Blog 18 – National, Old

Course no. 18 – National Golf Club, The Old Course, Cape Schank, Vic

Iconic, unique, polarising, penal, breathtaking – superlatives often associated with this Robert Trent Jones design that opened in 1988

Nomadic_golfer : February 2020

Par 72, 6313m, slope 135 (blue)

4 par 3s from 139 – 198m, 10 par 4s from 308 – 420m, 4 par 5s from 473 – 521m

The original of three courses at the Cape Schank site of The National Golf Club, this Robert Trent Jones Jr design has had many superlatives used to describe it since the first ball was hit in anxious anticipation in 1988. Iconic, unique, penal, breathtaking, masterpiece, polarising and they’re just the ones I’ve used. It is ranked 16 in Australian Golf Digest’s latest rankings.

I have not played another course where your score on a good day (form, weather conditions, tee and pin positions) will vary as much as your score on a bad day. I have a personal example; my first 2 rounds on The Old were 21 shots apart! In general, the fairways are quite wide, but there is absolutely no forgiveness if you miss the mown surfaces; thick ti-tree and bush if you’re not lucky enough to find a deep, sharp-edged bunker. Take plenty of balls if the wind is up and/ or you’re feeling a bit wobbly with the driver.

The Old’s condition is always good, with the MacKenzie bentgrass greens never looking perfect but always rolling well and the santa anna fairways consistently good. There are a number of ‘catchment areas’ that are prone to heaps of divots, however. The contours of numerous fairways and greens push the boundaries and test your patience; there are many instances where the best approach is not what appears to the naked eye. That is, the best route to many pin positions is to land on a spot 10 to 20m off the green and watch it run sideways, and a number of the pin positions on greens dictate that the best starting line for your putt is nearly 180 degrees from the hole.

The ocean is in view from 16 of the 18 holes, none more spectacular than the iconic par 3, 7th hole of 137m, the most photographed hole in Australian golf (main photo & bottom, middle row). There are spectacular, unique and quirky holes all over the place but the key to a good round is the start. After a gentle opening hole, 2 and 3 are beasts (420m with a funnel-shaped fairway, deep fairway bunkers and a raised green, followed by 390m with a steep uphill 2nd to a severely tiered green) that will get the heart beating and have destroyed many a round in the first half hour.

My other favourite holes are: the driveable, uphill left to right par 4 12th (right hand photo, looking back from the green) and the massive risk/ reward par 5 17th (bottom right photo) where you choose how much of the corner to cut off and for the brave it can be a short iron second or reaching back into the bag for another ‘aggot!

A round at The Old is never short of entertainment and you learn new things about positioning every time you play it. As a member of this club, it is a thrill to take visitors to this course and scare the hell out of them.

A big thank you again to Gary Lisbon Golf Photography for the spectacular photos, he’s the best in the business. Check out his work at He’s also on instagram @garylisbongolf