A Brief History of The National Golf Club
Golf first came to Cape Schanck when former pro golfer and golf developer Colin Campbell opened The Cape Country Club in 1972
Campbell had planned to expand the project, but his plans faltered, and it wasn’t until David Inglis became involved in 1979 that the vision of The National Golf Club- being one of two courses- one private and one public, and a housing estate- became the template going forward.
Inglis was an entrepreneur, and known for starting The Australian Masters tournament.
No one was prouder when in 1988 The National Golf Club formally opened with a magnificent Robert Trent Jones Jnr course in sand dunes on the coast.
Now known as The Old course at The National, originally it was simply called The National.
A sister course- Cape Schanck GC- also designed by Trent Jones- opened in 1986 sited largely in place of The Cape Country Club, and remains a popular public access course.
In 1997 The National initiated action to purchase adjacent links land, eventually appointing Thomson, Wolveridge & Perret to design The Ocean Course, and Greg Norman to produce The Moonah Course.
Both courses were open for play late in 2000 making the National the proud owner of 54 holes of championship links golf
In 2014 The club entered into a merger with Long Island Country Club, and now boasts 4 championship standard golf courses and 3200 members - making it the biggest club in the southern hemisphere
In 2018 appointed legendary architect Tom Doak to completely redesign the Ocean course, with the new course expected to open in April 2019
Also in 2018 came the announcement that further moves are underway for a merger with noted sandbelt course Huntingdale GC.
It remains to be seen whether the merger will proceed, but the David Inglis connection cannot be ignored.
Huntingdale became known around the world as the site of The Australian Masters- the brainchild of David Inglis (who was a Huntingdale member), and of course David was a driving force in the early development of The National Golf Club
It does seem a fitting merger!
The Old Course
Set in a huge elevated dunescape with sweeping ocean views, The Old Course is nothing if not dramatic!
It certainly is a challenging course and is famous for large undulating greens and impressive bunkering..
First time golfers can be overwhelmed with so many elevated tee shots exposed to the ever present coastal breezes.
The amply bunkered fairways framed by thick ti tree seemingly shrink the target zones.
Miss a fairway and you had better hope it catches a bunker!
Although not overly long off the normal club tees at 5873 metres, the elevation change, wind and bunkering all present challenges.
Perhaps the greatest of these challenges is the movement in the greens, which at first can seem too severe.
I had a long conversation with Trent Jones after the course opened and he took time to explain to me that windy sites generally demand larger greens, and larger greens become boring if there is not quite a bit of movement through them- his example was The Old Course at St Andrews where the greens are enormous with little flat land.
Further he agreed that while some of the putting could be quite difficult, he argued that if the greens were smaller these slightly errant shots would miss the green altogether…
While the first time golfer can struggle, the membership who play the course regularly are passionate advocates for the course.
I must admit I am in that category and rate The Old Course as my favourite course to play in Australia..
When the club added The Ocean and Moonah courses and a new clubhouse in 2000 the hole sequencing for the Old Course changed to allow easy access to the rest of the club.
Hence the old 14th hole became the first in the new set up.
Notable holes include:
hole 1- a delightful short par to whet the appetite, the hole features a testing tee shot over a gully and between an ancient moonah tree and a cluster of bunkers left. Hit the fairway and you are left with a short iron to an elevated and very heavily contoured green surrounded by cavernous bunkers. Welcome to The Old Course!
hole 3- possibly Australia’s most challenging hole!
A longer par 4 which demands carry, length and accuracy. The tee shot needs to fly a large gully and the approach is all uphill and a little claustrophobic with trouble both left and right. The two level green has significant elevation change between levels making it important to hit the right part of the green
hole 7- one of the world's iconic par 3’s.
The elevated peninsula green has glorious coastal views as a backdrop and is fully exposed to any winds.
It is important to select the correct club!
And look out for the front right pin position- a tiny bowl with gully in front and enormous bunkers behind...
hole 8- this short par 5 tees off high on the coastal dune with the coast at your back and heads down a valley between dunes to a landing area below. A decision needs to be made with the second shot. You will need to carry low lying rough in a gully to a split fairway and then to a green which sits above you. Long hitters will be able to take on the green, but don't worry- the green has ample movement to protect itself (see pic mid page).
hole 12- I love quality short par 4’s, and believe it is no accident that many of the best courses in the world are home to great short 4’s. This dog leg par 4 is short enough for most to take on the corner bunker and get up close to the truly gorgeous green. The far side of the dog leg is well bunkered and demands respect. I love the vast sandy wasteland to the right of the green and the centre left pin position in a large dip in the green.
hole 15- from an elevated tee the tee shot must hit the fairway in the right position to give a view of the green as the hole doglegs sharply to the right. The approach is a beauty with a two level green protected by an old Moonah tree to the right and yawning bunkers front and back
hole 16- a unique par 3 across a heavily treed gully to a split level green sited in the saddle between two dunes. The wind can howl through the saddle making it hard to select the right club, however the contouring of the green can give the experienced player a backstop to work the ball close
hole 17- a fun par 5 with the elevated tee giving panoramic views of the surrounding links and coast. The second shot doglegs sharply left, and while the inside of the dogleg is heavily bunkered, a strong accurate tee shot can fly the corner and hit the downslope potentially leaving the green reachable in two. However some lovely cross bunkering in front of the green is a reality check for most. The really interesting boomerang shaped green has a brilliant bowl shape to the left which offers some wonderful pin positions..
hole 18- another entertaining short 4 closes the round. The sharp dogleg teases the bigger hitter to try and get close to the green, but for most the sensible shot is a fairway wood to the centre of the fairway. While the only bunker in sight from the tee is waiting for the longer tee shot, the last 100 metres of this hole is a different story with deep, spectacular bunkering left and right on the approach and surrounding the two tiered green.
The Old Course is an amazing golfing journey from first hole to last
It never fails to engage.
I love it!
The Old Course is a "Travelling Golfer must play!"
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