Portsea Golf Club

The 16th hole at Portsea, Brendan James

Portsea Golf Club has long been regarded one of the best-kept secrets on the Mornington Peninsula. Although it is a private club, the public is welcome at most times to experience this visually striking layout across rolling terrain on the edge of Port Phillip, bordered by Point Nepean National Park. Regularly ranked among the nation’s top 50 courses, Portsea is a classically designed par-72 that has evolved from the nine-hole track created by Scottish professional Jock Young.

Young, born to the game at St Andrews in Scotland, was the club professional at Melbourne’s Commonwealth Golf Club. For many years he often consulted on course design at other clubs, as did Commonwealth’s longtime secretary Sloan Morpeth. When Morpeth left Commonwealth in 1961 he embarked on a full-time career as a course designer and savoured a string of successes, among them Portsea’s extension in 1965 to 9074 an 18-hole course. While retaining several of Young’s green sites, Morpeth created 18 new holes that stayed unchanged for more than 30 years.

Mike Clayton was commissioned in the late ’90s to remodel the layout. Several holes were lengthened, bunkers were reshaped and slabs of dense ti-tree were removed to improve the view from each tee. The changes have made for a better golfing experience. The course’s dominant characteristic – dramatic undulations – is unmistakable from the moment you stand on the 1st tee, where the fairway falls and rises like the opening moments of a rollercoaster ride, before meeting up with the green on a far-off plateau in the distance.

The testing terrain and frequently strong breezes make up for the fact that Portsea is not brutally long. Even with Clayton’s lengthening, it measures only 5935 metres from the back markers, yet this gives rise to some wonderful short par-fours and par-fives. Perhaps the best of the par-fives is the reworked 6th, just 446 metres long, which Clayton has opened up considerably by removing a wide avenue of ti-tree to allow a good look at the hole. Long hitters can take on the dogleg left but risk falling short and landing in thick rough. The ideal tee shot is one that draws slightly and follows the contour of the fairway, exposing the green and bringing into view a set of fairway bunkers on the left, plus another bunker right of the green.

Most of Clayton’s redesign work took place on the back nine, which had been dominated by basic short par-fours. ‘The back nine was in desperate need of a two-shot hole that really challenged the good player,’ he says. ‘There were too many short two-shot holes, and the bunkering and green complexes did not always reflect the quality of the land.’

The 244-metre 13th is now a fine par-four that tempts every player to attack the green from the tee. Like all quality short two-shotters, this can bring about a wild variety of scores. Clayton rates it one of his favourite holes, in that it comes close to replicating the decisions and punishments for a missed shot that apply on the best short par-four in Australia: the 10th hole at Royal Melbourne’s West course. Another welcome change involved the creation of a new tee on the 17th, stretching it more than 80 metres beyond Morpeth’s original tee, and giving Portsea a muchneeded difficult par-four among its closing holes. Portsea offers plenty of birdie chances. But the variety of holes and quality of the playing surfaces are what most people will remember after a round here.

Memorable holes

1st, 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th and 17th

Where to go

Relph Ave, Portsea, Victoria 3944

Book a round

(03) 5984 3521

www.portseagolf.com.au

Where to stay

Portsea and nearby Sorrento boast plenty of accommodation alternatives. The historic Hotel Sorrento has luxury suites and apartments, as well as a bar, restaurant and its renowned spa.

Before/after your round

Point Nepean National Park is a popular tourist spot because of its historical features and panoramic views of Bass Strait and Port Phillip.

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