Monday, May 25, 2020

Dream Mornington Peninsula Golf Trail Trip

Australia has a ton of amazing courses. New South Wales, Royal Melbourne, Cape Wickham, Kingston Heath, Barnbougle, Royal Adelaide, the list is long and glorious. Australia is a long haul from Los Angeles so if I was ever to go there, I would definitely try and play as many of the top flight courses as I could.

However, a recent video by Erik Anders Lang reminded me of the great tracks on the Mornington Peninsula and I decided this week to do a deep dive into them to come up with a dream itinerary to the Mornington Peninsula.

The folks at Golf Mornington Peninsula put together the Mornington Peninsula Golf Trail which I used as inspiration for a dream trip to Australia. Come with me, won't you, as I rattle through this underground Aussie golf hotspot!

1) St Andrews Beach

There looks like there are a lot of great golf courses on the way from Melbourne International Airport but my first stop has to be the course that first sparked my interested in the Peninsula several years ago, St Andrew's Beach. The course was designed by Tom Doak and has been the darling of the Top 100 Reviewers for years. Apparently this is one of Daok's favorite courses and after watching this video, I can see why:

The outrageous bunkers, the land movement, and perhaps most importantly, the kangaroos! I have always wanted to play golf surrounded by kangaroos and SAB looks like it would fulfill my dream in spades.

From the reviews, it sounds like you get a lot of flavors with this course, between big dunes to wide open spaces and since variety is the spice of life, spice me up! Plus SAB is pretty reasonably priced coming out on the top end at $62 USD (2020 prices) which is even more reason to visit the course.

SAB also has stay and play options in villas which look pretty sweet to me: After the round I might have to amble over to the St Andrews Beach Brewery for some pints and for a great start to my Australian adventure!

2) The Dunes Golf Links

Ahhh the Dunes, what a gorgeous looking course! 2 to be exact, with 27 holes of fun on the offing the Dunes course seems to provide anything a public golfer could want in Australia. While the club does have a waiting list to become a member, as far as I can determine it is a true daily fee facility with the top rate coming in at about $64 USD (as of 2020).

The Dunes course was created by Tony Cashmore who I was wholly unaware of but has apparently designed over 30 courses in Australia and beyond including the 13th Beach course (which has also been on my radar). Well Tony, it looks like you have done a fantastic job with this course!

The fairways look tight and firm, the greens look like they are in amazing shape and I can feel the sea breeze coming through my monitor just checking out this video:

It reminded Lang of Rustic Canyon, one of my favorite tracks here in SoCal and I can't say I disagree. The shot shapes, the flow of the land seems very Rustic-y, which is a high compliment.

One of the things I have been noticing lately about great daily fee places that are located in more remote areas is that they are building onsite lodging (looking at you Wild Horse) and the Dunes is building some great looking lodging!

So you get a great public course and get to stay there, sounds like a win-win to me!

3) The National (Moonah)

The National is one of the most intriguing private courses in Australia. To me, it is a "private course for all" with over 3,200 members but they seem to be able to accommodate them all with 4 golf courses that are part of the club. While The National is private, many Australian courses adhere to the UK model by offering limited public play and if given the chance, sign me up for the Moonah course.

(photo via The National)

The routing from the above map looks crazy but fun. Kind of an out-and-back in the shape of a hook? The Moonah course was designed by Greg Norman and I haven't had a chance to play any courses designed by him but according to online reviews, this is one of his best designs.

For me the 14th hole really takes the cake with a drive over scrub to a rumpled fairway all the while going downhill to a green surrounded by scary bunkers and scrub in the back. Looks like a blast!

Apparently there is a composite course that the members play once a month that takes you over 6 holes from each of the three courses on the MP. Now that sounds like a really fun day!

4) Flinders Golf Club

At a top rate of $44 USD, Flinders may be the cheapest golf course on this list but it has something going for it that no other golf course on the MP has, Alister MacKenzie. One of the best architects in the world consulted on this course when he was working on Royal Melbourne and the fourth hole, The Coffin, was directly designed by him.

There are plenty of reasons to play Flinders other than this hole of course. The holes named Pine Gap, Fairly Dell and Aunt Sally all look top notch and this seems like a really welcoming club.

This club is the oldest one in Victoria and I can dare say I never heard of Flinders before writing this article but it is definitely on my must play list when I visit the MP! They also have a pretty killer stay and play package as well:

5) Portsea Golf Club

It is only fitting that I finish my Mornington Peninsula golf adventure by playing the course at the very tip, Portsea. Portsea looks like a rollicking good time and my favorite hole (from afar) would have to be the 10th, Little Devil.

A par 4 at only 279 yards but uphill, a TON of trouble to the left and once you gain the green you have an awesome elevated view of the surrounding countryside. I think I could play this hole every day and twice on Sundays.

The greens fees are very reasonable as well (topping out at $62 USD in 2020) and the course also offers some great stay and play packages.

From online reviews, the course seems to have a lot of undulating fairways, winds and quick greens. Sign me up for all three!

Finally, while not part of the "official" Golf Trail, there is one more Mornington Peninsula golf course, I must discuss:

***Peninsula Kingswood (North)

When you talk about Melbourne golf, you are talking the Sandbelt. A geological feature containing sandy loam subsoil perfect for giving rise to some of the best golf in the world. Peninsula Kingswood sits at the southernmost end of the Sandbelt and halfway down the Mornington Peninsula. If I am going all the way to Australia, I need to get some sand under my belt and while PK is a private course, thankfully they do accept some visitor play.

(photo via Peninsula Kingswood)

If I ever became a member of a private course, I would ideally want to be a member of a place that has 27-36 holes and PK certainly fits the bill with two 18 hole courses (North and South). The North is more lauded amongst the two and looking at the pictures (like the one above) only makes it want it more. Also, true to its Sandbelt heritage, so much sand!

The course was recently renovated by Mike Clayton (who you should definitely check out on the State Of The Game podcast) and people are already raving about it. The topography, the bunkers, it seems like an amazing course and would make for a great start (or capstone) to my trip to the MP!

In researching MP golf courses, I was surprised how many of them offer onsite accommodations and PK is no different with some pretty killer looking accommodations. So 1) I hope I get to Australia and 2) I hope PK extends me an invite to play!

So there you have it, so many great golf courses, all waiting for me to book a trip on Qantas to get down to see them! Have you played on the Peninsula? Which tracks do you like? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Underground UK Golf Trip

I was recently researching West Lancs and Burnham and Berrow and realized that increasingly over the last few years, I have been drawn to the lesser know courses in the UK rather than the top dogs. As several readers know, my mania about the fun, quirky and the under-the-radar courses is such that I want to be a member of North Berwick despite not having set foot on the ground.

I have had some time on my hands recently and began thinking about UK golf trips. If I were to plan a UK golf trip and didn't play any of the Top 100 in the world courses during my time there (goodbye Old Course, Sunningdale, RCP, Royal Porthcawl and Royal County Down) and wanted to play nothing but under the radar, fun quirky courses, what would I play and how would I do it?

Come with me, won't you, as I sharpen my explorer's pencil for the "ultimate" underground UK golf trip (your results may vary)!

Day 1: Fly into Heathrow and on to Hindhead Golf Club!

Most visitors to the London area probably fly into Heathrow and if you do, there are so many good heathland courses just South of the airport in the county of Surrey. I want healthland to be my first round but for purposes of this trip, it also must be fun, quirky and under the radar. Enter Hindhead, only 44 minutes from Heathrow. Glaciers made the front 9 look like a rollercoaster and all that heather looks glorious! Hindhead is a favorite of Peter Alliss who narrates this short intro to the club with some rocking 80s synth music.

The Club dates back to 1904, I'm in love with the logo and the course looks like a rollicking start to my UK trip. The bunkers with the swaying grass will sure to ease my mind and body into my UK experience. Sign me up for my first round in the UK at this place!

Day 2: I now make my way to the coast to visit Hayling Golf Club

Since the England is an island, you better believe I am going to playing seaside golf quickly and often. Hayling doesn't get a lot of publicity but I have been eyeing it for awhile because it looks like a really fun track and its amazing to me that the course was founded in 1883.

(Photo via the Hayling GC website)

The second hole (above) is named the Sea Hole looks particularly fantastic and I have a dream about getting a bacon roll at the Beach Cafe after putting out on the 13th hole. Who doesn't have dreams about golf and bacon rolls? Hayling will inspire those dreams I tells ya!

Day 3: Onto Perranporth

Yes I am bypassing the aforementioned B&B and yes this is the first golf course that doesn't start with the letter H and finally yes, I have NO idea what Cornwall is all about but I have heard great things about this course. Let's take a look shall we?

(Photo via the Perranporth GC website)

This course just looks like it has a TON of character. Be sure to go to their website and look at the "god's eye view" of the course, the hills, the dales, the sea, I am now officially all about Cornwall and all about this course! Also check out this logo! Digging that fish!

Day 4: Fly out of the Cornwall Airport Newquay to Newcastle to play Bamburgh Castle!

Why am I in love with this course already? Is it because the 1st hole is an absolutely jaw dropper? Is it because the 1st hole is also named "The Dinkie"?

Playing in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle really brings an extra element to the proceedings. As an American I have an inbuilt love/hate relationship with monarchies but I loves me a good castle. The course might measure 5,621 yards but I think I will treasure every yard I get to walk if I am lucky enough to play here.

A 5 day ticket is only 150 Pounds! Do they offer an overseas membership? BCGC, where have ya been all 'me life?

Day 4: Trucking to Eyemouth Golf Club!

Would you play a course for just one hole? 17 holes, great, sure but what if it all comes down to one incredible hole that you will describe to your grandchildren one day? I think Eyemouth (unreal name by the way) has such a hole, their sixth hole to be precise:

I mean just look at that thing. Do you hit over a cliff to another cliff and then over stone walls to a green? Outrageous! Speaking of outrageous, this routing of Eyemouth is fascinating and would love to see how this actually works in practice.

(Photo via the Eyemouth website)

Eyemouth would be my first Scottish course of the trip and what a weird wonderful doozy this would be!

Day 5: Wrapping it all up with Dunbar Golf Club!

Nope, not Muirfield, not Gullane, not my beloved North Berwick. The course I am hitting up in the East Lothian area on this trip is Dunbar! First, I love that someone reviewed Dunbar by saying the course provides "just about everything you could ask for".

I ask for a lot and even though this is a promotional video that I am taking with some salt, my mouth is watering for this course!

Everything I have read is that Dunbar is a lot of fun, very welcoming and has a great atmosphere, exactly what I am looking for! Plus their overseas membership fees are very intriguing, VERY intriguing!

Speaking of my mouth watering (from two paragraphs ago), after spending so much time golfing I would chow down at Creel, not only the number one restaurant in Dunbar but one of the top restaurants in all of Scotland. A delicious way to end the trip!

So there you have it, 6 courses in 5 days traveling ALL over the UK. Of course, I realize Northern Ireland was excluded on this trip but I am putting Castlerock up there as a must play place when I visit. I also realize that I have left off some classic underground UK courses including Shiskine, Castletown, Hunstanton, Nefyn & District, the list goes on and on. Just even more reason to get out there and gowf them all!

What are some of your favourite underground UK courses? What should I check out after my inevitable 30 straight days of golfing North Berwick? Let me know in the comments! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Becoming An Overseas Member Of A UK Royal Golf Club

Even though I have never played golf over in the UK, I find myself thinking, boy it would be great to be a member of courses I have admired from afar but never played like Royal County DownRoyal Porthcawl or Royal Cinque Ports. A big part of the reason for my interest is that these courses seem to be great places to play and also just to hang out and be a member.

Another factor stems from a great thing about the UK model of golf in that many of the courses you hear about are technically "private" but they allow outside/public play and by doing so, keep the membership fees to something reasonable.

Most private golf courses in the UK have membership options on their websites with all the numbers and membership terms so you can daydream or seriously consider becoming a member. Not necessarily so with "Royal" golf clubs. Royal golf clubs are clubs that have an association with the British monarchy (usually it takes a royal person to be a member of a club plus an application process) and there are currently 62 of them throughout the world. Royal golf clubs seem to keep how one becomes a member and how much membership costs very close to the vest.

Recently I took a look around at the UK Royal websites, daydreaming as usual, and was surprised that a few of them are upfront about how you become a member. The information that I could find, I share with y'all with a surprising discovery at the end!

Royal Dornoch:

Very reasonable membership fees with a 1,080 Pounds buy-in plus 540 Pounds a year in dues. The first course on the list is one of the best prices I could find for a top tier course (except for one notable exception below), especially if I wanted to be an overseas member. They don't seem to have any obvious "must know 3 members and also be a member of another club" type rules that I can see  making this a GREAT option to join. RD is also a course I might realistically join for the quality of the golf, the history and as a side benefit, it is close to a Coore & Crenshaw course they are trying to build in the area.

Royal Musselburgh

Ok, wow this course offer an overseas membership of 352 Pounds a year for the sixth oldest golf course int he world! The membership application looks really straightforward too and speaks to the laidback nature that I get from the website.

Royal Ascot

Billed as "one [of] the friendliest clubs around", the club charges a reasonable 550 Pounds per year for overseas members. They also have a "buddy scheme" to help settle new members to help make friends which I think is a great idea. More clubs so be invested in incorporating members into the club culture once they join. Good on ya RA!

Royal Epping Forest

This is a fascinating "Royal" course. The course is owned by the members yet the City of London administers the course. Thus you can become a member for 420 Pounds but will have to pay separate greens fees when you play. Interesting!

Royal Cromer

The course looks beautiful nestled up by the cliffs near Norwich. Royal Cromer offers a "Country" membership (which I have always assumed to apply to overseas members but I think just applies to residents "in" country) for the low price of 550 Pounds a year. Another benefit of this course are reciprocal rounds with multiple royal golf courses. I am a big fan of reciprocal rounds and would only join a golf course with the ability to play others (counterintuitive I know).

Royal Eastbourne

First this club has 2 courses, always a benefit when looking to be a member somewhere. Secondly it seems like they have a lot of flexibility with membership, including a winter membership for 6 months for only 250 Pounds. The thing I like most about the course is that they brag about having one of the best greenskeepers (Paul McDowell) which I LOVE. Yes, be proud of your staff!

Duff House Royal Golf Club

Do you know that Alister MacKenzie redesigned a royal golf course in Scotland? An overseas membership to this undiscovered gem is only 290 Pounds a year. Plus what is up with that name? I guess it is named after the local mansion but still, Duff House, love it!

Royal Montrose Mercantile Golf Club

160 Pounds for the year, not bad, not bad at all. Also what is interesting here is that there were two clubs with the first getting royal designation in 1845. Both clubs merged just in 2019 although why they chose Mercantile in the title is unknown to me. It's a very British title though!

Royal Norwich

RN has a fascinating membership format in addition to the regular 5, 6, 7 day membership. It looks like you can buy membership points and then use them to play rounds at the course with most, if not all, of the advantages of regular membership. What an interesting idea and something I wish private courses here in America would adopt.

Royal North Devon

I have always been intrigued by RND, it seems like a fantastic course and boy are they having a fascinating sale! If you are applying for overseas membership right now in 2020, there is no initiation fee and it looks like membership only costs 260 Pounds a year! I mean the quality of the course and the price kinda makes me want to join this club even though I don't live in the UK!

So there you have it. Should I become a RD or RND member (if either one will have me)? What about the Royal Porthcawls, Cinque Ports and County Downs of the world? Anyone want to bring me into the fold?

If anyone knows how to become a member of any of the other Royal courses let me know in the comments! Also, what course would you want to join if you could? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Cypress Point Quest - Day 1862


My online and in-person leads to play Cypress Point have been drying up over this last year. Additionally with my Coore/Crenshaw quest still ongoing, my golf travels have started to focus on the East Coast, where there is less of a chance to meet members connected to CPC. Drastic measures needed to be taken in order to put me in a position to finally gain an invite to this wonderful course.

So I decided to take the plunge and book a golf vacation over a long weekend at my favorite spot in the world, the Monterey Peninsula. Yes, I was finally going to play Pebble, a course that has won me over in person, as well as Spyglass and Spanish Bay. By putting myself up there for a solid 5 plus days with 2-3 days devoted to non-Cypress golf, I figured it would give me as good a shot as any to get on the course.

The problem is of course the ongoing pandemic which has thrown a wrench into the whole works and I have no idea if my Pebble trip is happening this year, later this year or never. That being said, my issue is infinitesimally small compared to what is going on around the world currently so my disappointment is fleeting to say the least.

If and when Pebble happens, I am going to use that as my springboard to get the word out as a last gasp attempt for Cypress this year. Watch this space for any updates and of course, any help you could give me on my quest would earn my eternal appreciation!

Link To Check Out:

Connor of the Society of Golf Historians is a dyed in the wool golf traveler and burgeoning golf historian. Connor has a TalkingGolf History podcast and Episode 35 focuses on MacKenzie and Cypress Point including this fascinating map of Cypress!

(map via the Society's Instagram page)

If that picture is interesting to you, the podcast is even MORE interesting. Be sure to give a listen to the episode here:

and definitely following the Society on Twitter and Instagram!

Final Well Deserved Note:

Finally, FINALLY Marion Hollins, the force behind Cypress, Pasatiempo and a trailblazer in so many ways is going into the Golf Hall of Fame.

While Marion passed away several decades ago, the golf courses she was involved with have stood against the test of time and serve as a testament to her visionary outlook for golf. The golf world would be a poorer place without her and I am glad the HoF did the right thing to induct her!

(Marion at MPPC via the Seattle Times)

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Yardage Book Palooza

If you like yardage books like me, you will probably like my recent post ranking my Coore/Crenshaw yardage books (thus far). Be sure to go over to CCQuest to check out the latest ramblings!