The National Golf Club (Moonah Course)

The 10th hole at The National, Moonah course, Brendan James

While Peter Thomson’s design team got to work on the Ocean course, The National hired Greg Norman and his chief architect Bob Harrison to create what would become known as the Moonah course. Both layouts opened for play in 2000. Norman and Harrison were at that stage working on three other Australian courses – The Glades, Pelican Waters and Sanctuary Lakes – all of which involved transforming highly unsuitable golfing land into championship-style layouts. At The National, they had the opportunity to design their first links course. Confronting them were rows of sand dunes. The hollows in between dictated the way the course would be laid out. It was a different sort of a test, Harrison recalls. ‘We had worked on quite a lot of courses where, for one reason or another, heavy earthmoving was required. At The Glades it was excavating wetlands. At Sanctuary Lakes it was adding definition to the landscape. But this type of work wasn’t required at Moonah. It’s a links course, passing over the most exhilarating, dramatic dunes, and this sort of land imposed new challenges, while offering the chance of a lifetime. A lot of effort went into finding the greatest number of dramatic, natural holes, and there was much less concentration on design drawing.’ Such was the intricacy of the natural contouring that drawings were swiftly abandoned and old-fashioned course shaping by eye employed instead. Today, there is not one hole among the entire 18 that does not stop you in your tracks and ask you to admire it for a while. The wild bunkers and deep rough wide of each fairway conjure thoughts of Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. Add in dunes reminiscent of England’s Royal Birkdale and you have a contender for the world’s top 100 courses.

The first world-class hole comes early in the round. The stunning 497-metre, par-five 2nd begins with a wide, rippling fairway that bends gradually past bunkers scattered at varying lengths down the right side. Majestic sand dunes to the left and behind the green frame the hole beautifully. When the wind is blowing in from the south off Bass Strait things turn bitterly cold, but the green becomes reachable for anyone willing and brave enough to take on the crop of bunkers short and right of the putting surface. Moonah is a single-loop, out-and-back design that stretches to the north-west corner of the property. It is here that the most undulating land lies, giving rise to some thrilling holes. The 11th, a 359-metre par-four, demands strategy, courage and an ounce of good fortune: the quintessence of golf. It’s a wonderful natural hole. Your tee shot is played on to a plateau, leaving you a mid-iron away from a diagonally positioned green that slopes from back left to front right. Bunkers cutting into the edge of the dune beneath the green can prove deceptive, and deciding which club to hit is tricky. The challenge for Norman and Harrison was to create a layout that is testing but fair, given the landscape and weather extremes. ‘We knew,’ says Harrison, ‘that a great course was buried out there somewhere under 250 acres of sand dunes. I think we found it.’ Few would disagree: for nearly a decade, Moonah has been rated one of Australia’s top 10 courses. The National is a private golf club, but interstate and overseas members of other recognised clubs can request a tee time for the Old, Ocean or Moonah courses. All three are rotated to accept visitors on different days.

Memorable holes

2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th and 16th

Where to go

The Cups Dr, Cape Schanck, Victoria 3939

Book a round

(03) 5988 6777

Where to stay

Peppers Moonah Links Resort is ideally located if you wish to sample the Mornington Peninsula’s many fine golf courses.

Before/after your round

Ever wanted to ride a horse along a deserted beach? Gunnamatta Trail Rides offer a one-hour beach-and bush ride for beginners and experienced riders.

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