ale.
This course does not deserve to rated so low, and is now the best course of the four national golf courses. It oozes Doaks' philosophy of being a good members course whilst challenging the very best golfers. Doaks took the old Ocean course, which was a bit soulless and, quite frankly, joyless, and as built a course full of guile and charm, rather than brute strength and punishment; where once fairways the had bunkers in the middle and ran off into the rough, we now wide fairways are hard to miss, greens sit neatly into dunes and funnels the ball to the hole if you land on the right portion of the green. Moreover, unlike the old Ocean, the punishment for a slight poor shot is commensurate with the error. The Ocean punished shots that were not too bad, Gunnamata gives you a chance to redeem, if you are good enough.
Another plus, whereas the old Ocean course had only one view the ocean, and that was on the first tee. you can actually see the Ocean on several holes, with the par 3 16th the stand out, giving you and infinite view to the horizon over Bass Straight. You may not appreciate the view, however, as it is also into the prevailing wind, and the day I played it, I should have played a three wood to the back right pin, instead of my four iron that finished 5 meters short of the green.
In my opinion, the new order of the National Courses are;
Equal 2nd - Moonah and Long Island
4) Old Course
There was a ‘soft opening’ of the Gunnamatta course at the end of April 2019. Tom Doak’s brief from the club was to produce a course that complemented The Old and Moonah courses – both of which are quite demanding in different ways. The club wanted a course that was playable on the occasional very windy day, playable for all level of player, and great fun to play.
On this basis Tom Doak has delivered in spades. The Gunnamatta has wide fairways- reminiscent a little of Royal Melbourne in their width. Whilst the course is beautifully bunkered, the bunkering on this course plays second fiddle to as fine a set of greens as you will find anywhere.
The greens are quite magnificent – the keen golfer can get endless enjoyment working out the different ways to play to the various pin placements. This sort of golf – which is a throwback to the games beginnings on the links courses – is all about the running ball.
It is pure links golf.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer click the link to read his full review.