Thirteenth Beach Golf Links (Creek Course)

Cypress pines on the 6th, Thirteenth Beach, Creek course, Brendan James

Sir Nick Faldo won six major titles, playing himself into winning positions on the back of strong shot-making, a trait that is highly prized on the courses he now designs. The Creek course at Thirteenth Beach, created in collaboration with Tony Cashmore, is a good example. What was relatively flat grazing land on the outskirts of Barwon Heads has been transformed into rolling couchgrass fairways, punctuated by huge, deep bunkers and flanked by often wide avenues of rough.

The look of the greens and their surrounds tells you that Faldo is a devotee of Dr Alister MacKenzie, particularly his famed Royal Melbourne layout. The green complexes are superb, with closely mown swales and hollows nestling alongside creative bunkers cut into each putting surface. Dramatic slopes off the edge of the bunkers add to the excitement of putting on the true, rolling greens. ‘If players are looking for a bit of strategy,’ said Faldo of his design here, ‘they are going to enjoy themselves. I like building a challenge – that’s what excites me as a designer.’

Most holes present risk-and-reward options from the tee, but it is the level of strategy required on your approach shots that really impresses. Courses such as Royal Melbourne and Augusta National, another MacKenzie layout, possess similar attributes, and one can only assume Faldo and Cashmore are paying homage to the great designer. There are well-defined good and bad spots to miss each green, and so long as you find the ‘good miss’ areas you may find it possible to score well without landing your approach shots in the heart of the putting surface. A bad miss – selecting the wrong club, for example, and dropping one short into a cavernous bunker – will leave you fighting hard to save par.

Several standout holes will linger long in the memory after your round is over. The 504-metre, par-five 2nd offers a good scoring opportunity if you can avoid the sea of bunkers strategically placed left and right of the lay-up landing zone. Approaching the green from the right half of the fairway is the preferred route, giving you an open shot at the centre of the sloping putting surface.

The 6th, a 129-metre par-three, is the shortest hole on the course and boasts the largest bunker. The beautifully shaped green and its surrounds lie just beyond two clumps of mature cypress pines, which stand like a pair of armed guards either side of your shot line.

Recent changes to the layout have involved the opening up of a creek, which now cuts across the 7th fairway and leads into a chain of ponds and a lake that flanks the right edge of the 8th hole. This has stepped up the front-nine challenge. Water also comes into play on what is perhaps the best short par-four on the course: the 316-metre 14th. There are two routes from tee to green, with the conservative play being a long iron or fairway metal played to the middle of the fairway, just short of three fairway bunkers. The riskier option is to thread your tee shot with a driver between two tall pines – which act like goalposts – and over the water on the left. Make that shot and the hole becomes considerably shorter, leaving you a pitching wedge away from a dramatically undulating green.

The Creek course is a wonderful complement to the Cashmore-designed Beach course. The Faldo and Cashmore creation is less intimidating to the eye, and over time it has emerged from the shadow of its majestic neighbour to stake its own claim as one of Australia’s best layouts.

Memorable holes

6th, 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th and 15th

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 fl ora and fauna. It is also a popular swimming and snorkelling spot.

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