Thirteenth Beach Golf Links (Beach Course)

Thirteenth Beach, Beach course, par-five 4th, Brendan James

After all the accolades Tony Cashmore received for his design work at The Dunes, on the Mornington Peninsula, he must have felt some pressure to produce an equally fine layout when it came time for his next project: the Beach course at Thirteenth Beach, on the nearby Bellarine Peninsula. He passed with flying colours.

No excessively long holes dart across this natural golfing landscape. Cashmore does not inflict compulsory long carries over hazards or rough ground – though they are there, for the foolhardy player who attacks the course. Rarely does he try to improve on what nature provides: Cashmore works with, not against, the greatest course designer of them all. The bunkers are proof of this. In most instances they look as if they have been part of the landscape for hundreds of years.

The mix of holes is fantastic: breathtaking par-threes; brutally long par-fours; short and quirky par-fours; and genuine three-shot par-fives that call for accuracy, not power hitting. The 5th tee marks the beginning of the course’s least designed holes. From here to the finish it is wonderful links land, encompassing a series of dramatic, natural holes that look and feel like they were here long before a golf course was ever planned.

At 312 metres, the par-four 5th might be considered easy on most courses. But at Thirteenth Beach, a water hazard cuts diagonally across the length of the hole, so your drive must be directed right of that and the four huge fairway bunkers cut into the side of a hill. The biggest challenge lies not in escaping these bunkers but in gauging how far away they are from the tee. In the right conditions the putting surface is reachable from all three tees, but this requires an aggressive mindset and a drive that must carry more than 250 metres over water and sand.

After climbing a steep sand dune from the back of the 6th green, you step on to the 7th tee and are greeted with a wonderful view of the course and picturesque Murtnaghurt Lagoon. What lies in front is the first of three excellent par-threes. The 165-metre downhill 7th features a small two-bunkered dune to the left of the green. Another grass-covered dune sits to the right, feeding all balls within its vicinity on to the putting surface. The right side of the green is protected by several bunkers, including a massive pit that will gobble up even the most slightly overhit tee shot.

The two par-threes on the inward nine – the 156-metre 12th and the tricky 118-metre 16th – are widely acclaimed and set among the sand dunes. The 12th plays downhill from an exposed and elevated tee, and correct club selection and good hitting will be rewarded with par or birdie. Nothing is quite so certain on the diminutive 16th. Laid out on top of a sand dune, the postage-stamp green has ruined many a round. It is surrounded by pot bunkers, with severe run-offs leading your ball into tangled fescue grass. Depending on the wind, any club from a four-iron to a sand wedge might be needed to hit the green.

Cashmore lets his creative juices flow at the final hole, a 410-metre par-four, although the excitement doesn’t truly start until you walk over the rise and line up your approach shot. An enormous punchbowl green, partly hidden behind mounds and swales, is difficult to putt on. The pressure is palpable: you must get your approach shot close and not leave yourself a long first putt. The Beach course at Thirteenth Beach has been part of Australia’s golfing landscape for a decade, cementing a place among the top 30 courses in the land.

Memorable holes

5th, 6th, 7th, 11th, 12th and 16th

Where to go

Barwon Heads Rd, Barwon Heads, Victoria 3227

Book a round

(03) 5254 2922

Where to stay

Barwon Heads Resort at 13th Beach, a short walk from the clubhouse, offers luxurious self-contained one, two and three bedroom apartments overlooking parts of the Beach and Creek courses.

36 Fourteenth Road, Barwon Heads, Victoria 3227; (03) 5254 1777

Before/after your round

Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary, located at the mouth of the Barwon River, is a 17-hectare habitat for a diverse range of marine flora and fauna. It is also a popular swimming and snorkelling spot.

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