The Takeaway: The most dramatic terrain for a golf course in the greater Sandbelt area, the Old course at The National is an experience with few rivals Down Under. The variety of scenarios and shots required on the course is fantastic with one memorable hole after another. Moonah gets most of the hype, but the Old course at The National is one of the most underrated tracks in Australia. Grade A+
Designer: Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1988
Cost: Private Private (Interstate and International visitors welcome) Click for membership information
Phone Number: 61 3 5988 6777
Course Website: Official Website - Visit National Golf Club (Old)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - The Cups Drive, Cape Schanck, Victoria 3939
Accolades: Ranked 5th in Australia by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: When I stepped on the first tee at National’s Old course, I was instantly teleported in my mind to one of my all time favorite tracks; the Prince course in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised since they were both designed and built by Robert Trent Jones Jr. around the same time, but it really caught me off guard since I had previously never seen anywhere else like it. A tough but doable walk, the Old course is a wild ride with extreme elevation changes where a dull moment never exists. Flat lies are occasionally afforded as a tender mercy but uphill, downhill, and side hill lies are more of the commonplace where skill and creativity collide each time you swing the club. Though located a distance from the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, ocean views are afforded from several of the elevated locations throughout the course with none being more impressive than at the signature par three 7th hole where the Southern Ocean is on full display. While many clubs with multiple courses have similar looking and feeling tracks, members at National enjoy three very different courses with the Old being the most memorable, engaging, and testing of the group. It is also the most secluded layout of the group in terms of distance away as well as the holes being framed in by trees and bushes that isolate them individually. During most of the season powerized carts are allowed on the course though there are times where weather isn’t conducive to it. After your round be sure to enjoy a meal in the dining area that offers expansive views of the courses and surrounding property where kangaroos are sure to be bounding across the fairways in the evenings.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 7th Hole – 152 Yard Par 3 – The signature hole of the entire three-course complex, the 7th on National's Old course is nothing short of stunning. With the Bass Strait providing a sparkling blue backdrop, this 152 yard one-shotter plays over a jungle area to a green featuring a distinct spine through it. Tee shots that are played long, short, or left will be permanent donations however a bailout area is afforded to the right of the green for players lacking the confidence to go pinseeking. The spine in the putting surface is a big factor for the success level on this green as getting on the wrong side of it quickly can become a three putt while being on the correct side is almost a guaranteed par or better. It is just a gorgeous hole and an absolute pleasure to play.
Best Par 3: 16th Hole – 184 Yards – My goodness, another just beautiful hole is found here at the 16th as the final par three on the course. Tree covered cliffs and the Bass Strait create one of the most attractive backdrops Down Under with visuals that are equally inspiring and distracting. Let the backdrop motivate you enough to hit toward it with a shot that errs on the side of being long rather than short as the bank in the back and on the left will suck balls onto the putting surface while shots coming up short will quickly be repelled to an over-utilized chipping that makes saving par difficult. The 7th will always get the most attention at the Old course, but I still have a mega crush on the 16th.
Best Par 4: 14th Hole – 427 Yards – A strong dogleg left hole, the 14th gives players a strong consideration to factor off the tee. If you are feeling bold, and long, you can hammer a drive up the left side and challenge the series of bunkers on that line. If you can carry the ball 285 yards then you will certainly find success and be left with a modest chip into the green and a chance to card a birdie. The conservative play right of the bunkers leaves a longer approach shot in where players will be asked to kick a field goal through the trees that frame each edge of the green and guide players into the day's pin position. The green features a necklace bunker around the right side and a fishhook bunker on the left. Balls that carry beyond the flag may find themselves trickling towards the 10th flag as these two holes share the same expansive green. This is just a good risk/reward hole with a fun green complex.
Best Par 5: 8th Hole – 517 Yards – A majestic par five that feels more grand than the yardage would indicate. A 300+ yard tee shot will run out of room as the first fairway terminates into a nearly 100 yard long section of rough before a dual fairway begins again on the other side. You may not usually hit 300 yard drives, but the severe downhill tee shot will add 10% - 20% to your length which very well may take driver out of your hands. From the bottom of the valley, your second shot begins the ascension up a hill that is just as severe as the downhill you experienced off the tee. A dual fairway is afforded, one going high and the other going low, so that you can decide whether you want to take the brunt of the elevation change on your second or third shot. The green sits at the top of a hill which produces fast putts heading back to the fairway and slow one ascending away from it. This hole is a bear to walk, but a ton of fun to play.
Birdie Time: 12th Hole – 337 Yard Par 4 – Reprieve awaits on the southernmost hole on National's Old course and players should take advantage of it. A 300 yard drive down the right tree line will find this green and yield an eagle putt for players with the length to do it, while shorter players can hit a 210 yard shot to the fat part of the fairway left of the right bunker and set themselves up with a wedge shot in. Whether you are aggressive or conservative, your second shot should be one that you can go pinseeking with. The left side of the putting surface has more contours to contend with while the right two-thirds offers an absolute green light to be aggressive with your putt. This is as easy as RTJ Jr. is going to be, so pull out all the stops trying to card a three.
Bogey Beware: 3rd Hole – 427 Yard Par 4 – Your merit is tested early at the Old course with this stout two-shotter playing over very hilly terrain. Two aiming bunkers sit on the far side of the fairway while another pair of bunker hide on the near side of the fairway ready to catch balls coming up weak. The far right bunker is the line for shorter hitters while the far left bunker is better positioned as an aiming point for longer players. Once sitting safely in the fairway, the most challenging approach shot of the day awaits as players ascend straight up a hill in an effort to find the blind putting surface fronted by a steep face that quickly rejects shots coming up wanting. The green is bunkerless, but that is because the approach shot is plenty difficult enough that sand would just make it cruel. Like all of the greens at National's Old course that are perched on the top of hill, the slopes in the putting surface can get nasty to control if you aren't positioned in the right spot for that day's pin placement. This is a tough hole and walking off with a par is a very rewarding feeling.