“I love playing golf in the rain, because no one can see that I’m crying,” is a quote that summed up my game at The Dunes on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria. It wasn’t just any rain; it was the most torrential downpour I have ever played in. It was a true links, Scottish weather golfing experience and one that made me want to return and play this amazing course on a sunnier day.
Mornington Peninsula is home to some of Victoria’s best golf courses and around 200 vineyards, 60 wineries and at least 50 cellar doors. Our trip to the Peninsula in late April 2022 was our first road trip in 12 months, and it felt good to get out and sample some of the region’s best golf and wine. Before I get to that, I must mention the Peninsula Hot Springs. We purchased a full day ticket with picnic lunch. They offer around 70 hot springs and wellness experiences, with the pools fed by natural geothermal mineral waters from 637 metres below ground. Deck chairs are positioned amongst the gardens to take advantage of the views, and there is a steam room, plus private baths, and extra experiences you can purchase. Dipping into pools with temperatures edging close to 50 degrees, while the outside temperature was only 12 was amazing and the picnic lunch was top notch. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.
The Dunes is rated 23 in the top 100 golf courses on Golf Digest, and Saint Andrews’s Beach comes in at 25. Eagle Ridge doesn’t feature in the top 100 but we loved the course. Due to the weather we had to abandon ship on the 12th hole at The Dunes, concerned that our golf cart would float away. What we did play was a tough course with difficult lay outs. Sodden greens and wild winds provided more than the usual putting challenge and by the end of the day our scorecard reflected the horrendous conditions. The Dunes offers two courses, the main Dunes course which we played and the slightly less difficult Cups course. Hole nine was my favourite, I managed to avoid multiple bunkers that were strategically positioned for my tee shot, before taking on the dog leg and scraping my only par for the day. There are four par five holes so big hitters will enjoy the opportunity to ‘grip it and rip it’ and four par threes. However, tricky greens require precision placement or brilliant reads to avoid triple puts.
We were luckier with the weather for our game at Eagle Ridge. It felt like a more traditional Australian course, rather than a links course, with a beach feel, some beautiful views and wooded fairways which punished the occasional slice or shank. The course opens with a gentle par four to get you in the groove and the par threes make you think carefully about club choice and shots, but it is possible to make pars or birdies if you don’t try to be a hero. My hubby and I enjoyed the course, and both posted more respectable scores.
While we only had a few days in the region, we still squeezed in a few wineries. Mornington Peninsula is a cool climate wine region, and while temperatures don’t dip as low as Canberra, the area produces some good quality Shiraz and Pinot Noir and is known as Australia’s Pinot Coast. Our first stop was Yabby Lake Vineyard. Located only 50 minutes from Melbourne and a short drive from the Peninsula’s golf courses and hot springs, you can enjoy a tasting or stay for lunch while taking in the beautiful views of the vineyard. We only had time for a tasting, but the menu looked superb. While more partial to whites, I did enjoy their Heathcote Shiraz from their sister vineyard in Heathcote Central Victoria which had a bigger body taste and the Yabby Lake Chardonnay which I thoroughly enjoyed with pasta later that evening.
Our second stop was Quealy Wines. This vineyard is all about the winemaking process and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly and will happily explain where the wine comes from and how it’s made. The Pinots were the stars of the show. The Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, not normally my go to wines, were tasty and good value for money and the Pinot Noir was lovely.
Our final winery was Rare Hare. One of the bigger names on the Peninsula with an outstanding restaurant and accommodation on site, this 11-hectare vineyard offers traditional tasting sessions and wine experiences. The 2019 Willow Creek Vineyard Chardonnay was my favourite, followed by the 2021 Rare Hare Rosé and the 2019 Rare Hare Shiraz was my pick of the reds.
Before heading home, we played the picturesque St Andrew’s Beach golf course. My only complaint was the speed of play, an issue many golf players face. The course was busy and the play so slow that by the time we made it to the 18th hole it looked like a Woollies car park. But, apart from that, I really enjoyed this course and would happily play it again. It is a links style layout that embraces the natural geography and environment. It features some difficult fairways and hard to land greens and is a course that rewards smart play and good course management. The course starts with a monster par 5, with the first par 3 coming at hole 4 and this hole is very misleading. Hit too long or off the green and you’ll struggle to make par. I really enjoyed the challenge of this course and focused on playing my game and not the scorecard and as a result hit some lovely shots throughout the day.
There are numerous accommodation options and dining experiences available across the peninsula and you can start planning your trip through the Mornington Peninsula website at https://www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/
Photos. Top left: Willow Creek Vineyard photo courtesy of rarehare.com.au. Top right: The Dunes 9th hole photo courtesty of thedunes.com.au. Bottom left: Jackalope sculpture at Rare Hare. Middle right: saturated at The Dunes. Bottom right: One of the many hot springs with picturesque views.