|Making par on the Peninsula|
|Written by The Licorice Gallery|
|Wednesday, 28 March 2007|
‘A huge crowd has gathered here on the eighteenth at Moonah Links Open course. Robert Allenby has four feet to the pin to make this put – this for the Championship…’
‘…Welcome to the Peninsula Hot Springs Mr.Allenby and congratulations on your win sir. Your private hot mineral bath is now ready for you, and to follow a Kodo massage inspired by Aboriginal techniques to tone and re-align your energy flow and enhance your mind and body balance”.
You don’t have to be an Australian Open Champion to enjoy the luxuries and the pampering that is on offer at the Peninsula Hot Springs and Peppers Moonah Links Resort on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
At any time of the year you too can be gracing the greens and fairways of some of Australia’s best golf courses, and later enjoy a dip in 42 degree Celsius natural hot springs or experience any one of a number of relaxation treatments.
After all this, dine at Pebbles restaurant in the Peppers Moonah Links Resort
overlooking the Open course and sample something off the menu, like the Spice Rubbed Cornfed Chicken Supreme with Kumara Fondant and an Apple Glaze. The Mornington Peninsula has more than 170 wineries and 50 cellar door outlets so choosing a wine from their extensive list won’t be a problem.
Situated one and a half hour’s drive, southeast of central Melbourne along the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, the region is recognised by international architects and designers as having some of the world’s best natural terrain for golf. It is fast becoming Australia’s leading golfing destination and combined with the lifestyle on offer here makes the Mornington Peninsula a golden gateway to Victoria.
There are so many activities to keep you busy here there won’t be enough hours in the day. If you fancy a trip to one of the many vineyards, fishing on either side of the Peninsula, surfing along Western Port Bay, horse riding, biking, walks in the National Park or just lazing on the beach; after all this your mind and body will need a little rest and recovery and I have found just the place!
Just a nine iron over the back of the third hole at Moonah Links is the Peninsula Hot Springs relaxation centre. If you’re muscles are aching after a round or you simply need a little pampering, then this is the place to spend a few hours. Rejuvenate your mind and body with a dip in any of the centers’ outdoor springs, or make a booking for one of their private indoor spas.
There are five massage treatments to choose from; close your eyes and smell a variety of oils, pick your favourite and then wander a thousand miles away under the therapy of a full body massage.
The centre also offers a wide range of treatments from facials to hand and feet massages.
Your hunger will also be catered for with the café providing plenty to choose from. They serve breakfast until 3.30 in the afternoon and try one of their freshly squeezed juices aptly named detox, reharmonise and rejuvenate.
There are packages available at the Peninsula Springs with names that will relax you even before you have had the treatment; Natural Balance, Rejuvenate, Bliss and the Dreaming.
The Peninsula Hot Springs opened on the 28th June this year after eight years of development, an idea brought to reality by Charles Davidson after a discussion over a beer with a friend in Japan. Davidson had been experiencing natural springs in Japan and had wondered why there weren’t any in Australia. During the discussion he was alerted to a report by the Department of Minerals and Energy that test drilling had been conducted on the Mornington Peninsula. After following up on the report and with the help of his brother Richard, Davidson bought the 17 hectare property where the centre now stands and has developed it into his Japanese dream of natural hot baths right here in Australia.
The water is pumped from an underground aquifer 637 metres below ground level. Here the water temperature is a scalding 50 degrees Celsius. The temperature of the pools at Peninsula Hot Springs varies from 36 degrees Celsius to 42 degrees Celsius depending on the pool and the time of year, whilst the fresh cold water plunge pool is a much cooler 12 degrees Celsius. When it reaches the pools the water is cooled to slightly over 38 degrees. Around 250,000 litres of this water is pumped through the springs per day – an Olympic size swimming pool contains 2,500,000 litres by comparison. There is no re-circulation of any water here, any chlorine or additives. It is classified under the EPA regulations as Potable water, which means the water is drinkable, rather like a strong mineral sports drink. The pools are emptied, cleaned, sterilized and refilled everyday before opening.
“ The main purpose of the place is for relaxation so people can come here and kick back in the hot water, maybe choose to have a massage or some sort of relaxation treatment” explains co-founder Charles Davidson. “It’s the only hot spring in Victoria and there isn’t another complex (in Australia) which has got the combination of food, massage and the natural hot springs”.
Golfers who are holidaying on the Peninsula for a week can buy seven-day passes to the hot springs centre. A ten-visit pass for two people and save around twenty percent on all treatments. “You go to a course then come back here, go to a course then come back here – you watch your golf improve” smiles Charles. Well Charles it would take a lot to improve my game, but that would be a great start!
It doesn’t matter whether you experience the springs before or after a round, either will leave your body feeling fresh, clean and brand new. This day I chose the pre-game method before stepping onto one of the Peninsula’s premiere golf courses.
Peppers Moonah Links Resort is a combination of two impressive 18-hole courses, the Open and the Legends. It has accommodation with more than 60 course side rooms, Pebbles restaurant and the Spike bar as well as a pro shop, swimming pool, tennis courts, gymnasium and endota spa. The resort is located just ten minutes from Rye beach and central to all other courses, it is the ideal place to park yourself on the Peninsula.
The resort is also home to the Australian Golf Academy and the Australian Golf Union Hall of Fame.
The course was first opened in December 2001 and purposely built for tournament golf. Moonah Links hosted its first Australian Open in 2003 and once again welcomed some of the world’s finest players to its greens in November of this year for the Open. Designed by Peter Thompson of Thompson, Wolveridge and Perrett, the course features wide fairways dotted with 87 bunkers and large multi-layered greens. Legends Couch grass is used on the fairways and A1 Bent grass on the true and consistent greens of the course. During the Open Championship the greens are hand mowed before and after each round.
Wet weather is of no concern to courses on the Peninsula. Most of them lie on the edge of the Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait and flow over the rolling sand dunes, the excellent drainage on the courses allows golfers access all year. “The quality of the greens will almost be exactly the same twelve months of the year” explains course PGA professional Sean Charleston. “That’s due to the grass that we have got and also being on sand, the sand enables the grass to be that consistent, we can have a thunder-storm the night before and the next day the course is completely playable”.
Wind will be the key factor in a round at Moonah Links, and could be the difference between how golfing bets are paid up at the bar after the round. “If there isn’t any wind the guys will shoot pretty good golf scores out here, but if it gets windy; they shoot par it will be a pretty exceptional score” said Sean. I thought to myself, that’s easy for a pro to say.
From the championship tees the course covers 6829 metres. There are four tees to choose from; the black tee – recommended for pros and players with a handicap of five and under, the blue for players with a handicap between six and fifteen, the white for over sixteen and red tees for the ladies.
A links course with few trees and some of the best greens in the country, Moonah is accessible to the general public. So whilst Appleby, Allenby and the like will strut their stuff during the Open, week-end hitters can grace the very same greens and fairways as the pros at any other time of the year.
Don’t worry if there is no room in the car for your clubs either. Here at Moonah Links the hire clubs are impressive to say the least - Taylor Made Nikes! “Some people actually come here, see the hire clubs and go ‘my clubs are staying in the car, i’ll hire a set’ so it works quite well in that regard” Sean says looking towards the impressive pro-shop opposite Spike’s Bar.
“It has a stadium like atmosphere” says Sean. “The fairways are built through the sand-dunes and there are natural mounds to the right and left of nearly all the fairways” This allows spectators easy viewing of play and eliminates the need of erecting grandstands and seating which other courses around the country do when they hold major tournaments. In 2003 crowds in excess of 50,000 for the four days of the Open piled through the doors at Moonah Links.
The second course at Peppers Moonah Links Resort is the user-friendlier Legends course. It is more of a resort style course as opposed to the tournament style and more difficult Open course on the other side of the clubhouse. There are some great views from the tee on the first hole and you will find this one a lot easier to walk than the longer Open. The Legends course is actually rated higher than the Open as far as public access courses go in Australia!
At the resort, Peppers manage all the accommodation and food and beverage services. By the end of 2006 there will be 21 Peppers resorts around Australia and New Zealand ranging from golfing getaways and vineyard retreats to rainforest lodges and exotic tropical islands. There are currently four Peppers Resorts that are aligned with golf courses around Australia with Moonah Links being their most prestigious.
“There are sixty rooms in the hotel at the moment and thirty-six new ones being built at present”. “They will be our premiere rooms overlooking the first hole on the Open course”, explains Peppers Resort General Manager Ivan Skidmore. “Most of our accommodation business is corporate conference and the rest made up of golf leisure”.
That doesn’t mean you have to play golf here to stay at Peppers Moonah Links Resort. The resort is open to all anytime of the year, whether it is just for a quiet drink at the bar, dining in the restaurant or indulging in any of the other outdoor activities that are at your doorstep here on the Mornington Peninsula.
The menu at Pebbles restaurant changes seasonally. Local fresh produce is used from all parts of the Peninsula including Flinder’s tomatoes, Flinder’s mussels and Red Hill cheeses and cherries. Twenty-five percent of the wine list is from local vineyards and there is even a buffalo farm across the road from the resort, so local buffalo is available when in season.
Just a five-minute drive towards Rye beach from Moonah Links is one of Australia’s highest regarded public access courses – the Dunes.
The course was originally built in 1992 as an 18-hole course, after striking financial difficulty the course was sold in 1994. Re-opening in 1997 it now features a new look 18-hole championship course as well as a 9-hole Cups course thanks to local architect Tony Cashmore.
Cashmore also designed Thirteenth Beach links course at Barwon Heads across Port Phillip Bay on the Bellarine Peninsula. The nine-hole Cups course is user friendly for beginners and social hitters with a par 33 including four par threes. During the week green fees are only fifteen dollars whilst a weekend hit will set you back eighteen.
On the 18-hole course total meterage off the Championship tees is 6409 metres with a par of 72. Santa Anna Couch Grass flows along the fairways and the greens are layered with Cobra Bent grass. The signature hole is the par three seventeenth of 161 metres. A plaque on a rock at the tee will verify this with American golfing legend Tom Watson describing the hole as ‘exquisite’ after teeing off here on opening day.
It’s a true links golf course with only one tree on the ninth fairway approaching the clubhouse. The region is known to golfers as ‘Cups Country’ and was settled by lime miners. Once the miners had burnt off the lime it was transported to Rye Pier, loaded onto barges and shipped to Melbourne. On the second hole there is Sullivan’s Limekiln, which is protected by heritage listing.
The lack of trees at the Dunes is attributed to the miners using the wood to keep the kilns firing rather than the farmers clearing for pastureland. You won’t find too many trees lining the fairways of the courses around here but the ones that do pop up here and there are the thick trunks of the Moonah trees.
Trees may be scarce here at the Dunes; however bunkers are scattered like empty beer cans the morning after a twenty-first birthday- party! In-fact there is 121 of them – most of them natural.
Like most courses on the Peninsula bookings are essential especially on the weekends. Greens fees for the 18 hole course are forty-two dollars mid-week and fifty-five for the week-end. The Dunes is currently rated number three nationally as a public access course and is at the top of the list here in Victoria.
Imagine being a golfer and having the luxury of three courses to choose from at your club. Well that’s exactly what members have at the National. A private club and the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere, the National’s three courses spread themselves over the dunes near Cape Schanck and adjacent to the beach of Gunnamatta.
The Moonah, designed by Greg Norman in 2000, is the longest at 6576 metres and with a par of 72 is regarded as the most difficult of the three courses. The course is even layered with Norman’s own brand of grass! GN Grass.
The Ocean designed by Thompson, Wolveridge and Perrett also in 2000 and the Moonah courses are both in the links mould and spread out at the foot of the clubhouse on the edge of Port Phillip Bay. Legends grass covers the fairways of the Ocean.
The Old course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr in 1985 is in direct contrast to the other two, with fairways of Santa Anna couch grass dipping between valleys of trees and rising above the club-house; here your game will need to be just that little more accurate. The Old course climbs to the tee on the seventh hole where the panoramic view of the Peninsula and Port Phillip Bay is breathtaking. The walk is certainly worth the effort no matter how many shots it takes to get you there!
Assistant Manager of golf operations, Graeme Brown, describes the hole as ‘spectacular’, looking all the way down the Peninsula.
“All this area is called the Cups because of the shapes of the hills” Graeme explains.
“ If you love golf this would be the club to be a member of, just to be able to stroll up and where will I play today type of thing, it’s millionaire’s golf” he adds whilst directing my vision out through the massive full face windows of the club-house and along the Peninsula.
With a club-house that would not look out of place at South-Bank on the edge of the Yarra River in Melbourne, the National offers it’s members a little of everything. Dine in the luxury of a five-star restaurant to a quick bite from the bistro or even enjoy a good old Australian barbeque from on top of the clubhouse, all of which overlook the Moonah and Ocean courses. Be inspired here whilst practicing your putting before your round – the putting green is on the roof of the clubhouse! There is even an area near the practice fairway where helicopters can land carrying golfers and their clubs coming down from Melbourne for the day.
Right next door to the National is the Cape Schanck Resort. Opened in November 1985 and designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr as a pay for play course, placement rather than muscle will guide you around the 5674 metres off the championship tees.
The layout is up and down with plenty of trees in contrast to the links style courses found elsewhere on the Peninsula. The views from Cape Schanck are some of the best around the region. Your drive from the tee on the fourteenth will head straight for Bass Strait. It’s a par three that drops sharply from the tee onto the green 158 metres away. From the tee on the next the view leads the eye out over the adjacent National clubhouse and out into the deep waters bound for Tasmania.
Golf Operations Manager at Cape Schanck Resort, Brian Hill, says that golfers playing the course for the first time can underestimate the terrain, “ I think most people look at the length of the course or the scorecard and say this will be an easy golf course, they don’t realise it’s unusual to get a flat lie”.
The course has 61 bunkers and like all others around is not affected by rain, “We had five inches in February in one day and we were playable in an hour or two, it just goes straight through”, Brian explains as golfers circle us trying to keep tee off appointments.
The grass on the course is Santa Anna couch and A1 Bent is used on the greens.
The resort currently has 54 hotel-rooms but has a permit for a further 150. There are conference facilities, restaurant and bar and golf shop. On the eleventh of November this year the resort changed ownership with the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria becoming its new owners. “We are looking for some really exciting times,” says Brian. “The RACV have indicated they will turn it into a resort, a family friendly resort as well as catering for the corporate market”.
There are twenty-two golf courses within a 45-minute drive from Frankston to Portsea on the Peninsula, all of them with varying designs and degrees of difficulty, from the resort style courses at Peppers Moonah Links and Cape Schanck to the smaller courses of Portsea, Rosebud and Sorrento. Eagle Ridge with it’s Disneyland style clubhouse is regarded as one of Australia’s top public access golf courses – there seem to be so many around here that are.
Golfers visiting the Peninsula can take advantage of ‘The Mornington Peninsula Golf Pass’. This entitles golfers to a variety of discounts at leading courses, wineries and attractions in the region. To be eligible you need to play at least three courses whilst staying on the Peninsula.
When you think of the Mornington Peninsula from now on golf will certainly spring to mind. A golfing getaway of the highest level awaits you here and a lifestyle to accommodate all the family - and if your game is not quite how you would like it to be or the stress of city life has taken its toll.
Remember the therapeutic spas and massage tables of the Peninsula Hot Springs are only a chip shot from the last green – sort of like a new version of the nineteenth I guess!
Published in International Golf Leisure and Lifestyle magazine Summer edition 2005/06
Copyright 2005 The Licorice Gallery
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