Royal Melbourne is a little bit of
Augusta National ‘Down Under’
There are so many great things to tell you about Royal Melbourne, I hardly know where to start. Both courses—the Presidents Cup will be played on a composite layout comprising 12 holes from
the West and six from the East—are built on magnificent
land and wonderful sandy soil. It is the most famous club
in Melbourne’s world-renowned Sandbelt, which also
contains brilliant courses such as Kingston Heath,
Metropolitan, Woodlands, Victoria, Yarra Yarra, Commonwealth, Huntingdale and Peninsula. Perhaps no
other city in the world has so many terrific tracks so
Royal Melbourne is the best of them though. And, like
the others, it is at its best when playing firm and fast. The
beautifully undulating land drains so well that the putting
surfaces and fairways form the perfect environment for
golf, even if it may appear at first glance to be a little
unkempt. You won’t see any “stripy” fairways, dark green
grass or bright white sand.
The design isn’t shabby either.
Royal Melbourne is the sort of place
you look at for the first time and see
some immediately obvious holes.
There are so many spectacular and
dramatic shots over big bunkers and
doglegs and into natural amphitheaters. I really can’t emphasize enough
what an astonishing piece of land it
is for golf.
The West course was actually designed by a famous
Aussie golfer, Alex Russell (who later did the East
course), and the head greenkeeper, Mick Morcom. But
they did so with help from Alister Mackenzie, particularly
in the bunkering and the green complexes. Mackenzie
visited Australia in the late 1920s and had an enormous
influence on how golf has been played in my homeland
By modern professional standards, the course we will
play in the Presidents Cup is not that long. Of the two
par 5s, only one is a “real” three-shotter, the other being
easily reachable with two well-placed and thought-out
shots. Yet don’t be fooled. Royal Melbourne’s par 5s are
among the best holes the club has to offer. They are a bit
like the par- 5 13th at Augusta National in that eagles will
be possible, but so will double bogeys. So there will be
plenty of excitement. Besides, in any match-play contest,
par is all but irrelevant; it’s all about playing better than
the guy or guys you are up against.
The best thing about the bunkers is that you will
never see a player faced with a difficult lie,
To me, that’s how golf should be played.
surfaces. So you’ll see a lot of balls trickling agonizingly
down slopes during the Presidents Cup. The greens are
traditionally very fast. Well-struck approaches, pitches
and chips will hit and stop just fine. But anything less than
that—or shots arriving from the wrong angle—will not.
The best thing about the bunkers is that you will never
see a player faced with a difficult lie, but he will nearly
always have a difficult shot. To me, that’s how golf should be
played. Everyone loves hitting from good lies, but you need
the challenge of a tough shot, too. If you have to give a
player, say, a plugged ball in sand or a bad lie in long grass
to make the game a challenge, then the course probably
isn’t good enough.
That isn’t something you’ll ever hear about Royal
Melbourne. I must have played the courses thousands of
times—I grew up less than a mile from the club and
caddied there as a youngster—but I can’t wait to get back.
It really is a special place. n