Thirteenth Beach Golf Links – Beach Course review

The Beach Course at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links has arguably the best set of per-3’s in Australia.

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The first hole at Thirteenth Beach. (Images courtesy of 13thbeach.net)

I wasn’t prepared for my round at The Beach Course at Thirteenth Beach.

Firstly, I’d misjudged the weather. My shorts and t-shirt weren’t appropriate for this chilly, windy day. And secondly, I’d totally underestimated how good this golf course was going to be.

13thbeachJust an hour’s drive from Melbourne – south-west around Port Philip Bay – Thirteenth Beach Golf Links lies on the south coast of the Bellarine Peninsula. Built on sand dunes just a stone’s throw from the beach it’s not surprising the site gets the full spectrum of weather conditions but what is surprising is perhaps how few people know of the two golf courses.

Perhaps it’s the close proximity to the more well-known Sandbelt and Mornington Peninsula golf courses that means the Bellarine Peninsula  is often forgotten. As host of the Victorian Open, its home to two top-class golf courses – The Creek and The Beach Course – with both tracks regularly listed in Australia’s top-25 ranked golf courses.

After purchasing a new jacket, it was the Beach Course that I went out to tackle – a Tony Cashmore design nestled among the sand dunes on the southern side of the property that opened in 2001.

The opening holes at the Beach course play away from the clubhouse and dunes. The first hole is a fun, short par-4 that at just 317 metres that shouldn’t trouble golfers who are switched on, warmed up and aware that the right hand side of the fairway is the best place to attack the green.

The second is a long par-4 that skirts the adjoining residential estate before the third hole turns south – usually into the prevailing wind. The third hole is perhaps the weakest of the four par-3s at the Beach course which says more about the other three than it does this hole.

The controversial 4th hole at Thirteeth Beach Beach course (Images courtesy of 13thbeach.net)
The controversial 4th hole at Thirteeth Beach Beach course (Image courtesy of 13thbeach.net)

It is close to impossible to understand how the fourth hole is to be played the first time around. It’s an evil hole with the wind blowing (which it usually is) that boasts water, a bottle-neck fairway and trees as major obstacles along the way.

Playing the fourth hole without a member or a course guide is akin to marking down a bogey (or worse) on your card before you start. A tee shot that finds the right side of the fairway will force a second shot over the trees for safety, so the left hand side is imperative for par, let alone birdie.

It’s “007 hole” that will leave you shaken and stirred with only the green complex providing some respite compared to what preceded it.

You’re not human if you’re not switched on and warmed up by the time you’ve stepped off the fourth green. And you’re going to need them for the fifth hole.

The captivating short par-4th hole at The Beach Course at Thirteenth Beach.
The captivating short par-4th hole at The Beach Course at Thirteenth Beach. (Image courtesy of 13thbeach.net)

At just 312 metres, very little of dog-legged, fifth fairway can be seen. The combination of imposing bunkers and water hazard makes it hard to focus. While having a crack at the green is wildly tempting, but the line between hero and zero is probably as fine as it will ever get on this hole.

Modern golf course design is tending towards creating options for the golfer, especially off the tee. The sixth at The Beach course flies in the face of this style of course design and is one of the most talked about par-5s in Australia.

The fairway pinches into a bottle neck at driving distance (around 225 metres) that gives no incentive to hit driver. The 531 metre par-5 is now a rare three-shot hole that requires some strategy to make par as the fairway splits either side of dunes.

If there is a divide about the merits of the sixth hole, very few golfers would dare criticise the magnificent par-3 7th hole.

The wonderful par-3 7th hole at Thirteeth Beach.
The wonderful par-3 7th hole at Thirteeth Beach.

From the elevated tee you’ll have a clearer view of how you should have played the sixth hole and a stunning vista across the rest of the golf course. Pins can be truly tucked away (and barely visible) on the left and right sides of this green which are protected with dunes and bunkers.

The views from the 8th tee are spectacular (go to the very back tee for the best view) and begins a stretch of three par-4s that should not be messed with. You can make or break a good round very easily on these holes and I’d tend to shoot for the larger part of the fairways to avoid dangerous traps on each hole.

The 11th hole is another great par-5. It’s far less controversial than the previous two but an extremely tight fairway will have even the boldest golfer thinking twice about pulling out driver to get home in two. Like the preceding three holes, conservative play is the smart option and try and make some birdies coming home.

The 12th is a wonderful par-3, but my favourite hole on the back nine may be the short par-4 13th hole that is a great test of a golfer’s ability to think through a golf hole.

A huge sandy wasteland on the left looks like it should be avoided at all costs but a drive too far will be gobbled up by a host of bunkers on the right side of the hole. The ideal tee shot will be short of the bunkers on the right-hand side of the fairway leaving you with an approach shot up the guts of the three-tiered green. Few golf holes offer up some many options on such a small bit of land.

The home stretch is filled with some great golf holes including the often talked about par-3 16th hole.

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The deceptively difficult 110m par-3 16th hole at Thirteenth Beach – Beach Course. (Image courtesy of 13thbeach.net)

At just 113 metres from the back tee, its easy to feel confident that you can knock it close. But trust me when I say there is no room for error. Nearly every side of the green falls away to either a bunker or somewhere even the local wildlife don’t want to be. And when the wind blows, good luck getting to the next tee without a bogey or worse on your card.

One final lasting memory of my round at 13th Beach is the 18th green. I’m a sucker for a green complex where bunkers don’t play a large role – one that has been constructed in natural lay of the land to create an interesting finish to a golf hole and the 18th on the Beach Course does this perfectly.

The green is nestled in a shallow amphitheatre of rolling mounds that gives golfers a good opportunity to hit the green but will need a good short-game finish to make par or better. It’s a stunning finish to a stunning golf course – a golf course that I was embarrassed to have only just played for the first time.

Thirteenth Beach had me drawing some comparisons to Barnbougle Dunes (apparently members hear this a lot) but this place stands on its own two feet without the need for references to other great Australian courses. It has a superb variety of par-4’s and par-5’s as well as an amazing collection of par-3’s. Arguably the best in Australia.

I walked away from Thirteenth Beach not only with a new jacket but a place I’ll be trying to drag back as many golfers as possible.

The shallow amphitheatre finish at the 18th hole. (Images courtesy of 13thbeach.net)
The shallow amphitheatre finish at the 18th hole. (Image courtesy of 13thbeach.net)

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