The Dunes Golf Links

Par-five 12th, The Dunes – ‘the rough is rough’, Brendan James

If you are looking for true links golf in the tradition of the great courses of Scotland and Ireland, you can satisfy your desires here. The Dunes has become one of the most popular courses on the golf-rich Mornington Peninsula since opening for play in 1997. Five-time British Open champion Tom Watson came visiting that first year and loved what he saw, singling out the par-three 17th as ‘a truly beautiful golf hole’.

The Tony Cashmore-designed layout is wonderfully undulating and offers a dry playing surface all year round, thanks to the deep sandy base beneath its fairways and greens. Cashmore is humble, saying he chose the spots for the greens and the tees and God did the rest. ‘We,’ he adds, ‘just had to mow everything in between.’ The Santa Ana couch fairways are indeed fantastic, while the bent-grass greens can be devilishly quick and are usually as smooth as a billiard table to putt on.

But that’s where the good lies end. The rough is rough and reasonably high in parts. Native grasses have been allowed to grow and to cover the untouched topography between the fairways, which wind through valleys and over large dunes, leading on to massive greens that either sit in natural amphitheatres or are left exposed to the elements. The highlight, meanwhile, of any round here is Cashmore’s trademark natural bunkering – a combination of wild, rugged expanses of sand and deep, well-placed pot bunkers, designed to intimidate players and to penalise bad shot-making.

Wind is always a factor at The Dunes, and Cashmore has made sure its effects are experienced from all quarters of the compass. Any one round at The Dunes is like no other. The par-four 1st hole, a 409-metre sharp doglegright, calls for you to be on your game from the opening shot. Six bunkers on the inside of the dogleg are hidden from view, and the ideal line for your drive is to the left of the cypress pine off in the distance. The prevailing wind is usually of some assistance on the tee, but once you head for the green the wind comes straight across and makes club and shot selection difficult. Par here, whatever the conditions, is well earned.

Cashmore has a flair for designing short par-fours. One of the best in his entire creative portfolio is the 310-metre 4th. The fairway splits left and right around several mounds. Three deep bunkers punctuate the right fairway, and long hitters need only carry their drive 225 metres to fly over the sand and set up a short pitch to the green. Taking the left fairway route, the more conservative option, leaves a difficult-to-judge short-iron approach to the green, which is guarded by five bunkers.

If Tom Watson considers the 17th a beautiful hole, Nick Faldo’s preference is for another par-three – the 160-metre 13th – ‘one of the best par-threes I have ever played’. High dunes to the left run the length of the hole, wrapping round the back of the putting surface and fooling players as to the strength of the breeze blowing from the west or southwest. The green is huge, almost totally surrounded by dunes, and protected by several cavernous bunkers, from which escape is tough and a bogey on the scorecard virtually assured.

Memorable holes

1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 17th

Where to go

335 Browns Rd, Rye, Victoria 3941

Book a round

(03) 5985 1334

Where to stay

The Dunes is an accommodation partner with several nearby motels and lodges, including Rosebud Motel, Portsea Hotel and Hotel Sorrento.

Before/after your round

Set amid the hop vines, Red Hill Brewery is the fi rst microbrewery on the Mornington Peninsula. Taste the beers and stay for a delicious beer-friendly meal, or buy some fi ne handcrafted ales to take home.

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