The Mornington Peninsula boasts the greatest concentration of top ranking courses in Australia. In fact of the 17 courses featured here, 13 are ranked in Golf Australia’s Top-100 Courses in the country.

Combine the five star golf courses with the Mornington’s reputation for sophisticated off course attractions, and you will find yourself planning a return trip before heading home. And it’s only a shade over an hour south of Melbourne’s CBD.

Enjoy the food, the wine and the sights, but best of all enjoy the golfing delights the Mornington Peninsula has to offer.

Moonah Links Legends course. PHOTO: Brendan James.

MOONAH LINKS

Back in 1998, the then named Australian Golf Union (AGU) had a masterplan to create two championship courses, a state-of-the-art teaching and practice facility as well as a resort and residential development in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula.

It was the birth of Moonah Links and it became known as the ‘Home of Australian Golf’. Millionaire businessman and farmer Paddy Handbury owned the property and oversaw the completion of the Open course.

Designed specifically to host the Australian Open on a regular basis, the Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge and Ross Perrett-designed par-72 opened for play in 2001. The layout has been routed over, through and around rolling sand dunes that are a real feature of this Cups region of the peninsula.

For the average golfer, the Open course provides a stiff, but fair, challenge. Thomson likes to refer to the Open layout as a “leviathan” and, indeed, at 6,783 metres from the championship markers it can be a monster. The peninsula is prone to being buffeted by strong winds and the Open course really bares its teeth on such days. But the strength of the challenge here is the enjoyable aspect of any round across the Open course’s fairways. You know if you can play to your handicap here you have indeed played well.

The Legends course may have been the second course opened at Moonah Links but today it is generally ranked slightly higher than the neighbouring Open course. Legends opens with a series of holes that rise and fall through valleys and in between long and dense stretches of ancient Moonah trees.

The course then takes on a new complexion as the Moonah trees thin out and wild, rugged bunkering, high sand dunes alongside gently rolling fairways give rise to a links-style course.

Very little earth was moved in the creation of the Legends course, which gives the impression it has been here for decades. Perrett did a wonderful job in routing the course to follow the pitch and roll of the land, sticking to the low ground wherever possible, while the aforementioned bunkering is not only intimidating but it adds to the visual appeal of the layout.

Moonah Links Open course. PHOTO: Brendan James.

Handbury sold Moonah Links for $18 million to a Chinese-Australian consortium in 2015. Since taking over, the new owners have invested strongly in both courses, which is evident in the high standard of conditioning of the playing surfaces that now greet visitors.

Green fees: $75 (June-Sept); $85 (March-May); $95 (Nov-Feb). www.moonahlinks.com.au

EAGLE RIDGE

All of the courses that have been added to the Mornington Peninsula landscape during the past 25 years can be found within 10 minutes’ drive of each other in what has become the famed Cups area. Lying right in the heart of this area is the under-rated Eagle Ridge course.

Eagle Ridge began as the Carlogie Golf Course but during the past three decades it has undergone several major redesigns, the latest being in 1999 under the eye of Pacific Coast Design’s Phil Ryan.

In 2007 all 14 fairways were converted to Santa Ana couch and the greens surrounds were changed to Penncross bentgrass.

The grass conversion was a resounding success and, 10 years on, the playing surfaces are excellent.

Eagle Ridge is definitely a quality alternative to the neighbouring links layouts. Trouble lurks on most holes, with well-bunkered greens and fairways common throughout.

The closing hole of the Eagle Ridge course. PHOTO: Brendan James.

The bunkering of this par-72 is plentiful and can be visually intimidating, especially if you find yourself in the sand with more than a wedge required to reach the green. Ryan’s sandy hazards are a mix of small deep pots and expansive stretches of irregular shapes. The downhill par-3 8th hole, for example, features a pot bunker in front of the tee, while a 60-metre sprawl of sand lies just beyond. A further six bunkers can be found around the edge of the large green.

Eagle Ridge’s penal bunkering is no more evident than when you head down the final stretch to the clubhouse. The 522-metre par-5 18th is a great closer that calls for length and accuracy as well as good strategy. A steep hill descending to the fairway may assist the longer drive but that’s all the help any player gets here. Large bunkers hug the edges of the fairway for most of the remaining 200-plus metres to the green. The green is massive and almost entirely surrounded by a picturesque lake, with more than two-thirds of the green’s fringe sloping steeply down to a watery grave.

Like nearby Moonah Links, Eagle Ridge was sold to a Melbourne-based family early last year. The new owners immediately updated all the machinery in the maintenance shed and have signalled an intention to further improve the course, which has previously been ranked in Australia’s Top-100 Public Access Courses.

Green fees: Book online, prices given in real time. Winter special through to August 31 includes 18 holes golf in a cart plus a pie and chips for $48. www.eagleridge.com.au