St Andrews Beach Golf Club

St Andrews Beach Golf Club

Located at the tip of Mornington Peninsula, 90 kilometers from the CBD of Melbourne, St Andrews Beach Golf Club surprised the hell out of us! Designed by legendary golf course architect Tom Doak, the Gunnamatta Course is one of those courses that you dream about. Even long after your round.

Edged by the Bass Strait, the story goes that Mr. Doak fell in love with the exposed dunes on the left side of what is now the second hole and said, ‘this is golf country “. As golf praise goes, there is not much more worthy than that! Of the golf course, he said, “We moved almost no earth on the fairways here – the contours of the land are just the way they’ve always been.”

We joined our good mate Ross Flannigan, the entertaining host of the My Love of Golf podcast on the second day of summer. It was windy and cold, and as we arrived early in the morning to watch the ocean crashing at St Andrews Beach, we huddled in Putu our campervan. Our phones tried to convince us that it was 15 degrees outside (59°F), but it felt more like 8 (46°F)! Coupled with the rain that trickled down Putu’s windshield and now blurred our view of the ocean, we began to question our decision. In order to “travel the world light”, we do not carry rain gear in our golf travels. So, we did what any traveling golfer would do- make another pot of coffee and wait it out.

As we finished our coffee, about an hour before our tee time, the rain stopped, and the clouds began to clear. More proof that we are the luckiest golfers in the world!

St Andrews Beach, or SAB as it is known, measures 6643 yards from the back Blue tees, and 5280 from the forward Red tees. Par from both tees is 70.

Kangaroo with Joey at St Andrews Beach
Kangaroo with Joey at St Andrews Beach

Out at St Andrews Beach Golf Club

Options

With a strategic bunker placed devilishly in the middle of the fairway, there are two ways to play the short 305-yard par 4 second hole. First, you can play conservatively with an iron up the left-center of the fairway. Alternatively, if you’re feeling bold, you can rip driver off the tee. With a narrowing fairway, if you do choose the latter, be sure to play it up the tight right side of the fairway. This gives you the safer route to avoid the multiple greenside bunkers and massive sand dune that hugs the left side of the green.

It was too early in the round to think about playing conservative, so both Menekse and I boldly grabbed driver. Menekse landed just short of the hazard and avoided the beach. Meanwhile, I also thankfully missed the middle fairway bunker. However, my tee ball caught the fairway slope and continued its way directly into the right-side fairway bunker.

Avoid the fairway bunker on two at St Andrews Beach
Avoid the fairway bunker on two at St Andrews Beach
Bunkered on two at St Andrews Beach
Bunkered on two

A Narrow Chute

Thankfully we had Ross to professionally provide guidance on the awesome 443-yard par 4 dogleg right third. From the tee, the view of the green remains hidden behind a dune that runs the entire length of the right side. There is wide open space out to the left, but your approach into the green from there will be difficult. However, if you can hit driver over the dune, it is possible to have a medium to short iron and an easier approach. Still loaded with unproven confidence, I picked a target over the dune and hit driver.

The third tee at St Andrews Beach
The third tee at St Andrews Beach

Reality, blended with a healthy dose of inability, crept into my mind at the top of my backswing, and as a result, I pulled it left. Luckily, my ball found the dead center of the fairway. Unluckily, however, from there I could only see a tiny sliver of the green but couldn’t see the pin.

Middle of the fairway on three at St Andrews Beach
Middle of the fairway on three
The narrow approach to the third green at St Andrews Beach
The narrow approach to the third green at St Andrews Beach

Access to the third green is granted via a narrow chute that demands your full attention. The more left of center fairway you are, the more difficult, if not impossible the approach is. And the closer to the dune on the right, the more accessible the chute becomes. Being in the middle of the fairway meant that I had to contend with a large dune and bunker directly between my ball and the invisible pin. I made a decent attempt, that disappeared as it descended beyond the tall dune. Once I walked around the dune, I could finally see the flag but didn’t see my ball. The third green is saucer-shaped, elevated in the middle, and slopes sharply down the right. My shot found its way down the right side of the green, settling in the large collection area below.

Bunker left on three at St Andrews Beach
Bunker left on three

Trouble

The only thing you see on the 185-yard par 3 sixth is trouble. There are a pair of sadistic bunkers short and right that will command your attention. Doing my best to block the trouble from my mind, I made good contact with a 6-iron on the slightly uphill shot and was relieved when it found the putting surface.

Better contact on six at St Andrews Beach
Flushing it on six at St Andrews Beach

Compensating for the climb, Menekse took an extra club from the tee. She hit a good shot, but it didn’t quite reach the green. The green on six has a lot of activity in it, and her putt seemingly searched every direction before coming to a rest!

Sadistic bunkers on six at St Andrews Beach
The sadistic bunkers on six

In at St Andrews Beach Golf Club

A Tough Pin Placement

We again turned to Ross for guidance on the 161-yard par 3 eleventh. Playing uphill, and a witness to my game, Ross suggested I swing one extra club. With bunkers that stand guard both short and long, the wide green felt frighteningly narrow. And tucked tight behind the front bunker and well to the right, the pin position looked impossible! This was a pin placement that would even give our mates at Sucker Pin Society pause! But all that was the easy part.

The uphill eleventh at St Andrews Beach
The uphill eleventh at St Andrews Beach

The narrow green on eleven slopes quickly from high right to low left. And there is nothing on the left to stop a missed shot. I knew that this could spell disaster for my normal, and sometimes exaggerated right to left ball flight. With no room to miss right, suspicion left, and hazards both short and long, I stood behind the ball, closed my eyes, and visualized my shot. Right of the pin was my best option. My only option! Confident in my decision, I opened my eyes, took my stance, and proceeded to flush my best 6-iron in months.

Aiming at the right edge of the green, my ball started on target and never wavered in its flight. It landed surprisingly soft, a foot or so off the green, leaving me with my first and only real birdie opportunity of the day. Frustratingly, I never gave the hole a scare and left my putt a good foot short.

Sucker pin on eleven at St Andrews Beach
Sucker pin on eleven

Only in Australia Mate

There is a massive fairway bunker on the right corner of the 425-yard par 4 dogleg right twelfth. But as intimating as it looks, it really shouldn’t come into play. However, the discreet bunker on the left of the fairway absolutely does. I know, because I found it!

Stepping up to twelve at St Andrews Beach
Stepping up to twelve at St Andrews Beach
Fairway bunker left on twelve at St Andrews Beach
Fairway bunker left on twelve at St Andrews Beach

Faced with the bitter realization that there was no way that I could reach the green, I decided to play to favorable yardage for my approach. I hit a good 8-iron out, which left me with 90 yards in, a distance that I was intending on. However, as we approached the green, we could see a large mob of huge eastern grey kangaroos surrounding the green! Extremely afraid to injure a kangaroo, I hit my wedge fat!

Closer to the green with her approach, Menekse hit a soft wedge over the greenside bunker short, and onto the putting surface. As we made it up the hill, we saw at least 6 or 7 kangaroos that formed a gallery, eager to watch us putt out.

Approaching twelve at St Andrews Beach
Approaching twelve

Yes, we realize that we are in Australia, but come on- kangaroos! It is times like this that remind us we are a long way from home! Simply unforgettable! Moments like this leave us speechless and make us realize that our decision to travel the world playing golf was the right decision.

Only in Australia, kangaroos on twelve at St Andrews Beach
Only in Australia mate, kangaroos on twelve at St Andrews Beach
Looking back at twelve at St Andrews Beach
Looking back at twelve

My Only Birdie of the Day

The short 302-yard gentle dogleg right par 4 fourteen offers a chance to go for it! Regardless of what you hit off the tee, just make sure you play left. Not to make excuses, but by the time we reached fourteen, I was tired. St Andrews Beach isn’t a difficult walk, but I could feel that I wasn’t in golf shape. And my blocked 3-wood off the tee offered proof. Below the optimal left side of the fairway is a large valley on the right, which is where my weak tee shot sought refuge. Unable to see the level green and needing to clear the pair of bunkers in my way, I somehow managed to hit an uphill pitch to 15-feet for my only birdie of the day!

Stay left off the tee on fourteen at St Andrews Beach
Stay left off the tee on fourteen at St Andrews Beach
Uphill approach on fourteen at St Andrews Beach
Uphill approach on fourteen

Spoiler Alert

By the looks of the sign, we’re not the first to wonder where to play the 522-yard par 5 dogleg left seventeenth. As the sign says, be sure to play the correct hole, because that is 18 on the left!

Follow the sign on seventeen at St Andrews Beach
Follow the sign on seventeen at St Andrews Beach
View from the seventeenth tee at St Andrews Beach
View from the seventeenth tee

Once we settled on the proper fairway, I tiredly pulled my tee shot short of bunkers on the left side off tee. From there, I hit 5-iron up and over the crest to the hidden fairway. Meanwhile, Menekse played the hole up the right side, which better opened up her approach to the slightly elevated green. Spoiler alert! When you hit your approach into seventeen, be sure NOT to be long. Not only is there a bunker hidden long of the green, the entire back third of the green slopes down a long slippery slope!

Don't be long on seventeen at St Andrews Beach
Don’t be long on seventeen

Simply a Great Golf Course

St Andrews Beach, which was on our bucket list, ranked an impressive twelfth in Golf Australia Magazine’s Top 100 Courses for 2020, the first magazine we bought as we first arrived for our journey through Australia. In the same publication, Ross is quoted as saying about SAB “Cups country golf at its finest. Tom Doak gives you room from the tees and then asks questions of every approach shot.” We couldn’t agree more.

MLOG
MLOG at St Andrews Beach

Typical of Tom Doak designs, St Andrews Beach has wide, gracious fairways. He places the emphasis on the approach shot and around the greens. A good imagination around the greens is required, another hallmark of Doak’s minimalist design philosophy. Additionally, the bunkers at SAB are enormous, a seemingly prerequisite in Melbourne, and are eager to devour anything but your best.

Big bunkers are a prerequisite in Melbourne
Big bunkers are a prerequisite in Melbourne

We especially loved the beautiful but difficult long par 3’s at SAB, and the opportunity for scoring on the short but dangerous par 4’s. While there are no direct views of the ocean, the influence is felt in every square inch of the golf course. We were lucky to play in mild conditions because we have heard what a challenge the golf course can be in wind.

I must admit that I struggled with my game. There were no consistent miss shots. I would push one shot, only to pull the very next swing. Putting was the biggest surprise of my round, especially after so many inconsistent green speeds of the weeks and months prior playing in the Outback.

As they say, St Andrews Beach Golf Club is simply a great golf course! And it is an absolute must-play while in Melbourne, let alone in Australia.

SAB is simply a great golf course
SAB is simply a great golf course

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