Located amidst the glorious sandhills of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, The Dunes was created in 1997 by local architect Tony Cashmore, who completely reshaped a primitive and partially built layout into one of Australia’s most cherished public golf courses.
The existing holes had played mostly through deep valleys with little shaping, few bunkers and modest greens. Aside from views and the challenge of Man versus Mother Nature, they did little to attract serious golfers. Cashmore refined the targets and hazards, and transformed the land into a classy dune course by modifying existing shapes and devising new ones to blend holes into a seamless golfscape. With generous fairways set in valleys between the dunes or routed across ridges and a number of greens built in attractive hollows or atop gentle plateaus, the site appears naturally suited for golf yet major earthworks were required on several holes to ensure visual continuity.
The strength of The Dunes is the sum of its parts, with eighteen strong holes and few design features or areas likely to disappoint. Even the polarizing downhill par three 6th hole has been improved with the pond at the rear no longer unseen from the tee and the green more accommodating to a chasing approach than in its original incarnation. It is actually hard to nominate a hole here that does not have great visual interest because as Cashmore explains ‘the land either yielded natural golf vistas, or was deliberately fashioned to excite the golfers eye from the moment he arrives at the tee’. Beautiful par threes at the 13th and 17th do stand out, however, as does the stretch of left-bending holes from the 8th through 10th, the short par four 4th and the attractive valley drive down the 18th fairway.
Fully public and modestly priced, The Dunes is a significant course in Australia as its quality helped popularize the now burgeoning Peninsula region, and its critical success encouraged other developers to seek naturally suitable golf land in this well-endowed country.