Location: Barwon Heads, VIC
Architect: Tony Cashmore & Nick Faldo
Date Played: 10th April 2016
The final Top 100 golf course to be played south west of Melbourne was Thirteenth Beach Golf Links Creek course, located on the Bellarine Peninsula. I had heard a few mixed reviews about this, so was not going in with high expectations, especially as I had played at Barwon Heads Golf Club the week before. Late last year I had also played Thirteenth Beach’s more highly rated Beach course. So my regular playing partner James and I set out for the day of social golf as a part of my April crusade, to play one top course each weekend.
The entrance to Thirteenth Beach Golf Links
Thirteenth Beach has two courses, the initial Beach Course completed in 2001 and the Creek Course, 2004. Located on the same property, the former hugs part of the coastline, whilst the later is totally in land.
The Thirteenth Beach Golf Links clubhouse
The clubhouse if very modern with good facilities, both before and after your round. During summer the outside lounge area is great to watch the first hole on the Beach course, but also the 4th green.
Foyer in the clubhouse
Thirteenth Beach Golf Links is now host to the Victorian Open, both men’s and women’s. What makes this even more significant is that both events are held at the same time, with alternating men and ladies groups, on both of the clubs courses. Quite innovative and ensures a decent crowd attendance.
Map of Thirteenth Beach Golf Links Creek course
The first half of the course incorporates quite a bit of residential area, whilst the second nine is a bit removed. Must admit it is always find it more enjoyable playing when houses are not around. Originally the land was used for asparagus farming, which ceased in the 1970’s, with beef cattle farming taking over. In 1999 plans were put in place to make the property a residential/golf facility, with the first course opening two years later.
Thirteenth Beach Golf Links Creek Course Scorecard
Play for the day was from the blue tees. Although I love seeing the non bland lotto ticket style scorecards, which this club did have, it was also the most unusual size, not fitting into either of my scorecard holders. Little bit irritating as I like to protect the card as much as possible, whilst also having it at hand all of the time. Funnily enough I have just realised this was the 74th course played (although my second time at 74) as well as being ranked 74.
Hole 1 – 332 meter par 4
Starting the round is a mid length par 4 which turns to the left. A wide fairway welcomes the tee shot, but also invites the risk takers to carry the left side bunkers to shorten the approach. Hitting too long through the fairway may find further traps, however being closer to these improves the angle into the green.
Very undulated 1st green
Two traps are either side to the slightly raised green entrance. What I really found interesting here was the lower portion of the green at the left rear. More so intrigued if this portion is actually used for pin positions. A good opening hole. I am always impressed when the first hole, especially the fairway, is a little more forgiving for the first shot of the round.
Hole 2 – 468 meter par 5
Moving on to a mid length par 5, although with the easterly wind, this would play a bit longer for us. The hole has a slight turn to the left, which allows the player to take on the inside bunkers to gain a bit more distance. The fairway has ample room to play out to the right and with the fairways quite firm, a bit of run can be found.
Bunkers leading to the 2nd Green
The second or approach shot (depending on your distance) will also require to take on another slight turn to the left. A cluster of bunkers (shown above) are located well short of the green, but if carried open up the green.
Large front to the 2nd green
Further bunkers are found right and rear of the green complex, which has a large front leading in. A few small undulations were found on the putting surface, which was running quite pure. The greens themselves were a little firm, with the ball rolling out a little after hitting the green. A testing hole offering risks and reward on the first two shots. Tricky for the first time player, with some of the bunker deceptions, but with knowledge a more calculated risk can be taken.
Hole 3 – 157 meter par 3
The first one shot hole for the round is the mid length par 3. Bunkers are located at the front but also the left rear. Mounds at various parts around the green will lead to some interesting shot choices if you don’t land on the putting surface.
Quite large 3rd green
It wasn’t till we were approaching the green, did we realise how large it actually was. What appeared to be fairway leading in on the right, was actually the putting surface. Missing to the opposite side of the pin, will leave some very long putts. The putting surface itself has some gentle slopes and undulations. This was an enjoyable hole, more so after playing, with the small mounds and swales. For repeat players there could be greatly different experiences depending on the pin position.
Hole 4 – 386 meter par 4
Our first hole down wind, was this long par 4 which turned to the left. From the tee you are presented with a large hill containing bunkers on its left, which certainly stands out, but also blocks out where to hit. There were a few traps down the right also, which allowed us to pick what the line was into the green and how much of a turn was in play. Carrying the hill picks up some valuable distance, but caution is required with the small bunkers hiding on the opposite side.
Large swale before the 4th green
Trees line the left of the green, helping to keep any wayward ball in bounds, but it is the large swale to the front of the green, which may prove tricky for any short shots. The green actually runs away on most sides, except the rear, where a large trap is found. Nice strategic hole which will give a lot of satisfaction or heartache if failing to execute the chosen plan.
Hole 5 – 401 meter par 4
Up next is the longest par 4 on the course. From the tee, you are presented with a medium sized fairway, with a bunker to the right, but more importantly a couple to the left, which lead to the fairway narrowing. These are almost opposite each other however, which is a bit of a negative for me. The left side has a large tree closer to the green, whichcould potentially come into play making the approach.
Almost a punch bowl 5th green
With one bunker short of the green, this complex is almost classified as a punch bowl, very small one at that. The green slopes from the rear, with two tiers. This hole has some strategy from the tee, but is all about length and accuracy. Not the most memorable hole on the course.
Hole 6 – 121 meter par 3
A small par 3 which carries a gully, before reaching a green with a small bunker front left. What really stands out is the large trap a the left rear, being almost the same size as the green itself. Some native long grass must be carried before reaching the green complex which all slopes up to the putting surface.
Looking back at the 6th green
Surrounds of the green complex are quite generous, but have short grass leaving a variety of shots to be played. Nice visual hole which only really leaves one type of shot to reach the green, due to the large slope leading in.
Hole 7 – 463 meter par 5
The second par 5 of the day, is similar distance to the first. This almost looks like a portrait from the tee with trees either side showing a landscape of the entire hole. A wide fairway awaits, but being to far to the right brings trees into play for the second. Too far left may find the cluster of bunkers, but these can be carried for longer hitters.
Approach from the 7th fairway
It is not until the second shot that water comes into view on the left. Risk reward is offered here with a clearer line to the green, otherwise playing to the right allows a safe landing area. There are multiple bunkers in view, near the water, to the left (more for safety protecting the entrance to the club) and beside the green. There is a slight rise up to the green complex, with its gentle slopes. The rear runs away dramatically for anything slightly long. My first thoughts looking at the hole from the tee was not enthusiasm, but after reflecting, a great variety of strategies can be employed.
Hole 8 – 350 meter par 4
A medium length hole which has a lot to offer, but detracts in visual with the ugly cart path running up the middle. This isn’t helped with the ground being so flat. Having a slight carry to the fairway, the water hazard to the right will get the attention of most. For me water doesn’t exist, until my ball finds its way into it at least. The fairway is a lot narrower than those previously played, but wide enough to give a comfortable bail out area. For good measure a bunker has been put on the left of the fairway to give the player a bit more to think about.
Scenic view to the 8th green
Playing to the right of the fairway leaves a slightly clearer line into the green. A large bunker is situated at the front, along with a deep channel, which leaves a large slope to reach the green. The putting surface has some gentle slopes to contend with. Enjoyable challenge, offering some risk with both shots to reach the green. Great hole for all levels of golfers as well. We had a mixed group in front, with the ladies not being long hitters. Having the option to go around the water hazard, ensured they could still play the hole.
Hole 9 – 290 meter par 4
Finishing the front loop is this short par 4. A wide fairway is available. The only issue is the right is peppered with bunkers, making the hole a dogleg right. Ample room is available to the left for the traditional line in. This is a hole where it is helpful to have played twice, really showing what options are available.
Open front to the 9th green
Bunkers cover the rear of the green complex, which I think are more in play from the tee than for the approach. The front and left of the green slope away. It becomes clearer also that the green is quite narrow, unless approaching from the left side of the fairway. Good hole which offers some risk, especially if trying to attack the hole, whilst playing the traditional line, should allow for an easy par
Tee marker for Creek course
Quite different from the Beach course, the tee markers have a simpler look fitting its surrounds. Unfortunately the pin flags were your stock standard type, with no fancy design.
Hole 10 – 508 meter par 5
Starting the back nine is the longest and hardest par 5 on the course. A mound with two large traps is located to the right, in which direction the hole slightly turns. The fairway is much narrower than the previous long holes, but has quite a lot of open area, which has varying wild grass, from which a shot is playable. A water hazard is to the left, but not really in play, unless you have had a terrible drive.
Heavily bunkered 10th green
With a large undulation through the middle of the fairway, used if the water hazard over flows, the ground gently rises towards a green built into the hill. Six bunkers are found around or near the green complex, but an opening exists to the left allowing the ball to run in. A nice hole to start the back nine, with a few challenges to contemplate. On what is fairly flat land, some minor alterations make the mounds and undulations not look out of place.
Hole 11 – 393 meter par 4
From the hardest par 5 to the hardest par 4. This dogleg left hole is well designed. Bunkers down the inside can be carried, but will leave the golfer struggling to reach the green in two if found. There is ample room to play safe, but increases the distance for the second, whilst also bringing in the greenside bunkers a lot more.
Approach from the 11th fairway
The green complex is slightly raised with numerous undulations surrounding. Two large bunkers to the right should be avoided, but playing to the left of the green may leave a tricky shot, with the putting surface being narrower from this direction and running back towards the traps. Enjoyable hole as it can be played many ways. Was interesting to see two strategies of the hole played out, with varying results.
Hole 12 – 140 meter par 3
A mid length par 3 was next, with water most of the way down the left. The green is squeezed between this and a large mound to the right, with a large trap for good measure. The hole allows for all level of play with fairway out to the right, which enables water to be well avoided.
Undulating 12th green
The green complex has a lot happening. Large swale before the green, but also running around the surrounds of the left. Multi tiers on the putting surface, ensuring that those landing in the wrong portion, will not find an easy two putt. This was probably my favourite par 3 for the day with its good design aspects. I love the way it has been designed for all levels of play, yet the green ensures it is not too simple for the experienced player.
Hole 13 – 329 meter par 4
The two following holes were short par 4’s. First a hole turning to the right. To the left, out of bounds if a bit erratic, whilst the right has a large expanse of short rough. Trying to drive close to the green, brings two trees into play, blocking the line to the green.
Approach from the 13th fairway
Trees on either side of the fairway could come into play, more so if you have driving too close. From the middle of the fairway, a clear gap is found, with green side bunkers left as the defence in reaching the putting surface. I’m never really a fan of trees on the fairway, although without, the hole would be a little boring. Still undecided how I feel on this hole. There are a few strategies that can be taken, allowing for a variety of play, but the approach is where things start getting limited.
Hole 14 – 283 meter par 4
By far one of my favourite holes on the course, was the shortest par 4. This was one of the biggest risk reward holes. The green sits straight ahead, however a large tree, with water to its left, stand in the road of reaching. Bunkers are to the right of this, lining that side of the fairway, but there is plenty of room to play safely in this direction, just increasing the distance and difficulty to the green.
Carry the bunkers from the 14th fairway
The left side has the easiest approach, just difficulty in getting there. Fairway and green side bunkers come into play on the right. As for the putting surface, the gentle slopes are running from the rear. This truly does offer great risk and reward from the tee with its good design. A hole I could quite easily play over and over.
Hole 15 – 160 meter par 3
What would be termed the ‘Hero’ hole, the longest and hardest par 3 requires a carry over the water hazard, no ifs or buts. The tee is slightly elevated, with the same occurring with the green on the other side.
Multi-tiered 15th green
There are various hollows on the green surrounds, with one large slope leading away at the front. The putting surface has multiple tiers to contend with and can be deceiving with its distance. I love the challenge of these holes and the design of the green, but feel for those that maybe starting out in golf or in their twilight years, which may struggle with the carry required.
Hole 16 – 375 meter par 4
This long par 4 has a large mound with bunkers, to the right. A small amount of fairway sits to the left, but the mound blocks most of the fairway beyond, it is hard to get a true indication of the line to play. It is only when reaching this point you realise there is quite a lot of landing area for the drive.
Split 16th fairway
There is a slight break in the fairway to be carried with the approach, which I thought was a little unusual. A large mound is found short of the green, disguising how far the land falls away between the fairway and green complex. The narrow putting surface, sits a little raised, with steep slopes away on most sides. Another well designed hole, using some man made mounds to deceive the distances for the tee shot and approach.
Hole 17 – 478 meter par 5
The penultimate hole is a mid length par 5, requiring a decision from the tee. With water down the right, bunkers in the middle left of the fairway, do you try and carry these or layup short.
Bunkering beside the 17th fairway
If playing as a three shot hole, the next decision is where to layup. Bunkering to the right of the narrowing fairway, will leave a difficult shot to reach the green, but if going to far left, brings the left green side bunkers into play for the final approach.
Large slopes around the 17th green
The standout on this green complex, was the large sloping away at the right and rear. Missing in this direction leaves a difficult shot back on the green, which is not overly wide. A nice hole to start closing out the round, leaving decisions to be made on every shot.
Hole 18 – 397 meter par 4
Although not the longest par 4 on the course, on our day of play, the wind had to had another 20 meters of play. This hole is a dogleg to the left, which has heavy bunkering, but a large landing area exists. The start of the fairway is unseen from the tee, especially to the right, which falls away before rising again to the large tree. ,
Fortified 18th green
A large opening is available to reach the green, but some steep slopes lead in, which may stop those running the shot in. The putting surface is quite large, with some open space to the right. Bunkers are the danger, in particular to the right, where three sit in waiting. The green complex looks quite intimidating, but plays quite fair. A tough finishing hole, especially into the wind. There has been some thought in the design, especially over such a long distance. Wide fairway landing areas, allowing a couple of different lines to approach, and a decent gap to bring the ball onto the green.
In summary it was an enjoyable day out. The Creek course is well deserved of its place in the Top 100 courses in Australia. There were quite a few great designed holes, which were a pleasure to play. Overall most holes allowed for a bit of strategy, offering some risks, although not all offered great rewards.
My biggest criticisms were the bunkers, which were light on sand for quite a few. The visuals were much better on the back nine, due to a big reduction in housing near the holes, which was quite a distraction whilst playing the front nine. Slow play was another, although this was more due to social golf and had nothing to do with the course.
Looking at the course makeup:
- Hole Directions – There was a huge variety allowing for conditions to have wide ranging effects during play. Directions faced were all over the compass, except south west. One hole, 5 was easterly facing, potentially getting the morning sun, whilst four holes have a westerly facing tee, only 14 was late in the round, averting major issues with sun directly in the face in the afternoon.
- Hole Lengths – Par three holes had a good variance in distance, the majority in mid length, although none were long. Par four holes ranged from short to long with the majority longer. Par 5 holes ranged from medium to long, with an even split between the two
- Hole Layout – There was a decent mixture in how the holes played, an even number left or right, where two shots or more were required to reach the green. Only two were comparatively straight
This was a course that impressed, in particular due to the negative feedback I had received. There was a good mixture of holes, allowing various shot types. The condition of the course was great, except the bunkers as mentioned earlier. The fairways were firm, allowing the ball to run some distance, whilst the greens were firm, but held properly hit balls. Putting speed was fast, but not too much that would spoil a round for beginners.
I wouldn’t hesitate to play again, but if I had a choice, to play between the two courses, the Beach would probably get preference.
How to play at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links Creek Course:
1. The Creek Course is publicly accessible on certain days. Contact the pro shop to book a tee time or the on-line booking system