Received an offer over the Christmas break to play St Andrews with their current club champion. Not Zach Johnson and not Scotland but on a great piece of golfing real estate on the Mornington Peninsula. Must confess to being excited here as the course occupies a similar piece of land to the National and was designed by Tom Doak and opened for play in 2006. The course was originally conceived as an exclusive private member’s club with a second course. Work had started on the course and the remnants can still be viewed from one of the later holes but shelved when the club faced bankruptcy a couple of years later. Private members originally paid $50k for lifetime memberships, now the number is a $300 annual fee and a reduced green fee of $40 per round. Certainly have a lot of sympathy who parted with their cash at the outset. Plans for a fancy clubhouse was also abandoned and the bar\pro shop is run out of a Portacabin which makes for an interesting experience!
Course was rescued from insolvency in 2009 by Golf Services Management and turned into a public access course. Green fees are $90 for weekend play and $72 for weekdays which represents great value for a course ranked number 4 in Australia for public access. The course also hosts the Tom Doak Blue Tee challenge on the second Saturday of the month giving handicap players the opportunity to play the course from the back tees.
So how does the course shape up after a colourful chequered history? Very well in fact. Unfortunately the course wasn’t in the best condition when we played, the grass on the greens were left longer to combat disease and were a good 50% slower than those at the National but this is a minor point. The course itself was a real challenge. Having played Barnbougle Dunes a couple of weeks earlier, you could certainly see Doak’s fingerprints on course design here. Several good short Par 4s offering risk reward. The course starts strongly with a Par 5, there is a false front to the green and a lot of room out right. The second and third holes are pretty Par 4s, the third making good use of a dune to protect the green complex. The fifth is the first of a good set of Par 3s, green is well protected by bush and an uninviting bunker to the right. The 9th is a strong Par 4 reminiscent of the terribly hard 3rd at the National except the dogleg snakes right. Accuracy from the tee is paramount here and a tough approach awaits. Highlights from the back nine include the tough 13th which requires a blind tee shot hit generally into prevailing wind, hole measures 420m so plays incredibly long if the wind is blowing. Large bunkers protect the right of the fairway and two very good shots are required to make the green in two. The 14th is a short Par 4 which can be driven but the smart play is to hit a long iron\hybrid for position. The 17th is a beautiful Par 5, fairway is sandwiched by yellow scrub which gives St Andrews Beach its distinctive look. Not a hard hole and the smart play is to play up for an easy pitch to the green. After hitting a good drive, I went for the green with my second and messed it up. Doak certainly likes to dangle the carrot with some of his hole designs.
All in all a very enjoyable round. We were plagued by flies that day which tempered the round but it’s a very enjoyable course. Would like to return when the greens are in top shape and the wind blowing for an even better test of golf.
Favourite Hole – 17th
Hardest Hole – 13th