At the outset, I feared that having only five days in Melbourne wouldn’t be enough. And, in truth, it wasn’t, but I did get to play some of the country’s top courses. I will definitely be there longer next time, but a short week turned out to be a dream golf trip.
Choosing where to play was easy. South of Melbourne, the otherwise common red clay is replaced by the sandy soil that architects dream about. It naturally follows that the area—called the Sandbelt—is home to some of the best courses in the world, all of which allow access to international visitors willing to write in advance and pay sometimes sizeable guest fees.
Here’s how my trip went, but to really see the courses, watch the video!
Day 1: Metropolitan Golf Club
The dark horse of the trip, “Metro” is known for superior conditioning, plus fast greens and firm fairways that promote the ground game expected on the links-type turf. Metro is also known for unique green complexes, the putting surfaces mowed to the edges of the bunkers. The resulting greens are not only beautiful but require a very good short game to score well. If Metro was on a better piece of land, it would be considered one of the region’s best.
Day 2: Victoria Golf Club and St. Andrews Beach
Victoria is on a piece of gently rolling land surrounded by Melbourne suburbs. The bunkers sit further from the greens than at Metropolitan, but feature plenty of slope. The Sandbelt is known for great short par fours and 15 at Victoria is one of the best with a risk-reward element off the tee and a sloping, well-bunkered green.
Australian Michael Clayton, the club’s consulting designer, joined me for the morning round, then I played St. Andrews Beach, a course he built with Tom Doak about an hour south. Technically not on the Sandbelt, St. Andrews Beach is on the Mornington Peninsula, a scenic, rural area bordering the ocean. The course is large in every way, with huge green complexes, wide fairways, and expansive views.
Day 3: Royal Melbourne East & West
All 36 holes at Royal Melbourne should be on every golfer’s bucket list. It combines the best of the green complexes at Metropolitan with the best of the terrain at Victoria. Alister MacKenzie and Alex Russell shaped the West Course using only a horse-drawn plough and scoop, proof as to how little the property had to be shaped for outstanding golf.
Royal Melbourne is one of the country’s most historic and prominent clubs, having hosted many prestigious tournaments on its Composite Course, a compilation of the best holes from the two 18s that is only in play for members and guests a few days per year. I wasn’t there on one of those days but was more than happy to “have to” play both layouts.
Day 4: Kingston Heath
My final round was one of the trip’s highlights. “The Heath” is built on gently sloping sandy soil along both sides of a small ridge. The famous Sandbelt green complexes are on display again with bunkering that rivals anything in the United States. The course is extremely playable: It’s less than 7,000 yards and there are only two sets of tees—one for men, one for women. The par threes are world-class, including a 19th hole built by Michael Clayton that is put into the rotation on weekdays to give one of the other short holes on the course a rest. The layout peaks, both literally and figuratively, on the famous par-three 15th, which plays up the ridge that splits the course. The shape of the green and surrounding bunkers epitomize the best of Sandbelt golf.
Do you have dreams of going to Australia to play golf? If so, leave us a comment below about where you’d like to play!