The National Golf Club is Australia’s largest private members’ golf club and it’s situated in Cape Schanck on the dramatically undulating and sandy seaside land of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
There’s no shortage of golf to be played at the National Golf Club, with three courses to choose from… the Old, the Ocean and the Moonah. All three courses appear in Australia’s Top 50 and the Old was naturally the first course to be laid out here at the National. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, the Old course opened for play in 1988 and its set on undulating slightly hilly ground which allows for stunning coastal views.
The Mornington Peninsula could easily be one long stretch of golf holes and it must have been a challenge for RTJ2 to decide on his virgin routing plan. The National’s signature hole is the wonderful one-shot 7th, which invariably plays into the prevailing breeze. With a daunting ravine to carry, club selection is critical and most will take one club more bringing a deep bunker at the back of the green into play. With the Mornington Peninsula as the backcloth, this is a truly memorable hole.
To card a good score on the National Old course, you’ll need your best driving game and a hot putter. These are some of the best putting surfaces in Australia and they can be shaved rather slickly.
Set in a huge elevated dunescape with sweeping ocean views, The Old Course is nothing if not dramatic! It certainly is a challenging course and is famous for large undulating greens and impressive bunkering.
First time golfers can be overwhelmed with so many elevated tee shots exposed to the ever-present coastal breezes. The amply bunkered fairways framed by thick ti tree seemingly shrink the target zones. Miss a fairway and you had better hope it catches a bunker!
Although not overly long off the normal club tees at 5873 metres, the elevation change, wind and bunkering all present challenges. Perhaps the greatest of these challenges is the movement in the greens, which at first can seem too severe.
I had a long conversation with Trent Jones after the course opened and he took time to explain to me that windy sites generally demand larger greens, and larger greens become boring if there is not quite a bit of movement through them- his example was The Old Course at St Andrews where the greens are enormous with little flat land.
Further he agreed that while some of the putting could be quite difficult, he argued that if the greens were smaller these slightly errant shots would miss the green altogether.
While the first time golfer can struggle, the membership who play the course regularly are passionate advocates for the course. I must admit I am in that category and rate The Old Course as my favourite course to play in Australia.
When the club added The Ocean and Moonah courses and a new clubhouse in 2000 the hole sequencing for the Old Course changed to allow easy access to the rest of the club. Hence the old 14th hole became the first in the new set up.
Hole 3 is possibly Australia’s most challenging hole! A longer par 4 which demands carry, length and accuracy. The tee shot needs to fly a large gully and the approach is all uphill and a little claustrophobic with trouble both left and right. The two level green has significant elevation change between levels making it important to hit the right part of the green.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.