Founded in 1907, the Barwon Heads Golf Club moved to its present home, alongside the coastal dunes of the Bellarine Peninsula, in 1920 to a links designed by Royal Melbourne professional Victor East and built using horses to plough the hand-planted fairways, tees and greens.
Encompassing two distinct landscapes, the final twelve holes at Barwon Heads are routed among tight coastal tea-tree while the opening six head out across a classic piece of exposed linksland. Built within earshot of the ocean and adjacent to the seaside sandhills, these early holes are the standouts, particularly the right-bending 3rd, with its fairway set across the tee and played over an enormous sandy waste area. Generally heading into the prevailing south-west winds, the temptation is to carry as much of this waste as possible to shorten the approach into an elevated green. The next two tees offer great views down the Barwon Coast while the 6th heads back toward the clubhouse and a typically British green guarded by rough covered hillocks. The remaining holes are a little more demanding from the tee as the bouncy fairways feature the same natural contours but with tighter, and more severe, rough areas. The highlight of the back nine is the famous par three 13th, its tiny green is bunkerless but surrounded by wicked undulation and totally exposed to the elements.
Barwon Heads is a prime example of the sort of classic course technology is supposedly rendering obsolete. Tackled with the latest equipment and without the usually stiff coastal breezes, the track seems short, wide and straightforward. Such conditions are rare for these parts, however, and pitting your skills against this natural golf course and scavenging for pars on seemingly defenseless holes is surprisingly invigorating.