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New Aussie Courses | T+L Golf

Courtesy of Montalto Awesome Aussies

Photo: Courtesy of Montalto

New York has the Hamptons. Boston has the Vineyard, Nantucket and the Cape. And halfway around the world, Melbourne has the Mornington Peninsula. Just over an hour’s drive south of Australia’s second-largest city, this boot-shaped promontory has long been a summer playground of wide sandy beaches, rugged coastal dunes, and hillside vineyards and olive groves. But lately it’s the golf courses that have been drawing the most attention to this sun-swept region. Over the past decade, some of the game’s most talented architects have been handed priceless parcels of linksland here upon which to work their craft. The thirty-six-mile-long peninsula, home to seven bayside towns stretching from Frankston at the top of the boot to Portsea at the toe, now harbors twenty-eight courses. The finest are to be found among a fifteen-hundred-acre area known as the Cups, a name that refers to the saucer-shaped undulations in the land. And just an hour-long flight away, across the Bass Strait to the island of Tasmania, lies Tom Doak’s three-year-old Barnbougle Dunes, a strategic masterwork woven over a wild stretch of coastline—too enthralling to pass up once you’ve traveled this far.

WHERE TO PLAY

BARNBOUGLE DUNES

The two-minute drive along the entrance road will leave you wondering what all the hype is about. Wander up the short trail to the lookout behind the clubhouse, though, and all is revealed: crooked green fingers of fairway push through vast expanses of purplish-gray dunes. In just a few years, this remarkable links on Tasmania’s northeastern coast—designed by Tom Doak and Michael Clayton, an Australian architect and former European Tour pro—has earned a place among the best half-dozen courses in Australia. The four opening holes and the final quartet play into the prevailing wind, serving as overture and finale, and there are plenty of high notes in between. Barnbougle makes up in wile what it lacks in length: The 277-yard twelfth dares a drive over an angled chasm when two safe iron shots will all but assure par. The bent-grass greens, even though they roll at moderate speeds due to an overseeding of fescue, have so much slope that the best approach on a thirty-footer can be to putt the ball ten feet past the hole, just firmly enough so that it can change direction and ease back down the ridge.

Waterhouse Road, Bridport, Tasmania. Architects: Tom Doak and Michael Clayton, 2004. Yardage: 6,724. Par: 71. Greens Fee: $80. Contact: 011-61/363-560-094, barnbougledunes.com.au.

Golf Club at St. Andrews Beach, Gunnamatta

Another Tom Doak and Michael Clayton tour de force, this exhilarating links is easily the peninsula’s most enjoyable course to play. Despite its sweeping links­land beauty, the landscape has no dramatic features, only subtle twists that lead to greens that seem to materialize as extensions of the fairways. To the uninitiated, this might seem banal, but it’s paramount to Doak’s design philosophy of providing multiple playing options, and it’s a feature that can be every bit as challenging as elevated greens that demand aerial approaches. You can still flop the ball on from twenty yards out—you just don’t have to. And once you reach the putting surfaces, which are embedded with borrows that both surrender to and fight the lay of the land, the rolls are seldom obvious. What’s more, the routing features frequent changes of pace: The inviting 302-yard fourteenth, for example, allows you to catch your breath after the brutish 494-yard par-four that precedes it.

209 Sandy Road, St. Andrews Beach. Architects: Tom Doak and Michael Clayton, 2005. Yardage: 6,627. Par: 70. Greens Fee: $90. Contact: 011-61/359-885-366, standrews beach.com.

National Golf Club, Moonah

Reminiscent of an Irish links, this Greg Norman design threads through high banks of natural grass-covered dunes. Rarely is there just a single route to the green, and cerebral players will delight in the possibilities. Many holes feature generous areas from which to run the ball onto the putting surface, but that strategy comes with the risk of having it spill off a side or rear slope. At the par-four tenth (where an old windmill has been left intact), you can pitch the ball to the edge of a punch-bowl section of the green tucked behind a dune and have it feed toward the hole. Most impressive, however, are the par threes: Two of them are semiblind, offering only a glimpse of the flagstick from the tee, and a third, the 223-yard seventeenth, is framed by distinctive moonah trees, the salt-resilient hardwoods that resemble giant broccoli florets and dominate the peninsula’s coast.

The Cups Drive, Cape Schanck. Architect: Greg Norman, 2000. Yardage: 7,191. Par: 72. Greens Fee: $200. Contact: 011-61/359-886-666, nationalgolf.com.au.

Portsea Golf Club

This traditional members’ course at the tip of the peninsula was recently reworked by Michael Clayton and Bruce Grant. Its delightful collection of short and medium-length holes rolls gently and sometimes wildly over dramatic sandy land. All of the par fives are reachable, but each demands careful shot­making, including the curling 488-yard sixth, which requires you to shape a draw off the tee. The 287-yard thirteenth is the perfect example of subtlety being every bit as challenging as length: The hole bends left and uphill, with a forty-square-yard bunker-flanked plateau affording a tiny sanctuary. You can get a game at the club any day except Saturday. Afterward, head to the bayside Portsea Hotel for a plate of fish and chips.

Relph Avenue, Portsea. Architects: Various, 1965; Michael Clayton and Bruce Grant, 2001. Yardage: 6,529. Par: 72. Greens Fee: $40. Contact: 011-61/359-842-909, portseagolf.com.au.

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