The National Golf Club, Moonah CouRse - 16 POINTS
Just over an hour’s drive south of Melbourne lies the impressive National Golf Club complex. On the property you’ll find three golf courses and one of the most impressive modern clubhouses I’ve seen. We were rather over-golfed on arrival so didn’t use the practice facilities, but they looked fantastic, including a putting green on the roof!
The welcome we received in the clubhouse was great - the staff were attentive, full of information and keen to ensure we had a good experience. After a first class lunch we headed out to the Moonah course.
Had we been there a few weeks later we would probably have tried to get on to the newly renovated Ocean Course as well. As the name implies, the course lies closer to the Ocean and has been completely redone by Doak and his team in the last year. Previously the course was a Peter Thomson design and some felt that more could have been done with the property. We got to see a few of the new holes on our way around, and a breathtaking view of the opening and closing holes from the clubhouse. The work Doak has done will surely elevate it to one of the top courses in the country. The course is being renamed the Gunnamatta - not to be confused with the other Tom Doak Gunnamatta course a 10 minute drive away! Some things in this world make little sense!
It was a windy day when we arrived and our host assured us that we would find the Moonah a little more forgiving than the Old Course. He was right! The course names Norman and Harrison as the designers, but, from what we heard, Bob Harrison should get most of the credit. Apparently, he spent an inordinate amount of time on the premises trying to determine the best routing. When you see the property you will understand why. You could comfortably build another 3 courses in the land adjacent to the course and the choices he had were pretty much endless.
If you want to read a little more about the course then this article from Golf Club Atlas does a great job and this flyover gives you a good sense of what is to come.
So, what to expect?
Firstly, I had read some comments on top100golfcourse.com saying that this course was just too difficult for the average golfer in the wind, even from the forward tees. Given we were on a crazy run of 36 hole days (the arms were getting heavy) and the wind was up, I was a little nervous. But there was nothing to be frightened of. Yes, it’s a test, but it won’t destroy you.
Secondly, you get plenty of width from the fairways so you don’t need to be too intimidated. However, there are spines galore which will take your ball to the ‘good’ side or the ‘bad side’ which may then prevent you shooting the lights out. But it won’t impede your fun. The grass plays with some pace but it will never get as fiery as a Scottish links course.
Next up, conventional wisdom says you should make your score on the first 11 holes as the final stretch into the wind will definitely have you reaching for a few long clubs. Conventional wisdom is right!
The course has been very cleverly designed, with subtlety and nuance that will force you to think. The bunkering is superb and scoring around the greens will require a great deal of imagination. If you can score well over the traditional links of Scotland and Ireland then I suspect you will do well here.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Moonah course. The whole set-up in the clubhouse was great. Sure, it’s a far cry from the tradition and history or Royal Melbourne or Kingston Heath, but you get the impression that this is a place for people who want golf, golf and more golf. They have a love and passion for the game and, by the looks of what Doak is creating, a desire to make things even better.
BOOKING THE COURSE
This is a private club, but they were very hospitable. You can get a tee time from Monday to Thursday for A$300. The website says you will have to take your chances with which course you will be allocated on the day but we were able to secure the Moonah.
Then, you will need a letter of introduction in from your club. They are not the only club to make such a demand, but I do find it odd. These requests were phased out in Europe 20 years ago. The problem with the approach is that overseas, golf membership is dwindling - I know plenty of very good and keen golfers who aren’t a member of a club any more. It just seems a bit unnecessary, but I guess any self-respecting computer user would be able to produce one with a bit of cut and paste!
I am afraid I don’t have much to offer in the way of advice if you are staying in the Mornington Peninsula as we came up and down from Melbourne for the day. That is very doable - it was just an hour and twenty minutes from the centre of Melbourne to arriving in the course car park. However, be warned there are speed cameras all over the road from Melbourne, so make sure you stick to the speed limit.
St Andrew’s Beach is just 10 minutes away if you are considering doing a double header as we did.