Location: Port Fairy, VIC
Architect: Club Members (1963)/ Kevin Hartley (1980)/ Michael Clayton (2007)
Date Played: 10th October 2015
Second stage to the weekend away along the Great Ocean Road, involved a visit to Port Fairy Golf Club. After a false start to get there a few months before, I was glad to finally make it after the four hour journey.
Starting out as a nine hole course designed by members in 1963, it eventually became an eighteen hole layout in 1985, bringing some of the coastline into some of the holes.
Entrance to Port Fairy Golf Links
Arriving at the course, my expectations hadn’t been too high, but by the end of the round, I can gladly say I left feeling quite pleased to have played Port Fairy Golf Links.
Port Fairy Golf Links Clubhouse
The clubhouse is your typical small town country course clubhouse, but it is filled with friendly staff and great social atmosphere, due to its patrons. On the day of my visit we were being hustled by the ladies running the Legacy Day BBQ, but was only to glad to give a generous amount for the tucker.
An effort must be made to take in the town scenery whilst here. There are some great cafes and restaurants which should not be missed.
Map of Port Fairy Golf Links
Port Fairy Golf Links Scorecard
Playing with one of my wife’s work colleagues, Mark, we started on the back nine during the game, but I will detail in the traditional course layout.
Hole 1 – 463 meter Par 5
Walking up a steep hill to the first from the clubhouse, this is an elevated tee, with the hole sweeping around to the right slightly. The fairway has a water hazard along the left, separating the 1st from the 18th, while the hill and marram grass cover the right.
Scenic view of the 1st green
The one thing to note playing this course, is stay away from the marram grass. This will eat your ball, likely never to be seen again. If you do find it you may wish you hadn’t as the grass grabs hold of the club head when trying to swing through. This is a reasonable hole for the start of play and gives you a sense for what the course will be like.
Hole 2 – 326 meter par 4
A shorter par 4, playing a little longer than the yardage shows, due to playing up a slight hill. Quite wide from the tee, the main danger is the fairway bunker to the left. This is the first hole in in a run of five of the easier holes on the course.
The large 2nd Green
A slight gully must be carried to reach the green, which is protected on the right side. The putting surface has some gentle slopes running from the back.
Hole 3 – 304 meter par 4
Reaching the 3rd hole, we get our first glimpse of the Southern Ocean and what makes Port Fairy Golf Links so special, the coast line. This hole is a great par 4, which dog legs to the right. With a carry over sandy waste, you have the choice of cutting the corner to shorten the hole, or playing safe to the visible part of the fairway. This also depends on how the wind is blowing, as this area is exposed to the coast.
Approach from the 3rd fairway
Making the second shot will vary greatly, depending on how you played the tee shot. The green sits at the top of the hill, guarded by two bunkers to the center left, and another on the right. The ground slopes dramatically away on the front and right sides, whilst a raised rear will stop most shots from running too long. Certainly a hole which you need to play twice, allowing you to know how to make the best play.
Hole 4 – 167 meter par 3
One of the longer par 3 holes on the course, the green sits slightly protected by a dune to the right, however high shots will still be exposed to any of the potential conditions.
Bunkers guard the front of the 4th green
The putting surface itself has a slight slope away from the front, leading to bunkers on either side. Anything short to a front pin will require an accurate second shot. Not the stand out of the par 3 holes however.
Hole 5 – 448 meter par 5
Next we play the shortest and easiest par 5 on the course. From the tee this plays mostly uphill, with two fairway traps in play but plenty of room to land the ball.
Still climbing – Approach from the 5th fairway
The second shot is all uphill, to a green perched at the top. Port Fairy Golf Links, certainly has that seaside links feel. Plenty of undulations along the fairways, ensure your stance at times is going to be a little awkward and need adjusting to hit the ball.
Looking back from the 5th green
Great vantage point to look back over the hole and out to the ocean. Stop and enjoy the view.
Hole 6 – 327 meter par 4
The sixth is a short and fairly straight hole. The main danger is not finding the fairway with marram grass on either side, but a huge descent on the right will see a difficult return shot.
Two tiered 6th green
If the fairway is found, it should be a fairly easy shot into the green which has a small tier at the rear. Not the most exciting hole on the course, but one which can punish.
Hole 7 – 369 meter par 4
Another highlight of the front nine, this mid length par 4. Starting from a slightly elevated tee, the hole plays with a dogleg to the left. Staying close to the corner shortens the hole, but leaves a narrower shot to the green. Playing out to the right opens the green up but leaves a longer shot.
Looking across at the 7th green
The approach into the green has to be on the number. Anything short will stay that way, with a large slope at the front to the elevated green.
Hole 8 – 122 meter par 3
A walk up the steep slope gets us to the shortest hole on the course. More great views from here over the bottom section of the course, the tee shot is all about picking the right club and allowing for any breeze.
Multi tiered 8th green
The green is protected by bunkers on either side, whilst landing the ball in the wrong section of the green will result in a difficult putt.
Enjoying the view looking down at 7th and 8th Green
Hole 9 – 355 meter par 4 – Mark teeing off
Closing out the front is another mid length par 4. The hole has a slight turn to the right. Play is over a slight hill on the fairway, with numerous traps on either side.
Approach to the 9th green
Quite heavy rough is found leading into the 9th green, but no where as bad as the marram grass found throughout the course. This largish green has two traps protecting the front and a swale or two around the fringes.
Looking back from the 9th green
Nice hole to finish the front, before we get into the most scenic part of the course, the back nine.
Hole markers and maps found on each hole
One great aspect about the course, is a map on each hole. Great for sponsorship dollars for the club, but more importantly, for the first time or infrequent player, an idea on how the hole shapes.
Hole 10 – 320 meter par 4
To start the back is another shorter par 4. Playing relatively straight, the fairway slopes mainly from the left, with one trap located this side also. Quite a wide fairway to hit.
Mound partially blocks the 10th green
A slight mound blocks out part of the green, making it appear smaller. The putting surface slopes mostly from the rear and has two bunkers guarding the right section of the complex.
Hole 11 – 141 meter par 3
A medium length par 3 which does not have any bunkers, bit of a rarity. Being near the top of the hill, this green is exposed to the elements, which is its main defence.
Gentles slopes on the 11th green
Raised at the front, the slopes will ensure balls just coming up short will be repelled away. The putting surface itself has gentle slopes to contend with, so finding the green does not guarantee par.
Hole 12 – 465 meter par 5
Reaching the 12th, sees a stretch of holes, along the most scenic part of the course. It also means playing the hardest par 5 on the course which is totally exposed to the elements. Play is from an elevated tee, with the fairway slightly angling to the right. Heavy marram grass is found on either side of the fairway, whilst anything right, deals with going over the edge of the hill.
View to the 12th green
Making the second and possibly third shot to the green, are all up a gently inclining slope. The main danger along the fairway is playing to wide to the marram, but once we get closer to the green a few traps come into play. This is a hole, when the wind is up, which will test anyones nerves. But make sure you take in the scenery, not many courses in Australia have such great views.
Hole 13 – 278 meter par 4
Allegedly the easiest hole on the course, the shortest par 4 has one of the narrowest fairways on the course. Will tempt most people to shoot at the green, but being slightly wide will be punishing.
Looking back from the 13th green
With a small green built into the hill, this offers a little protection from the wind, but also allows this to be used to bring the ball in from the right hand side.
Hole 14 – 408 meter par 4
Probably one of the best holes on the course, is also the hardest and longest par 4. From the elevated tee, the fairway slopes away till the slight dogleg to the right. Dunes are found out to the right covered in native grass. Playing to safe to the left, could see your ball scoot down the big slopes on this side into heavy grass.
Playing from the hill on the 14th fairway
The approach to the 14th green, reminds me a little of the 5th at NSW GC, playing down a slope to the green, although this one is a lot more dramatic fall. There is plenty of room around the green for any slightly off line shot, with not a bunker to be found.
Looking back from the 14th green
Certainly a memorable hole to play on the course. The thing I love is that it takes in the natural landscape and doesn’t look too artificial.
Hole 15 – 178 meter par 3
Next we have the longest and hardest par 3 on the course. Also the most dramatic, sitting right on the coastline. From the tee we see quite a few mounds on the way to the green, with a large rise as we finally reach the putting surface. I’m told that the club selection here will vary from driver to short irons, depending on the wind.
Looking back over the 15th green
The green surrounds have have a few hollows on either side to navigate for any shot not quite on target, with gentle slopes found on the putting surface. Definitely a breathtaking hole and one which could truly be punishing in windy conditions.
Hole 16 – 365 meter par 4
To finish the coastline run, we get to the 16th, a mid length par 4 with a dogleg to the left. With sandy waste and a couple of traps on the left, its best to ensure you don’t take on too much of the corner. Again this tee shot is exposed to the elements being right on the coastline.
Jim playing approach to 16th green
Playing the approach is slightly uphill to a green with a large slope on the right, along with a few traps. There are a lot of mounds and hollows to contend with on the fairway and its surrounds, making the approach a little more difficult.
Looking back from the 16th green and the coastline
One last view of the coastline from this great par 4, then its all inland till we reach the clubhouse.
Hole 17 – 367 meter par 4
The last two holes are a stark difference to the rest of the course, in the design and condition. The boundary fence is fond all down the right of this mid length par 4, whilst it is almost fully lined with tress down the left. Play is to a hill, which partially obscures the green. This seemed almost like being on a farm playing this hole, rather than the rugged coastline which we had just left.
Large and open is the 17th green
The grass along this hole seemed to be a lot more lush, than other areas. Why this is the case I do not know. The shot into the green has to contend with bunkers either side and if too long a water hazard.
Hole 18 – 484 meter par 5
Finishing the round on the longest hole on course, I must admit this was probably the most uninteresting also. From the tee there is out of bounds to the right, separating the fairway from the driving range. There is also a water hazard along the left. Basically the hole seems to be almost totally flat. The fairway was full of what we assumed were crab holes, or some other burrowing type of creature.
The closing shots to the 18th green
Along the edge of the fairway is quite thick rough, as opposed to the marram grass found elsewhere. The last hurdle to overcome in reaching the green is a stream which runs in front. As I mentioned this was my least favourite hole on the course. It is the lowest point of the course, not sure if this might be flood plain, hence the reason for the fairway being extremely flat, or due to environmental reasons.
Looking down at the 18th green
So how did I feel about Port Fairy Golf Links? Well I must say straight after the round I was ecstatic, but I have had time to now reflect on the course. What can only be described as a traditional, old school type of design, which incorporates some of the best views for any golf course in the country. This is especially the case for holes 12 – 15, running along the coast. Built along the ridge, down to the flatter plateau but also taking in some of the ruggedness along the coast. The holes had a good variety in lengths between the different pars, however a majority ran in the east, west or vice versa direction. Only four holes had the slightest north-south, south-north directions. This is obviously due to the land available, but was noticeable.
The condition was good for a vast majority of the course. This is definitely not one of your top tier clubs, spending a fortune on manicuring the course. Having said that the greens ran pure, in fact a lot faster than I expected. The 18th fairway was the worst of all the holes. The small burrows made the hole look a mess, but you can’t really go and destroy a creatures home, if that is what they were for. Certainly a bargain to play, for what you receive in return and I wouldn’t hesitate to play there again.
How to play at Port Fairy Golf Links:
1. The course is publicly accessible on most days but limited times on Saturdays. Contact the pro shop to book a tee time