Worldgolf Travel

The Greatest Location in the World for the Serious Golfer
by Ted O'Keeffe

What is the greatest location in the world for a serious golfer to visit - Monterey Peninsula, Florida, Pinehurst, the east coast of Scotland, the links of Ireland, ...? Surely nowhere in the world matches the sand - belt region of Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria, Australia.

Course variety is the key in Melbourne. Park your car at the corner of Warrigal Road and Kingston Road, a short walk from Kingston Heath Golf Club (#33 in Golf Magazine's 100 Greatest Courses in the World), and you're within a 5 mile radius of at least 18 full sized golf courses. If you choose to visit every one of them, you can do so without ever driving more than 5 minutes to reach the next. Indeed, from four of the courses you can hit a sand - iron over the fence into the next one, and in several other places the next course is within comfortable walking distance.

Melbourne offers quality along with the quantity. Those 18 courses include 4 of the World's 100 Greatest (#6 Royal Melbourne, #33 Kingston Heath, #91 Victoria, #97 Commonwealth) plus another that was once ranked in the top 100. They also include 13 of the 100 greatest courses in Australia, 8 of them in the top 20 — and Australia has no shortage of fine golf.

The jewel in the crown is the magnificent 36 - hole layout at Royal Melbourne. The Composite Course is currently ranked #6 in the world by Golf Magazine. It thoroughly deserves that exalted position, but the club's two courses are outstanding in their own right. Golf Australia magazine rates its West Course #1 in Australia, and its East Course #3. The West was designed by the incomparable Dr. Alister Mackenzie. Mackenzie is the only architect ever to design three of the world's six highest ranked courses, despite working more than 60 years ago without the benefit of modern earth moving equipment. The West Course is characterised by wide fairways which seem almost impossible to miss but which provide devilishly difficult approaches if you hit them in the wrong place; by large, undulating greens which are perhaps second in speed only to Oakmont; by Mackenzie's spectacular bunkering; and if you miss badly enough in the wrong place, by thick tea - tree bush that convinces you that you'd be better off carrying a scythe than a sand - iron. There are competent judges who claim that Kingston Heath is even better than Royal Melbourne. Metropolitan hasn't been discovered by overseas experts yet, despite being a frequent venue for the Australian Open, but to Australians it ranks just behind Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath, ahead of the other Australian courses that have been ranked in the world's top 100. While these greats and others such as Victoria and Commonwealth have attracted world recognition, one of the great delights of Melbourne golf is to visit any one of a multitude of less heralded clubs and find pure golfing pleasure on a course that would be regarded as outstanding if it was located in any other city in the world. It is just another one of many in this Mecca for golfers—courses like Yarra Yarra, Woodlands, Spring Valley, ...

Many more quality courses are scattered throughout the metropolitan area of Melbourne, and these include another half dozen of Australia's 100 greatest. An hour's drive down the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay brings you to four more of the country's "top 100" courses (including The National, rated by Golf Magazine as one of the world's "hidden gem" when it first opened. Its spectacular coastal scenery loses nothing in comparison with the course. A similar trip down the western side finds Barwon Heads (a genuine links course rated in the top 30 in the country) and Anglesea, famous (but far from unique in this country) for the kangaroos that graze peacefully on the fairways.

The majority of these fine courses are home to private golf clubs, but as an interstate visitor I have never found any difficulty in arranging enough excellent golf to satisfy my needs. It is probably even easier for overseas visitors to gain access; you will find most if not of these clubs are receptive to a genuine approach.

Any month will do if you want good golf weather in Melbourne. It never snows in Melbourne; the average minimum winter temperature is about 7 degrees C (approx. 45 degrees Fahrenheit). The average maximum temperature in summer is about 25 degrees C (less than 80 degrees F); the mercury does reach 100 degrees F at times, but infrequently enough for the event to cause comment. It rains quite often in Melbourne—how else could they grow those lush green fairways—but it's usually a light misty rain that need not interfere with golf at all. The average rainfall is less than 12 inches a year.

The area offers far more than fantastic courses. The sand belt lies less than 10 miles from the centre of Melbourne, a city of some 3 million people which is generally regarded as the arts and cultural centre of Australia. You will find theatres, galleries, nightclubs, a major casino, great shopping, zoos, and all the other attractions of a major city. Melbourne is only a few hours drive from the southern end of the Great Dividing Range. The mountains are small by American or European standards, but they provide good skiing in winter and fine bushwalking in summer. A short drive beyond Barwon Heads takes you past outstanding surfing beaches to the Great Ocean Road, a magnificent coastal drive that compares favourably with any in the world. If it's cute wildlife that catches your fancy, you will want to join the multitudes who take the day trip to Phillip Island, where the fairy penguins waddle up from the beach to their nests at sunset every night.

Perhaps you have decided that I should admit to being a biased local, boasting about his own city. However, I am not a Melbourne local. My home is and always has been 600 miles to the north, in Sydney. I am as ready as anyone to make unfair comparisons between Sydney's brilliant sunshine and Melbourne's grass growing, drizzling rain; between our magnificent harbour and their slowly - flowing river; between our superb city beaches and Melbourne's flat, surf - free bay; and without too much effort I could think of many further insults to hurl towards my southern friends. However if they want to win that argument, all they have to do is utter one word. Golf! As an ardent golfer I unhesitatingly admit that the wealth of golf in Melbourne beats anything Sydney can provide. We have one of the world's greatest courses, and I am privileged to call it my home club, but I will concede that Royal Melbourne outdoes it. While there are perhaps a handful of courses in Sydney that belong in the next tier, you would certainly need your toes as well as your fingers to count off the number of similarly "near -- great" courses in Melbourne.

So if a Sydneysider is willing to recognise that golf in Melbourne is better than it is in Sydney, Melbourne golf must really be great.