When I was planning my trip, Mike Clayton a very good architect from the Melbourne area, suggested that we play Peninsula. The course is quite a distance south of all the others and is set out over some really hilly land. The course opens with strong uphill par four to an elevated green. The next par three plays over a valley and up into a beautiful bowl with a very large dune behind. The third then turns and plays significantly downhill as a par five with the second shot tumbling well down to the green set on an elevated plateau. At this point I was pretty blown away by the quality of the golf and particularly by the land the golf course is on. That three hole stretch was pretty exciting golf.
The cool seond hole
The course continues with a cool par five played up a beautiful valley which is followed by a long par four that plays over some great terrain. The 6th was my favourite drive with a series of wonderful carry bunkers that split the fairway into a diagonal line across the middle. The hole was wide and would have presented a great decision if the green wasn’t so incredibly large and flat. This was what Mike wanted to talk about and we ended up talking about how to induce the option of playing to one side or the other with a green design. The holes were strong, but many of them needed a little more detail around the greens to be as interesting as the other courses I had seen.
The downhill par three that followed was excellent and made even more beautiful by the fact that the hole was more open than most allowing for views of the natural terrain and ocean beyond. The par four that followed playing out to a spine was another interesting hole to play, except once again the green was too large and there was no strategic advantage of playing an aggressive shot. Mike talked about the potential green rebuild (a program that they are in the middle of for all the greens) and the idea of building a green that falls away on both sides (matching the spine) that would definitely make the hole more interesting and strategic from the tee. All I could think was how cool is this place and why was this not on anyone’s list of must plays.
While I really liked the 10th green, the 12th hole over a spine (revised by Mike), Mike’s borrow of the 4th green at Woodlands used on the 14th, and the 15th is definitely a great par three; the course was not near as strong through the second half. The land flattens out once you get to nine and the holes begin to run more back and forth along the bottom. There is nothing bad about the back nine at Peninsula, but it does sort of run out of impact as it progresses along. The best way I could put it is it needs more attention to the details around the greens (bunkers, hollows, roll offs, contours) to bring the level of interest many of the Sandbelt courses do despite the flatness of the terrain.
The one thing going for the course is Mike Clayton. He has fixed a lot and continues to work on the course improving the golf course each year. I’m pretty convinced that if Mike is given more licence to keep adding bunkers and interesting short grass areas to the lower holes, the golf course will slowly begin to creep onto people’s list of recommended plays in the Sandbelt.