I remember exactly the first time I heard of Lonsdale Links. We had recently played Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania and our mates at Caddie Magazine put some incredible pictures on their Instagram feed. They were highlighting their outstanding Volume Nine issue that had been recently published. One photo, in particular, caught my eye. Taken from above, my immediate thought was that it was somewhere in the UK. No doubt the photo was of one of the classics.
The caption read “The 12th green at Lonsdale Links from above and behind. The Thumbprint contouring from OCM Golf evokes Sleepy Hollow’s famous par-3.” Lonsdale Links? I hadn’t heard of it! When I clicked on the geo-tag of the post, I almost fell out of our campervan Putu. Because, to my astonishment, the golf course wasn’t located in Scotland. Nor was it in Ireland. No, the course was here, in Australia! And it wasn’t far from Melbourne! I immediately saved it in our colorful Google Maps list and looked forward to returning to Victoria so we could check what the fuss was all about.
The Classics of Golf Course Architecture
Located at the tip of the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula, approximately 100 kilometers from Melbourne, Lonsdale Links is a golf course that draws inspiration from the legends of golf architecture. Seth Raynor and especially Charles Blair Macdonald both took inspiration from the classics and incorporated many of the greatest qualities into their designs.
Incorporating a similar approach, Lonsdale went through a complete golf course redesign, trusting the talented OCM Golf with the work. OCM writes on their website, “On land not unlike that at The National Golf Links in Long Island we felt there was an opportunity to build some templates at Lonsdale and create a course as a deliberate throwback to an earlier age and a unique look for an Australian course.”
It was Mother’s Day, early May which is late fall in the Southern Hemisphere, and only a mere couple of months after learning of the course when we arrived at Lonsdale. Pulling into the car park and seeing the modern-styled Clubhouse, we knew immediately that we were in for something special. It was a cool windy day, but the beautiful Australian blue sky was shining brightly. It was a Sunday, and there was surprisingly nobody on the golf course. Were we about to have template golf all to ourselves? We knew then that this was going to be a great day!
The Front Nine at Lonsdale Links
Located in France, the Biarritz Golf Club was designed in 1888 by Willie Dunn Jr, winner of the first “unofficial” US Open in 1894 (the first official US Open was held in 1895). The third hole, nicknamed “chasm”, was a long par 3 with a long, and some might even say peculiar green. Mr. Macdonald picked up on the design and used it as one of his template holes which he named “the Biarritz”. Today, a Biarritz hole is characterized by being a long par 3, and a massive, long green that is guarded on both sides by bunkers. However, the most notable feature of a Biarritz is that the green is bisected by a deep swale that cuts horizontally across the green.
The 165-meter (180-yard) par 3 second hole at Lonsdale Links takes its inspiration from the famous ninth hole at Yale Golf Course, designed by Macdonald and Raynor. Today’s pin was located on the back tier, which made it feel even longer. The wind was blowing from left to right, which made me cautiously aware of the greenside bunkers guarding that side. Somewhat between clubs, I chose 5-iron and hit it solidly I might add. I watched intently as it landed on the upslope of the back tier. It took a brief peek of the summit, before slipping back down into the base of the swale.
Plateau, the 485-meter (530-yard) par 5 third hole takes its inspiration and name from the eleventh at National Golf Links. There are two main characteristics of a Double Plateau template hole; the green complex, and, of course, the Principle’s Nose bunkers. A Plateau green is usually large enough to have multiple pin positions, often creating three different putting surfaces in one. And placed strategically short of the green, are the famous Principle’s Nose bunkers.
Lonsdale’s third bends just slightly right. Perhaps not enough to call it a dogleg, but enough to bring the tea trees lining the right into consideration. Playing downwind, I thought I might have taken too aggressive of a line off the tee. But I watched with delight as it slowly drew back, coming to rest in the middle of the fairway.
The Principle’s Nose bunkers dwell on the left side of the fairway, about 130 meters short of the green. Menekse was about 10 meters short of the nose, but it didn’t threaten her as she methodically played the hole down the middle, avoiding all trouble. There are 3 plateaus on the huge third green; left, right, and back. Today’s pin was on the left plateau, and with a 5-wood in her hand, she ripped her approach, watching it come to a stop in the middle front of the green, which left her with a long, break-your-heart birdie attempt.
The 170-meter (186-yard) par 3 sixth at Lonsdale is named Eden. Paying homage to the famous eleventh at the Old Course, an Eden golf hole is characterized by a green that slopes significantly from the back to front and is surrounded by deep pot bunkers. The bunkers that surround Eden at the Old Course are named Hill on the left, and Strath on the right. The sneaky Eden bunker, which lends its name, is found at the back.
Standing on the tee, I remembered that I had hit into the deadly Strath bunker when we played the Old Course many years ago. Knowing that the original Strath is almost in the middle of the green, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. Helping me in my cause, Eden was playing downwind, and the pin was in the back of the small green. I grabbed 7-iron, blocked out my previous experience, and swung with confidence. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief as my ball landed in the middle of the green, clear of Strath!
Menekse tugged her 6-iron left off the tee just enough for it to trickle into the Hill bunker. In the flat of the bunker, she made a great out! Her ball found the middle of the green, leaving a chance to save par.
Not every hole at Lonsdale Links is modeled after a template hole. Named Gil’s Carry, the 130-meter (142-yard) par 3 seventh was fantastic, and our favorite of the originally designed holes.
Gil’s Carry plays uphill, and I lasered 111 meters to the pin. There is a huge troublesome bunker that guards anything short and left. Since the wind was behind me, I figured that I could safely swing one less club, so I decided to hit a hard 50-degree wedge rather than a soft wedge.
We watched it land on the steep grass bank just past the bunker, less than a yard short of the green, and jump back into the deep bunker. Damn, I thought to myself, I didn’t carry Gil’s Carry! Approaching the green, I could see my ball lying near the lip of the bunker, but on the upslope. As I climbed down into the bunker, I noticed that my head was just above the green level! I knew that I would have to hit it high, quickly, if I was going to be able to get it out. Making a big splash, my ball flew out and up, landing softly before rolling out to about 10 feet. Really wanting to save par, I aggressively knocked my putt beyond the break and couldn’t convert. That’s golf, right?!
Like its namesake, position off the tee on the 275-meter (301-yard) ninth hole is paramount. Leven is inspired by the seventeenth at National Golf Links and is a short par 4. Characteristics of Leven are an obscured view of the green from the tee, and the original Leven at Lundin Links has a narrow stream that runs diagonally across the fairway, from short left to long right. The Leven at Lonsdale is missing the stream, but OB along the right-side acts as the same defense. To have a better angle to the green, you need to play your tee shot out to the right. Else, you will end up needing to confront the multiple bunkers that protect the entire left side of the fairway.
The ninth is a gentle dogleg left. And true to form, the closer you can place your tee shot out to the right, the much easier angle you will have to the green. Compensating for a left-to-right shape, Menekse aimed down the left side of the fairway, trusting that her natural ball flight would take its course. But the game of golf doesn’t always go as planned, and her tee shot didn’t turn over as she wished. As such, her ball finished down the left side of the fairway. From there, she was forced to challenge the ball-eating bunkers that obscured her direct line to the uphill pin.
The Back Nine at Lonsdale Links
As the name implies, the green on the 450-meter (492-yard) eleventh Punchbowl has a distinct shape. But the funneling shape of the green that often helps to guide missed shots isn’t the only characteristic of a Punchbowl hole. It’s also the blind approach. This makes it wise to take notice of the sign on the tee that indicates the pin position.
Modeled after the sixteenth at National Golf Links, the version of Punchbowl at Lonsdale Links is a short dogleg right par 5 that crosses up and over a small mound. The uphill tee shot needs to avoid the depressed waste area that guards the dogleg. With the wind blowing from left to right, and not wanting anything to do with the right side, I hit driver safely up the left side of the fairway, leaving myself a long way to the downhill green.
As mentioned, the approach to a Punchbowl hole is normally blind, and the eleventh at Lonsdale is no exception. I couldn’t see the green, but there is a large pole resting behind the green that acts as a target. On a sidehill awkward lie, and with nothing to lose, I murdered a 3-wood into the setting sun that started right of my target before turning left, landing short and left of the large putting surface. However, I had successfully avoided the scruffy mound that sits short of the green and obscures any view of the pin until you finally reach the short stuff.
Don’t forget to ring the bell when leaving the green.
The most notable feature of a Thumbprint template hole is the thumb-like depression in the center of the green. It is almost as if the golfing gods reached down from above and pushed onto the green. And in the process created havoc around the green.
The green on Thumbprint, the 170-meter (186-yard) par 3 twelfth, is modeled after one of Macdonald and Raynor’s masterpieces, the sixteenth at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. With one of the larger, but more severely undulating greens at Lonsdale, I stood on the tee wondering how it would be possible to miss this huge plot of real estate. Unlike Sleepy Hollow, the twelfth at Lonsdale is not surrounded by a single bunker. But it is, nonetheless, surrounded by trouble, as I would soon come to find out.
Playing 140 meters slightly downhill and with the wind now blowing from right to left wind, I tried to hit a 9-iron high, hoping that height would help it to land softly. The pin was resting in the middle tier, probably the easiest of any possible positions, and my ball landed about 2 meters beyond pin high. I couldn’t see what happened next, but as we approached the green, I didn’t find my ball anywhere on the huge surface. It was over the green, having fallen off the table!
Zero Putts for Bogey
It isn’t easy to see how undulating the green actually is from the tee, but this easy-to-hit green can quickly roll off in any direction. Mine choose long, and I had a difficult second shot that I decided would be safer to putt rather than chip. My first attempt didn’t reach the top of the hill, and I watched with frustration as it made it’s way back to my feet, just a few inches from its beginning point.
Not wanting to repeat my mistake, my second attempt made it to the top of the slope, stopping just short of the green. Now faced with a downhill putt of about 15 feet, I started it to the right of the hole. It gathered speed, a little too much speed, and my heart skipped a beat when it slammed the back of the cup, jumped up, and rattled its way to the bottom for bogey! I attempted to soothe my bruised ego by joking that since I never was on the putting surface, my 3 putt was technically a zero putt! It didn’t help much, but….
Thumbprint was one of the most beautiful holes at Lonsdale Links and probably was our favorite. But, if you’re going to miss it here, be sure to miss it short!
Redan, the fifteenth at North Berwick Golf Club, is another one of the world’s most famous template holes. Generally, the green on a Redan golf hole is set diagonally, running from the front right to back left, with a bunker short left that mimics the shape of the green. The green also tips slightly from back to front. And the best way to play a Redan is with a draw, my preferable ball flight.
The 130-meter (142-yard) par 3 fourteenth Reverse Redan is a shorter version of the original. And, as the name implies, it is basically backward. Also set diagonally, Lonsdale’s Redan runs from front left to back right, with the bunker guarding short right. In a country where Christmas is in summer and everything else is upside down, having a backward Redan is the perfect match!
With the pin again in the middle of the green, and the breeze had died down, I felt confident on the tee with my 9-iron in my hands. My execution of the shot was near perfection, and I ended up less than 2 feet from the hole and kicked it in for an easy birdie!
The 275-meter (301-yard) par 4 sixteenth is modeled after one of the most famous holes in golf, the Road Hole. Located at St Andrews, the Road Hole needs no introduction. The dogleg right has the famous Old Course Hotel that protects the dogleg. If the hotel is successfully navigated, the hole breaks sharply right. From there, a menacing pot bunker short and the road and OB long of the green command your attention.
The Road Hole at Lonsdale is also a dogleg right. While there is no intimating hotel protecting the dogleg, trees, and a large waste area act as a similar defense, forcing you to play out to the left. With her natural left-to-right ball flight in mind and careful of everything right, Menekse took aim down the left side of the hole and rocked a tee shot that would have cleared the hotel, finishing on the right side of the fairway, exactly as she played the shot in her head.
Wisely deciding not to challenge the Road Hole pot bunker, she played her approach shot how many players do- opting to lay up short and right of the green. From there she was able to putt from off the green to an uphill putting surface that has more undulation than I remember on seventeen at St Andrews.
Perhaps again because it’s down under, the OB fence long on Lonsdale’s Road Hole is located on the left side of the green. But there is a large runoff area long right of the green that could also wreak a scorecard. Exactly like at St Andrews, a difficult and rewarding four on the Road Hole can be made!
Our Experience at Lonsdale Links
Alps, Eden, Biarritz, Redan, Road; there are no more famous holes in golf. Incorporating template holes, Lonsdale Links has taken inspiration from the game’s greatest design features and has created something incredible. The golf course integrates the greatest characteristics of the classics, and brilliantly takes enough artistic freedom to ensure that it is not a replica course. We thoroughly loved our day at Lonsdale Links. It was like playing around the golfing world in eighteen holes!
Lonsdale is not a long course, and I had a lot of short irons into the greens. But what makes the golf course great were the greens. Not all of them were huge. But there were enough subtle hills, mounds, and other nuances that need to be considered to have any measure of success. Tending to overread them, we would love to take another crack at them.
We had almost as much fun researching the characteristics of the template holes as we did playing them. We want to thank our friends at The Fried Egg for their invaluable, informative, and wildly entertaining podcast. It is said that good rhythm and good flow make a good golf swing. The same can be true of golf courses. The rhythm and flow of Lonsdale were seamless. Flawless really. We loved it and would not hesitate to recommend Lonsdale Links to your Australian golfing itinerary.
Hey Caddie Mag, where are we going next?!
Everything you need to know to play Lonsdale Links
Located on the southeastern edge of Bellarine Peninsula, Lonsdale Links is a 30-minute drive southeast of Geelong and about a 1-hour 40-minute drive from Melbourne. Lonsdale Links offers 18 holes, great practice facilities, and a 6-hole par 3 course named Mulligans.
Address: Lonsdale Links, 31 Clubhouse Drive, Point Lonsdale, Victoria 3225, Australia
Phone: +61 03 5258 1955
Lonsdale Links is open to the public.
Lonsdale has 6 sets of tees, and two sets of tees are in play each day. Course #1 measures 5505 meters (6020 yards) with a par of 70, while Course #6 is 4615 (5063 yards) with a par of 69. I played Course #2, which measures 5250 meters (5741 yards), par 70, and Menekse played Course #6.
Lonsdale Links is walkable, and the golf course is playable for all abilities.
There are 3 different green fee rates at Lonsdale, dependent on the time of year. Peak Season green fee rates (December to January) are $120 AUD on weekends and $110 during the week. Shoulder Season rates (February to April, and August to November) are $95 on weekends and $85 during the week. Off Season rates (May to July) are $80 on weekends and $70 during the week.
A round on Mulligans is $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
Puttering around the World wishes to acknowledge and pay respect to the Australian Aboriginal Peoples as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of this beautiful land.