The National Golf Club is located at Cape Schanck on Victoria’s gorgeous Mornington Peninsula, a short drive to the south of Melbourne. Blessed with 3 outstanding and differing championship courses, the variation and quality forever more will ensure the club remains one of the best pieces of golf real estate anywhere on the planet. Conceived in 1987, Robert Trent Jones Jnr was selected to design the Old, some say because of his excellent work at Joondalup in Perth. In a career that would end up stretching some 50 plus years with over 300 courses bearing his design name, it was an inspired choice.
When Trent Jones first had the opportunity to view the site he was excited by what he saw, quoted as saying: “any golf course architect would kill for a piece of land like this, it is one of the most unique areas of links country left anywhere in the world.”
Constructed on a hillside nearly 100 metres above sea level, the layout was cut through the tea-tree coastline and bares beautiful ocean views on all but two of the holes. With these vistas, coupled with the ever-present challenge of Cape Schanck’s weather conditions, it’s easy to understand the Trent Jones comment that The National is ‘a lion in the wind or a lamb on a clear sunny day’.
Those will a limited ball budget or the faint of heart might consider not tackling this beast on a squally day. The dense tea-tree adjoining the tiered landing areas and razor-edged bunkering can eat multiple Titleists. To garner total appreciation for the Trent Jones work-of-art necessitates several visits in varied weather conditions. With any luck, you will encounter one of the pristine “lamb” days – clear calm skies allowing the chances for birdies to flow!
The greens might well be amongst the most brutal in Australia. You will encounter multiple vertical tiers, sharp ridges, and borderline suicidal putting speeds. As they say, a bit like putting down a marble staircase and trying to stop the ball two steps from the bottom!
On a course so blessed with beauty and challenge it is difficult to signal out holes for praise, but the spectacular par 3 7th is the absolute highlight of the course and perhaps the entire Mornington Peninsula! Bass Strait appears majestically from the tee, with breaking waves and views on a clear day to the CBD skyline. Measuring 139 metres from the back tees, you can virtually need to use any club in the bag to tackle it. The shot calls for a soft landing as the green is shallow in depth but a colossal 75 metres wide. A shot long, short, or wide will meet a deadly fate. If you have never had the opportunity to play this gem it is worth traveling far and wide to do so.
Another signature Trent Jones creation lies at the 529 metre par 5 10th – a dogleg left with a flick to the right. At the tee, you have the option to play it safe to the right, thereby avoiding two sizeable fairway traps (that said, with sufficient power and poise the same traps can be covered leaving an opportunity to reach in two). Anything offline to the right with the second will find you in nasty fairway bunkering, penal rough and deep greenside traps. The giant green is one of those all too infrequent design quirks, a double green shared with the 14th.
The par 4 15th is an outstanding 358 metres par 4 where the tee ball, usually played against prevailing winds, must be flushed as a blind approach awaits if you do not reach or surpass the dogleg. Longer hitters can encounter bunkers lurking at the end of the fairway and sitting ageless, a Moonah tree dating back centuries waits at guard to the green approach. The terraced green placing a premium on club selection and accuracy, with deep bunkers front and rear. A par here is to be prized.
You simply must experience this piece of Trent Jones artistry on any Mornington itinerary!