THE PENINSULA KINGSWOOD COUNTRY GOLF CLUB (North Course) - REVIEW
by Darius Oliver, from Australia's Finest Golf Courses
The Peninsula Country Golf Club - North Course
Course Opened – 1969
Designer – Sloan Morpeth, Michael Clayton
The Peninsula Country Golf Club is one of our best golfing facilities, with two excellent courses beautifullypositioned geographically within the Melbourne Sandbelt yet only minutes from the thriving Mornington Peninsula.
Peninsula was originally founded as an eleven hole course in 1924 and had extended to 27 holes before embarking on a significant move during the 1960’s in an attempt to elevate itself into the elite upper echelon of Australian golf. The club acquired an adjacent site and engaged Melbourne golf identity Sloan Morpeth to design and oversee the building of the North and South courses.
Morpeth was able to incorporate twelve of the existing holes into the new design of the South course, while the North course was new and built on superbly undulating, sandy high ground with the odd view out to Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. The two courses were always clearly distinguishable. The South had championship length and difficulty, was highly rated and a regular venue for leading amateur events. The North on the other hand was a shorter, quirky course built on the more dramatic land yet less regarded because of its unconventional design.
At the turn of the 20th century with their courses slipping down ranking lists, the board decided to radically upgrade facilities including a major revision to all 36 holes. Local tournament professional turned designer Michael Clayton was commissioned to produce a master plan and oversee the changes to both courses. The result of work done to the North course in 2002 was nothing short of remarkable and transformed the little course with infinite potential into the new darling of the Melbourne Sandbelt.
Using the natural topography, Clayton brilliantly incorporated added areas of native vegetation, natural sandy waste and classic Sandbelt style bunkering. Although the routing was not significantly altered he built some superb ‘new’ golf holes along existing lines and created a number of spectacular vistas especially on holes 12 and 14. The "wild unkempt" appearance of the heathland grasses that line fairways and greens is stunning and stirs memories of its more famous Sandbelt cousins. Indeed there is now as much of Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath in this course as original Peninsula North.
Challenging with subtlety rather than length, the par three’s all run in different directions while the short to medium par four’s bend both ways and slope up, down and across the tumbling dunes. This endless variety is the tracks greatest asset with the challenge of each hole altering considerably with Melbourne’s changing winds.
Although the front nine is built on the more dramatic land the highlight for me actually comes towards the close with a fantastic stretch of golf from the 12th through 15th. The tough 12th is a beautifully bunkered medium length uphill par four with a hogs backed fairway lined on the left by a sandy hazard that runs the length of the hole. An exquisite reachable par four follows with its perilous hour glass shaped green tiny, tiered and difficult to hit if approached from the wrong angle.
An oasis of sand from tee to green dominates the short 14th, which received the most remarkable facelift of any hole on the course. Its wide, sloping green is built into a sizeable sand dune, framed by sublime bunkers and somewhat reminiscent of the famous 5th at Royal Melbourne West. Completing a super set of golf is the long rolling par five 15th, its cross bunkering creating a glorious sandy vista on the approach to the green.
Aside from Royal Melbourne, the North course land is as good as any in Melbourne and the original design, though a little primitive had always used the wild movement and native vegetation to great effect. Thanks to Clayton however the course feels born-again, with his common-sense tweaking a welcome relief for golfers constantly battered by the classic course striving to be longer and tougher.
For so long tarred with a ‘potentially good’ epithet the modern Peninsula North is great fun, wonderfully original and now a true Sandbelt highlight.
This review features in Australia's Finest Golf Courses (RRP $49.95).
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