To the southwest of Melbourne lies the Bellarine Peninsula, the counterpart to the Mornington Peninsula opposite. At their extremities the two are separated by a stretch of water that can be crossed by ferry in 40 minutes. Although the golfing lands are not as rich on this peninsula, their value has been increased with the completion of two relatively new courses just outside the town of Barwon Heads.
The Beach course at Thirteenth Beach is as accomplished an offering as Tony Cashmore’s previous work at The Dunes, across the water near Portsea. Thirteenth Beach has in its favour a closer relationship to the sea by virtue of a 3km stretch of land adjacent to the dunes, though these dunes separate the golfer from the beach itself and any views of Bass Strait. While the land at the Dunes is sand based, the sea has receded somewhat further, giving way to farmland. Both courses are open to the public and come strongly recommended for the touring golfer.
As with other courses on the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas, it’s a fair bet that most rounds of golf will involve some leaning into the prevailing winds of the day.
It is not easy designing and building public access courses that keep the attention of the local club champion but that can still entertain without demoralising the weekend out-of-state visitor. The economics of the business require a consistent circulation of happy swishers. Tony Cashmore has achieved this on a course that you will want to play several times.
The above passage is a brief edited extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
The Vic Open has been the flagship tournament in men’s golf in the state of Victoria since 1957 when the inaugural event was staged at Riversdale Golf Club. The equivalent Victorian Women’s event was first played in 1988 but soon faltered and disappeared from the ladies’ calendar until 2012 when Golf Victoria innovatively decided to promote both male and female professional golf at one inclusive tournament. The 2012 championship was simultaneously staged for men and women at Spring Valley and Woodlands and was a roaring success.
In 2013, the ISPS Handa Vic Open moved to 13th Beach
Golf Links where its success on both the Beach and
Creek courses continued to
gather momentum. In 2019 the men’s tournament was co-sanctioned by the European
Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, while the women’s event
co-sanctioned by the LPGA and the ALPGA Tour. Despite there being a separate
championship for men and women, there’s equal prize money on offer and all four
rounds are played in alternating men’s and women’s tee times. The event is a
breath of fresh air.
‘The Beach’ at 13th is a brilliant course that will surely become an icon of the area.
A number of holes at the beach are both beautiful and well designed, combining playability with strategy. Landing areas for the shorter golfer are wide, but fairways narrow where one really wants to play from. This thoughtful placement of hazards makes the course play a bit longer that its numbers reflect, with the obvious play regularly being less than driver.
Stand out holes are numerous here, but the par 3’s (bar the 3rd) are hard to go past. The 7th and 12th are similar yet share a winning theme; mid length and downhill to greens perched in dunes. The 16th is also familiar; a short hole to a small green surrounded by shocking trouble. While being variations of common themes, these 3 holes are stunning and penal; a contrast to the general playability of the course.
The beach also boasts strong Par 4’s, short, fun Par 4’s and a range of Par 5’s. One of these Par 5’s is and will continue to be quite controversial, for it essentially has to be played in three. The indignity some golfers seem to feel at having to play to a green in three shots must be experienced to be believed. I feel for them. However, I couldn’t disagree with their sentiment more; the 6th hole is a great levelling hole; we need more of these holes, not less.
The beach does have some significant flaws. The first 3 holes and the 14th do not compare with the rest and sit out like ugly ducklings. The 18th is interesting but confusing, especially as a finishing hole; coming down the stretch and needing to score on this hole would be akin to a roulette spin. The maintenance of the course is good, but a step below the best. Here in lies my biggest complaint for ‘The Beach’ - the missed opportunity. The 13 (or so) amazing holes speak to how surreal this course could have been. That said it’s still very good and accessible, with the public welcomed to the course.
Located on the Bellarine Peninsula near Barwon Heads, 13th Beach Golf links boasts two championship courses and world class facilities.
In 2013 13th Beach became the venue for a revamped Victorian Open- a joint championship which crowns both the men's and women's champion at the same time at the same venue. Although they are separate championships they have equal prize money. The men's tournament is co sanctioned by both the European Tour and The PGA Tour of Australia. The women's tournament is co sanctioned by the LPGA and ALPGA tours.
The Beach Course covers some interesting land with roughly a third of the terrain relatively quiet farming land, another third of the course in dramatic dunes by the coast, and the remaining holes transitioning between the two.
As a general statement the more memorable holes are located in the dunes. The par 3's at hole 7, 12 & 16 are world class, and the rolling par 5 eighth hole is impressive. The bunkering throughout the course has that wild and natural look that defines the modern links like courses. The clusters of bunkers on holes 5 & 17 (amongst others) are good examples and can't help but draw your eye.. The greens are firm and true, but not too fast- they can't be given the propensity for windy days!
Notable holes include:
- hole 4, which plays as the closing hole in the Victorian Open
- hole 5, a short par 4 tucked in between water and dunes- you need two accurate shots to get home
- hole 7, an outstanding par 3 in the dunes
- hole 8, a par 5 with character!
- hole 12, another brilliant par 3 in the dunes
- hole 16, a 'postage stamp' type short par 3 which demands accuracy and nerve.
- hole 17, a longer par 4 dominated by some amazing bunkering
Having seen the professionals play the course in the Vic Open, it is fun to play the same holes yourself, albeit off a shorter tee (for most of us) In decent weather the course is quite playable for club golfers off the appropriate tee, but can still challenge the pros off the back markers. That is a sign of good design!
The Beach is a quality course and should be on every travelling golfer's bucket list
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
The first four holes on the Beach course take the golfer away from the clubhouse in a loop of sorts across fairly benign land before retuning to the clubhouse again and heading off to the better dune based area of the course for most of the remaining 14 holes.
The short holes here are certainly a standout, the downhill 7th and 12th before later playing the uphill and into any sort of wind at the 16th.
I found the Beach course in excellent condition, greens were running true and bunkers were well presented, this is due to the recently played Victorian Open that the course was looking so sharp.