The 13th edition of the biennial matches between the Internationals and the United States returns to Royal Melbourne in December. If you’re planning to be there, make sure to take your gear and sample 14 of the best layouts in the sandbelt.
THE NATIONAL LONG ISLAND GC
Since joining the stable of The National Golf Club a few years ago, Long Island has gained greater and wider acclaim.
The sandy undulating landscape gives rise to some memorable holes, but it is the trio of holes that conclude the front nine which are among the standouts.
The par-4 8th – known as ‘Hogsback’ – is a gentle 310 metres and is unique because the fairway is shaped like a hog’s back, so tee shots down the middle are channelled to the left or right edge of the fairway. Good club selection is required to hold the green, which slopes away from front to back.
Green fee: Upon application.
How to play: Interstate golf club members can contact the club. A letter of introduction from your club is required when booking.
The Sandhurst Club offers two of the most recent championship additions to the golfing spoils to be found within a 40-minute drive of Royal Melbourne Golf Club – venue for the Presidents Cup.
Built on former cow pastures, both the older North Course and Champions Course are the work of five-time Open Champion, the late Peter Thomson, and long-time design partner Ross Perrett. In addition to the two par-72 courses, featuring expansive bunkering, rolling fairways and views of the Dandenong Ranges, Sandhurst is an all-inclusive residential community with world-class facilities and is home to the PGA
Green fee: Prices vary. Fees start from $58 (midweek) or $68 (Sunday).
How to play: Tee times are available Sunday to Friday. Bookings can be made online.
Rolling couch fairways, punctuated by creative and strategic fairway bunkering and large, subtly sloped greens generally surrounded by sand are the order of the day of this Sam Berriman design.
It is 68 years since Cranbourne opened for play and chances are, if Berriman was alive today, he may not recognise his layout. Over its first two decades, course superintendent Gordon Black transformed the landscape by planting thousands of trees, which now frame every hole. He also established Cranbourne as a beautifully maintained layout – a legacy that remains today.
Green fee: $70 (midweek).
How to play: Restricted tee times are available for visitors. Bookings are essential.
PENINSULA KINGSWOOD CGC
“Peninsula Kingswood is a gift to the game of golf – a great test that sits comfortably alongside Melbourne’s other Sandbelt gems like Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath.”
This glowing complement came from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – a golf tragic whose favourite book is The Spirit of St Andrews, by Dr Alister MacKenzie – during the official opening of the new North and South Courses in May.
The design firm of OCCM – Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Clayton, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead – has overseen the biggest course redevelopment in recent history, which will undoubtedly propel the remodelled North and South Courses onto the world stage.
RIGHT: Peninsula Kingswood. PHOTO: Brendan James.
What impresses most about the new layouts? It’s hard to know where to start. The routing is brilliant. But it will be the large bentgrass putting surfaces, the spectacular flash bunkering and outstanding close mown areas that ‘connect’ green complexes with the next tee that you will long remember.
Both courses are not incredibly long but require good strategy to score well but, most importantly, they are a lot of fun to play.
Green fee: N/A.
How to play: Peninsula Kingswood is a private club but offers tee times for international and reciprocal guests.
Victoria is another Melbourne Sandbelt course that has recently undergone some remodelling.
OCCM supervised the conversion of the predominantly poa annua putting surfaces to Pure Distinction bentgrass, while several greens were rebuilt with subtle changes made. The greens are now cut all the way to the edge of the surrounding bunkers to maximise the number of pin positions that can be offered and increase the strategy required to get approach shots close.
Green fee: Upon application.
How to play: Interstate guests can contact the club for a tee time.