Weather aside, everything that stretches across the stunning landscape at The Dunes offers temptation and temerity in equal doses.

Nearly 20 years old, The Dunes remains a standout course on the Mornington Peninsula, where standing out is difficult to do, such is the calibre of layouts in this golf-rich corner of Victoria. Entirely public, and offering an adjoining and less taxing nine-hole sister layout, The Dunes became a favourite destination almost overnight.

Tony Cashmore’s magnum opus sits in the area of the peninsula known as ‘The Cups’ and yields magnificent land for golf. The original slogan at The Dunes was entirely apt: “God made it, we just mow the grass.” It’s cute, catchy and correct to a degree, yet Cashmore still had to give the site its personality and nuances. He did so with a collection of holes that twist and turn, forever keeping golfers on their toes. Only once during a round – at the 6th and 7th – do golfers play consecutive holes in the same direction, as the layout swirls as much as the breezes off Bass Strait do.

Cashmore and Dunes owner Duncan Andrews altered two holes in 2012, utilising newly available land in one corner of the property. The new 15th and 16th holes, a par-4 and par-5, flipped the pars of the previous versions and took play through the new pocket of land in a more enterprising manner. The 15th was formerly a ho-hum par-5 and is now a strong two-shotter to a green that has a unique sunken rear section that the surrounding contours work towards. The new 16th is now the par-5 and wraps around a huge blowout bunker on the left side of the fairway that frames the tee shot beautifully. Now more than four years old, the pair has bedded in nicely, to the point that they now blend in with the other 16 holes. A first-timer to The Dunes would not recognise that these two are 15 years younger than the rest.

The closing hole is the icing on the cake of a round that is never boring and is always challenging. PHOTO: Gary Lisbon

Earlier, The Dunes opens with its sternest par-4, a right-bending dogleg to an elevated green that gets the blood pumping immediately. Later, the cheeky par-4 4th can be driveable in favourable winds but the green is set obliquely to the fairway, making even wedge shots a taxing experience. If there’s a controversial hole, it’s long been the downhill par-3 6th, which plays far shorter than its 193 metres. The land falls towards the back edge of the green and all balls tend to meander to that point, almost regardless of where they land. It’s a risky, linksy tee shot where the result is at the mercy of the landforms – good shots are occasionally punished and poor shots rescued.

The Dunes doesn’t core its greens, as it instead entirely replaces one putting surface each year without altering the contours, meaning there are no nasty surprises to greet golfers each spring and autumn. The recently resurfaced 6th is the final green at The Dunes to be converted to the new variety of bentgrass, Penn A-1. This practice also removes the layer of thatch, or the accumulation of dead organic matter that increases disease potential, reduces water infiltration, softens the green surface and contributes to poor root growth and turf quality.

Aside from the two newer holes, two more stand out on The Dunes’ back nine. The par-5 12th requires a heroic carry on the second shot across an expanse of sandy waste where pars go to die, or there’s a longer, more timid route around the top side of it. The par-3 17th is, as Tom Watson once declared, an “exquisite golf hole”. Calling for either shot shape depending on the wind and flag position, the green is perched above a collection of deep bunkers and calls for a courageous swing regardless of the conditions.

Cashmore’s natural bunkering is a feature of the par-5 12th hole. PHOTO: Gary Lisbon.

FACT FILE

ADDRESS: Browns Rd, Rye, Victoria 3941.

CONTACT: (03) 5985 1334; www.thedunes.com.au

DESIGNER: Tony Cashmore (1997).

GREEN FEES: $65 (weekdays), $89 (weekends). The nine-hole Cups course is $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends. Book online for either course and save ten percent.

GOLF AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE TOP-100 COURSES HISTORY: No.25 (2012); No.24 (2014), No.27 (2016).

RANKING JUDGES’ COMMENTS:

“A wonderful natural golf course where Mother Nature has greatly influenced the design.” – Cameron Howell (2016).

The two new holes at The Dunes are a terrific addition to what is a superb course.” – David Elvins (2014).

“There is so much to like about a round at The Dunes. For mine, this rates as Tony Cashmore’s finest work as he worked hand-in-hand with Mother Nature to create a memorable golfing journey where no two holes are the same.” – Brendan James (2016).