After 24 hours of flying (including a 2 hour layover at LAX), the gang arrives at Melbourne at 10 AM, Wednesday morning. By 1 PM, we’re teeing off at the perfect get off the airplane course, Sanctuary Lakes, a Greg Norman design that could easily have been located in Central Florida. Not inspired to take pictures. Check in at the Melbourne Marriott followed by steak dinner.
Thursday (day 2) is our introduction to the Melbourne Sandbelt. The morning round at Huntingdale is a pleasant surprise. From the tee, this is the tightest of the courses we play. Fairway bunkers are at least a half/stroke penalty, as the steeply banked faces prevent anyone from reaching the green on their approach. Huntingdale has hosted 15 Australian Masters and is in the process of building a 12 million dollar clubhouse (part of a facilities makeover to win a bid to host future tournaments).
The afternoon brings us to one of our top 3 favorites, Kingston Heath, a fantastic design in perfect shape, with great facilities and very friendly staff (greeted in parking lot, escorted to locker room, and walked to first tee).
Friday (day 3) brings us to the top 10 world ranked Royal Melbourne (West). Great layout and staff (we’re walked to the first tee by one of the assistants), but unfortunately for us, the greens are not just up to their normal speed (staff has been working on killing the Poana on their greens). Bunkering is spectacular, and there are quite a few “Hell” type fairway bunkers. This is the first course we see with “infinity” greens where there is no fringe or rough between green and greenside bunkers (Metropolitan turns out to have even more of these). This green/bunker edging is a feature of Seth Raynor, Alistair MacKenzie, and Donald Ross, but has fallen wayside worldwide as it requires fly mowers and intense maintenance. (Liberty National and Isleworth are the only courses I know that have this design feature in the States, but there may be others).
If you make the trip down under, make sure you bring a low bounce 58* or 60* wedge. Green side bunker conditions are often very firm, and you’ll need height and spin to have a reasonable chance to get up and down.
Saturday and Sunday brings us down to Mornington Peninsula (100 km south of Melbourne). While wind has been significant in our first three days, we play our weekend rounds in very high winds (two to four clubs’ worth). Our first round at the St. Andrews Golf Beach Club is a huge surprise, Tom Doak at his finest in rolling dunes and hills with beautiful vistas. The Mornington courses have hazards which we fortunately do not encounter. Saturday afternoon finds us at the Dunes (which has some interesting features on sporting front followed by a very strong back nine). Sunday finds us at Moonah Open (great layout which has hosted the Australian Open) and the surprising Legends which starts very soft and gets harder as the round progresses. We miss our rounds at Moonah National and her sister course as no one wants to make the drive 3 times in 8 days. If you make a sojurn to Mornington, spend the night at the resort at Moonah Open.
Monday brings us to Metropolitan. We’d been hearing about it from fellow golfers the whole trip, and we adjust our schedule to get it in. The change is worth it. You’ll hit more greens at Metropolitan than you’ll hold. Miss them on the wrong side or shot shape, and your ball rolls from the green into a bunker. There’s not a bit of fringe or rough to prevent it.
Tuesday is another Sandbelt course, Commonwealth. Fun wide open layout (this would make a better get off the airplane course than Sanctuary Lakes).
Wednesday is our last round and we’re happy to finish at one of our top 3, Victoria Golf Club. This is a scenic and sporty course in great condition with killer fairway bunkers (again).