The Bellarine, a short drive from melbourne, is crying out for you and a mini-bus-full of mates to test its layouts, consume its wines and feast on its fine food.
Thirteenth Beach? Beautiful. Hairy and frightening, it’s rolling fairways with wide landing zones, sandy waste areas and thick rough you don’t want to go in. Greens of truth and justice. And even though on this day the wind must be 50 knots, there are still plenty of folks out and chopping it about, both courses busy. Such is the game’s power.
Off the tee I impress the Blues boys with a drive down the middle (though from there I make six) and birdie the second after a sandy from a fairway bunker more implausible than Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts. The wind is a freight train. Indeed, Mick – whose sandwich leaps from the cart and scuttles away to Tasmania – has played golf in Geelong for 50 years and has never known such conditions. It’s stiffer than The Shark at Augusta. Gee, it’s fun.
The trees have an African savannah look about them, with bare trunks leading up to canopy-style foliage; you could see a leopard hanging out of one. They call them Moonah trees and they look like giant bonsais (though, when I ask Mick what sort they are, he says “shit trees”). But they don’t come into play because the fairways are wider than the Strait of Hormuz. Miss them and you can’t play. Indeed, you should give up.
On the uphill par-five 11th, I smoke a drive low under the wind. Next shot is a pure three-wood which sails into the ti-tree left and may never be found. But the wind helps as much as hinders. At the 312m par-four fifth, I almost drive the green ... That I then take five to get down isn’t the wind’s fault; it’s just that sort of day. Birdies and triples; sublime and ridiculous.
After 18 raging, salty and enjoyable holes in which I strike the ball well and shoot something like 23-over (a credible effort, though I play off nine), we head to the clubhouse for pots of Carlton. The talk is of the difference between pots and sandy wastelands, and the Uni Blues’ plans to do it all again. They hand out prizes (29 stableford points wins) and banter as boys will, and it’s a fine way to spend an afternoon. Especially as the wind stops almost completely.
Dinner that evening is at Beach House Barwon Heads, a bubbling bar and restaurant where I chow down upon duck and “famous dim sims”, drink crisp sauv blanc (the things I do for you people) and check out the punters. They’re all ages, the place buzzing away as full restaurants do. Young staff are busy, takin’ orders, bringin’ the food. There are groups of men who have golfed today (you can tell) and are now enjoying further fruits of our great southern land. They order beer and wine and shots of something sticky, for this is how a well-lived life should be in a freedom-loving Lucky Country. So then I have a glass of pinot noir.