The National Golf Club (Ocean Course)

Two-route fairway on The National’s Ocean course, 1st hole, Brendan James

Nearly a decade after the celebrated opening of Robert Trent Jones Jnr’s Old course, the club’s board discovered that the adjoining property was to be put up for sale. It could be seen from the highest points of Jones Jnr’s course, and from the close-by Cape Schanck layout which Jones Jnr also designed, and the view across this new land suggested that here was more golfing country. It was simply waiting for some greens and tees to be placed between the sand dunes.

The design team of Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett was commissioned to turn it into a golf course. Separating the open, rolling, sandy dunes from the edge of the sea was a 500-metre avenue of almost impenetrable ti-tree and moonah trees. Wolveridge still recalls the excitement he felt when he saw that raw landscape for the first time. ‘From our vantage point, high above the lowland dunes and valleys, the view was breathtaking,’ he says. ‘There were any number of layouts waiting to be discovered.’

In such a glorious natural setting, the designers felt modern design techniques were not an option. Instead they turned to the methods employed by the grandfathers of links design, men such as Old Tom Morris, Harry Colt and James Braid. They began at the obvious spot for the 1st tee and trekked their way through and over the dunes, finally arriving at the site of the 18th green. It took several months to complete their journey and the results speak for themselves. The Ocean course of The National is now consistently ranked among Australia’s top 40 courses. Standing on the balcony of the clubhouse today, it is not hard to imagine Wolveridge’s feelings as he gazed out across that spectacular piece of land. It is easy, too, to see how the opening hole was discovered, as opposed to designed. On the 496-metre, par-five 1st, the fairway is 90 metres wide and split in the middle by a dune, creating two routes: a ‘high road’ and a ‘low road’. The designers cut two bunkers into the side of the dune, further complicating matters for anyone who drives their tee shot too straight. Only the biggest hitters, in the right conditions, can reach the green here in two blows, so laying the second shot up in the correct position is important. A high and wild grass-covered dune on the right interrupts the playing line to the green, so it’s wise to keep to the left. Aim your approach shot for the back of the elevated putting surface, thus avoiding the false front that will repel any under-clubbed shots down the slope and back on to the fairway. The location of the greens is a memorable highlight of any round here. One green seemingly devoid of any protection – by bunkers, rough or hazard – can be found at the 4th hole, a 403-metre par-four. Known as ‘Quarry’, it presents you with a blind tee shot over the crest of a dune and past a massive sandpit, or quarry, which provided sand for the base of the putting surfaces. The closer you can hit your drive to the edge of the quarry, without actually entering the sand, the easier the approach shot you are left with to an awkward, right-toleft sloping green.

While the 4th green is reminiscent of a 200-year-old links course in Scotland, the punchbowl green at the 15th is more like something you’d find nestled among the high English dunes of Sandwich, Hoylake or Birkdale. The hole is a 364-metre par-four, and the only view you get of the green is from the left side of the fairway. The green is huge, and set deep into the sand dunes, and the best play here is to keep your approach low, beneath the wind, and then watch as the ball feeds off the slope and rolls up close to the pin.

Memorable holes

1st, 4th, 8th, 14th, 15th and 18th

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 fi ne golf courses.

Before/after your round

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

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