The sandbelt region of Melbourne boasts a fabulous group of golf courses that epitomise the golden age of golf architecture. These highly ranked layouts are built on land in the southeast suburbs ideal for golf and conveniently located within a short distance of each other.
Soil and climate
A rich vein of sandy loam subsoil in the region provides the rare opportunity to construct incredible green complexes defended by bunkers with quite heavy lips, while the fairways are covered with a base grass of couch noted for its firmness and year-round vibrancy. Also, the temperate climate around Melbourne is perfect for producing bent grass putting surfaces.
All sandbelt clubs are private clubs, but if you are a member of an international golf club that has reciprocal membership, then it is possible to play on some of these courses. Golf tour operators can also access some of the private sandbelt courses, provided players meet the clubs' requirements.
Royal Melbourne (East and West), Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, Commonwealth, Huntingdale, Yarra Yarra, Peninsula (North and South), Woodlands and Spring Valley are all championship venues masterminded by acclaimed architects.
Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Cheltenham Road, Black Rock
Ph 03 9598 6755
West course length: 6061 metres, par 72
East course length: 6007 metres, par 72
The West Course was designed by the legendary Dr Alister Mackenzie and features all the elements of strategic design that make the game both challenging and enjoyable for both professionals and amateurs. A classic example of Mackenzie's work is the 10th hole measuring less than 300 metres. A cavernous bunker set into the hill defends the green and dictates club selection. Players have a range of options available on what is a wonderful example of risk-reward golf. Alex Russell designed the East Course. The 18th hole has determined the winner of many big tournaments and matches. It is rightfully considered one of the finest finishing holes in golf. A composite course combining 12 holes of the West Course and six from the East is used to host Major events. This format is used so that play is contained in the main paddock and no roads are crossed over. The Composite has long been rated in the top 10 courses of world golf.
Kingston Road, Cheltenham
Ph 03 8558 2700
Course length: 6336 metres, par: 72
The number 2 ranked course in the nation and for good reason. Designed by Dan Soutar but the influence of Dr Mackenzie should not be understated. Strategic bunkering and wicked green contours are standout features. While native vegetation forms a natural boundary for each hole. During a visit to Melbourne, Mackenzie advised the club to shorten the 15th hole from a blind par 4 into an uphill par 3 with a steep tilt from back to front. The 15th is now considered a work of genius. The blind approach shot on the 17th hole adds even more to the challenge especially at such a critical stage of the round.
The Metropolitan Golf Club
Golf Road, South Oakleigh
Ph 03 9570 3774
Course length: 6469 metres, par: 72
'Metro' is the nearest of the sandbelt clubs to the CBD and has hosted seven Australian Opens, the last in 1997. At the turn of the century Metro also staged the only WGC match play championship played outside the USA. Widely acclaimed for years as having the best fairway turf in the country, playing surfaces are always in tip-top shape. The course is more than 100 years old and has regularly undergone subtle design changes, the latest being four years ago under the guidance of Mike Clayton.
Victoria Golf Club
Park Road, Cheltenham
Ph 03 9583 1170
Course length: 6278 metres, par: 72
Has been a terrific venue for many great tournaments with a list of credits including two Australian Opens in the past 25 years. Fairways flow through a gently undulating landscape among magnificent avenues of gums and native ti-tree. Features an outstanding collection of elevated greens surrounded by extensive bunkering. The design plan also incorporates several blind drives that land on down-slopes. The superb clubhouse offers first-class accommodation with play-and-stay packages.
Yarra Yarra Golf Club
567 Warrigal Road, East Bentleigh
Ph 03 9575 0575
Course length: 6102 metres, par: 72
Played host to many big national events including the Australian Open for women and the men's PGA title. An Alex Russell design featuring big greens with bunkers cut tight against the putting surface to create some extremely difficult hole-locations. All par threes are meritorious but none more so than the incredible eleventh hole – an uphill par three with a three-level green heavily bunkered and set diagonally to the line of play. It is invariably included in the experts' collection of the best 18 holes in Australia. The approach shot into the crested fifth green is also a standout.
Commonwealth Golf Club
Glennie Avenue, South Oakleigh
Ph 03 9575 0444
Course length: 6380 metres, par: 73
Widely known as a course where fairway bunkering and the orientation and contours of the green dictate the strategy. The finishing stretch of holes is quite memorable in both design and variety. The 16th sweeps around a natural lake to a beautifully sited green with a severe tilt from right to left. Regarded as the grandest clubhouse on the sandbelt, with majestic views across the first and last holes. Hosted the Australian Open in 1967 when Peter Thomson was triumphant and 43 years on is the venue for the 2010 Australian Women's Open.
Huntingdale Golf Club
Windsor Avenue, South Oakleigh
Ph 03 9570 4133
Course length: 6367 metres, par: 72
The popularity of the Australian Masters during a 30-year stay ensures Huntingdale is widely recognised in the world of golf. It is also the sandbelt's youngest course, being established at its present location in 1941. The layout features many subtle changes in elevation and direction, especially on the front nine. Tactfully placed bunkers tighten the gap for the low-handicapper, while giving the less gifted a chance to take an easier route. Greens are well contoured and generally divided into shelves. On the inward half, water on the left side of three separate landing areas influences strategy while ensuring no going to sleep as players finish off the round.
Peninsula Country Golf Club
Skye Road, Frankston
Ph 03 9789 2222
South course length: 6321 metres, par: 72
North course length: 6158 metres, par: 72
Two excellent layouts ranked in the nation's top 50. The north course built on sandy high ground with views to Port Phillip Bay has been handsomely renovated to rave reviews. The addition of strategic bunkering and heath land grasses has transformed the layout. A perfect example is the sixth – once a quirky short par four but now a design triumph with huge bunkers set in a diagonal formation that offer choices in line that can vary up to 60 metres. Following the success of the north, the south course has also been restored to a place among the elite. Several new holes add extra interest and a natural stream flowing through the property is now the defining hazard on the inspirational opening hole. On-site accommodation extends to 41 rooms with all-inclusive packages available.