DESTINATION REVIEW – Victoria’s Great Golfing Road
By Garry Kennedy
Skip ahead to…
The allure of the ocean come summer time in Victoria is compelling. As the mercury rises, tens of thousands chuck in their day job and make camp at hundreds of coastal towns along our vast coastline. Quiet sea-change villages are invaded by sun and sea seeking intruders.
While the golfer’s car boot will often be emptied for the family’s shovel, spade and boogie board, it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of normally quiet golf courses along our coastline – hidden gems – waiting to be discovered. Their isolation from Melbourne’s burgeoning CBD means visits by city folk are usually restricted to weekend rounds – but in the summer time madness they are swarmed by the tourist.
Don’t let this increase in traffic deter you from visiting – be aware of their existence and enjoy golf’s coastal pleasures.
Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is world renowned for the spectacular drive and subsequent scenery it avails its travelers and each decaying Apostle of the world famous twelve has a corresponding coastal golf course along this famous route.
Starting at Queenscliff, you’ll find the first of twelve wonderful golfing discoveries.
Set on Swan Island just off the tip of Queenscliff is this unique island course. Part of Defense Department land, visitors are screened by personal before crossing a single lane bridge that stretches over Swan Bay that itself surrounds the isle.
An environmental treasure, Swan Island is home to some of the last remaining Orange Bellied Parrots and bird watches are often as common a sight as club wielding combatants.
The stretch of holes at the western end of the course – six, seven and eight – provide magical vista’s of the Queenscliff township on a part of the course that is literally at sea level and mere metres from the water’s edge.
A short hop away is the Lonsdale Golf Club, itself a meager pitch from the entrance of Port Phillip Bay and the infamous Rip. This is a testing track for the accomplished golfer off the back tees, with thick and lush vegetation ready to gobble up stray balls. For those that don’t bring their A-game, the course still pleases with some spectacular views out across Lake Victoria, which flanks some of the lower reaches of the course.
Set on a sand belt, the golfer can enjoy great conditions year round.
Thirteenth Beach boasts two 18 hole layouts. The Tony Cashmore designed Beach course is rated 7th best public access course in Australia by the 2007 Golf Course Guide. Renowned golf writer Darius Oliver rates its’ four par threes as one of the best collection of par threes on any golf course in Australia! The layout features fairways cut through sand dunes, holes winding around Murtnagurt Lagoon and 3km of Ocean frontage.
Nick Faldo leant his hand to the design of the Creek Course in conjunction with Cashmore, and this layout has its own feel with well spaced fairways, gently undulating fairways and unique square teeing grounds. The overall conditioning of the entire complex is unsurpassed.
Barwon Heads Golf Course almost adjoins Thirteenth Beach. It’s one of the best known and one of the original links layouts in Australia and a personal favourite. Once it was only accessible to members and their guests, now however (thankfully) green fee access is available midweek and on Sundays.
Like a good wine, the course seems to get better with every visit. It has a feel of royalty that extends from the timeless course to the stately clubhouse – infact the Club celebrates its Centenary in 2007.
Residential accommodation is available on course in the grand abode. Great stay and play packages for under $200 per person include golf, three meals in the majestic dining room and golf on this wonderful links. Coastal ti-tree, rolling sand dunes, fast running pure couch fairways, slick greens and the affect of the prevailing sea breezes toughen this otherwise “short by today’s standard” course. The $70 green fee is a bit pricier than some, but justifiable and worthwhile.
Torquay Golf Course has a unique claim to fame – its address – Number One, Great Ocean Road. At Christmas time in particular this popular surfing township comes alive, and in sync is the Torquay Golf Club, which holds its very popular annual Pro Am. Hundreds flock to watch popular golfing entities tackle the layout, while enjoying ocean views. Camping near the elevated 12th tee is a great vantage spot to watch the professionals crack one down the fairway, while at your back you can watch them tackle the short par three seventeenth.
The Sands Torquay
The newest monolith of our 12 golfing Apostles along the Great Ocean Road is The Sands – Torquay. Designed by Australian golf sensation Stuart Appleby, the name of this mostly private and chic abode is apt – there are over 100 sandy bunkers awaiting an errant drive or iron. Immaculately groomed, The Sands has a couple of high vantage points with lovely views of the ocean and surf beaches.
Restricted public access is available at varying times (Monday, Tuesday and Fridays, Thursday arvo and Sunday morning), however house guests at the newly opened Peppers at The Sands get access 7 days subject to availability. Bookings are essential.
Anglesea Golf Course is the next stop on our sojourn west towards the South Australian border. Another sleepy village that literally bursts to life in the summer season, Anglesea is a terrific course. A major redevelopment in the 1990s had the fairways transformed to Wintergreen couch and more importantly a successful submission to the State Government and Barwon Water resulted in a recycled water scheme coming on line. This program has been of great benefit during the past 6 years of drought and year round the course enjoys excellent conditions. Recent changes that have taken place include a major upgrading of the clubhouse. However, with all these great facilities and lush fairways, it is the fauna that Anglesea is most famous for, or to be precise, the resident family of Eastern Grey kangaroos that number many hundred.
Tourists both local and overseas enjoy the sight of our national symbol sharing the fairway with golfers.
To play will cost you $36 midweek or $40 on the weekend.
Lorne is another popular destination along the Road – with a great pier (the Pier to Pub swim Classic is an institution), a great beach and of course the famous Cumberland Lorne Resort. Less famous is the nearby nine hole Lorne Country Club. A word of warning for the faint hearted – this is one hilly golf course but naturally hills mean high vantage points and accordingly the course has some great views overlooking the water.
A short trip down the road and you arrive at the southern most course on the western side of the state, Apollo Bay. We are nearing real Apostle Country. Once we swing past Cape Otway nearing Port Campbell National Park the stars of the Great Ocean Road can be viewed – along with Loch Ard Gorge, Sentinel Rock, The Arch and the now fallen London Bridge. Apollo Bay is a modest nine hole course, flat and very near the slapping water so again oceanic views prevail.
Peterborough is a tucked away escape incorporating Curdies Inlet and it is often traveled through by those navigating the road. It’s a ploy by locals and regulars I’m sure for this is one of the prettiest spots along the way, and the golf course is a cracker! Only a nine holer, the first fairway is so wide you’d need the most wicked of slices or hooks to miss it. The sunken saucer green of the second is hard to spot, while other holes cross deep, cliff top ravines.
The coastal cliff top setting, undulating fairways and slick greens eek of authentic British links, makes Peterborough Golf Course a treasure for the golfing adventurer. The current $15 green fee is an absolute steel!
Warrnambool is the second last stop – a pretty course just on the outskirts of the burgeoning township. Lush fairways and a dramatically undulating landscape characterize this very enjoyable course. The layout and feel is not unlike the acclaimed Portsea golf course. You’ll get great views from many tees (the fifth is named “Sea Views”) but possibly none better than from the clubhouse itself. On a windy day it can offer great respite to the weary golfing warrior.
Green Fees are just $28, with access for non members Sunday – Friday. Visiting Club Members can play in the Saturday comp.
Just 30 minutes further on and the last of the twelve golf courses along this mighty road is one of the most intriguing. Port Fairy is a true links golf course – possibly Australia’s closest replica to the famous and world renowned United Kingdom links.
The par five twelfth runs parallel with the ocean, high on a dune wall and spectacular ocean vistas dominate.
Naturally the wind is the course’s main guardian – if it’s blowing you’ll certainly know about it, and more often than not it is.
I met a bus load of British tourists on the practice green at Port Fairy a number of years ago and I spoke to a lady who was a part of the tour. She said the course was equal to any at home in Britain but to play on a similar standard links would cost around 100 pounds (around $250). Post Fairy’s green fee – just $28!
The Club has just unveiled its’ redesigned 15th hole - judged by some to be the best new hole in Australia and certain to become one of the most photographed.
“Port Fairy’s 15th is, without doubt, one of the finest and most evocative holes built Down Under since WW11.” This was the response from talented Australian golf writer, Paul Daley, after seeing photographs of the hole taken by Perry Cho of Warrnambool. Paul further enthused “When viewing Perry Cho’s photography I felt transported to the fabled links at Ballybunion Golf Club (Old), Ireland”.
The Great Ocean Road – one amazing drive, twelve amazing apostles and twelve amazing courses for the golfer to discover.
At a Glance
Queenscliff Golf Club
(03) 5258 4344
Lonsdale Golf Club
(03) 5258 1523
Thirteenth Beach Golf Links
(03) 5254 2922
Barwon Heads Golf Club
(03) 5255 6275
Torquay Golf Club
(03) 5261 2506
The Sands Torquay
(03) 5264 8801
Anglesea Golf Club
(03) 5263 1951
Lorne Golf Club
(03) 5289 1267
Apollo Bay Golf Club
(03) 5237 6474
Peterborough Golf Club
(03) 5598 5245
Warrnambool Golf Club
(03) 5562 8528
Port Fairy Golf Links
(03) 5568 2866