Location: Cheltenham, VIC
Architect: Dan Soutar (1925)/ Dr. Alister MacKenzie (1926)
Date Played: 27th September 2013
Thanks to my lovely wife and her great Christmas gift, I was given the opportunity to play at Kingston Heath Golf Club, one of the premier courses in the country. I remember my one and only visit in 2009 to watch Tiger Woods long awaited return to Australian soil, playing in the Masters. This was the first year it had moved from Huntingdale in an effort to bring new life to the event. What was truley fascinating was viewing the course minus all the peolple, grandstands and other aspects that go along with holding a golf tournament. It definetely was amazing the difference.
Entrance to Kingston Heath Golf Club in Cheltenham Victoria
Kingston Heath is one of eight official courses on the infamous Melbourne Sandbelt. It was first established in 1925 and had its origins from the Elsternwick Golf Club which was looking to relocate. Dan Soutar was the original designer of the course, with the green keeper from Royal Melbourne GC having the task of building the course. In 1926 design elements from Dr Alistair Mackenzie were incorporated, which were mainly centered on bunkering throughout the course.
The clubhouse at Kingston Heath
The first thing you notice after entering the grounds is the large white clubhouse, standing out against the course. There are plenty of practice facilities available just beyond the proshop, allowing you to prepare for what is to come on the course. I must commend the staff in the proshop, who were extremely helpful and friendly. I have been to some clubs in the Sandbelt where this wasn’t the case. This certainly made the day start on a great note.
Memorabilia from past winners at the course
On the way to the bar after the game, I came across some great memorabilia from past events and history of the club, which adds to the experience. The bar area overlooks the course and is a great place to unwind and relive the days play.
The members bar at Kingston Heath
The map below shows the typical course layout found for normal play. On my day of play the 18th was out of action, with the 19th hole being utilised, which is found behind the first green, running along to the second tee.
Map of Kingston Heath Golf Club
I was fortunate enough to be paired with two other members, Ray and John and another guest Greg, on the day. This enabled me to enter the local competition and at two dollars that was great value. The biggest difference between now and my last visit for the Masters was the course routing (and the lack of people). The first hole was actually the tenth during the tournament.
Scorecard for Kingston Heath Golf Club
Heading into the sun on the 1st tee
Around the start of the course it is quite flat and an open area. The tee area just blends in. Hitting off into the sun the round began. There is quite a large landing area for the first hole, but it is quite long hole for a par 4 at 418 meters. Landing in the fairway bunkers will all but rule out a par. This hole has a hill at the halfway point, after which it runs down to the green.
Looking back from the 1st green
More bunkers protect the right of the green, so missing short or left is the better options. There had been quite a bit of rain in Melbourne before my visit, so the surrounds to the greens were quite soft. My expectation of playing a lot of bump and run shots around the greens was killed on the first hole, leading to my shot not even reaching the green.
Playing the extra hole – 19th tee
The nineteenth hole, a 147 meter par 3, is only in play when course maintenance is being carried out. This was also in play during the Masters with the short tenth being taken out. I quite like this hole, not just because I had a birdie here, as it looks quite challenging to the eye from the tee. Play is from a slightly raised area to a slightly raised green. Numerous bunkers protect both sides of the green, but there is one area, where the ball can be run onto the green, so this to me is good golf architecture.
Happy with my birdie putt on the 19th green
Left of the hole the bunkers are quite deep, with the green narrowing towards the rear, so they are best avoided. I found the greens on the course ran very true, but were a little softer than I expected, seeing quite a few pitch marks on the green.
Great fairway bunkering on the 2nd – but not if you are in it
The second hole is a 351 meter par 4, with a dogleg to the left. Cutting the corner has risks with a large fairway bunker, or for those totally losing the plot, tea tree. The reward is a short approach to a green which is quite open at the front.
The 2nd green is slightly raised, running away on most sides
There are many slight undulations on the Kingston Heath greens, but the putting lines remain true. The second allows for a bump and run shot when conditions are firm, if you are short or long, however sand is found left or right.
Playing partner Ray on the 3rd tee
Hole 3 is a short par 4, with a dog leg left. Measuring only 269 meters you are presented with trying to reach the green in one where many bunkers can be found, or lay up short with a short iron left to play.
Approach to the 3rd green on this short par 4
The true challenge on this hole is found when you reach the putting surface. Large undulations on a small green, including a false front. The approach needs to be accurate.
357m par 4 – Shoot left for the ideal line on the 4th
From the fourth tee this hole doesn’t seem overly difficult, in fact it is quite a straight hole. Difficulty does exist if you play the wrong line however. Right brings tall trees into play, as well as having to reach the green over some large traps.
Many bunkers protect the right side of the 4th green
The fourth green is well protected on the either side of the green. Very strategic for those who have not played to the favoured left side of the fairway, where the green opens up for the approach. This green has great views back to the clubhouse, which is well worth taking in.
The 5th hole – 173m par 3
On the 5th hole we find a longish par 3. To reach the putting surface you must carry some scrub and sand traps. Again options are open for the shorter hitters with a passage to the left of the green allowing the ball to be run on.
Landing left of the green if preferable on the 5th green
Anything right of the fifth hole will find trouble in the numerous bunkers. Too far right and numerous bunkers will have to be carried to reach the green.
Play over a slight hill and avoid bunkers left and right on the 6th
The sixth hole takes you back towards the clubhouse. Playing over a slight hill, the green is unsighted from the tee. The fairway is quite open a large tree and traps right of the fairway, but thick tea tree and traps down most of the left.
Halfway along the 6th fairway – the clubhouse becomes prominant
Once you are over the hill, it is a great the green with clubhouse in the background. More bunkers are to the right of the green.
Many undulations and swales on the 6th green (2017)
The green on the 6th is quite large, with lots of undulations. It is quite easy to see balls putted off the green into the swales if hit too hard.
The 7th hole – a shortish par 5 (2017)
Playing away from the clubhouse, the seventh is a shortish par 5 at 462 meters. From the tee best play will be towards the right to avoid the fairway traps. Dense scrub can be found either side of the landing area.
Once over the initial ridge we see the target – 7th fairway (2017)
Many more traps are potentially in play as we make our way to the green, depending on how you plan to play the hole.
Anything short will roll back from the 7th green (2017)
A large false front is found on the 7th green, preventing anything short from reaching the hole. Sand traps are located either side of the green for an errant shot, but there is the option of running the ball in with only a gully protecting the front of the green.
Greg hitting off on the 8th – 398 meter par 4
Playing the eighth, you face a blind tee shot over a hill. Playing to the left will take the fairway traps out of play, although there is quite a lot of room to land your tee shot.
Once over the hill the 8th green is all down hill
Playing to the green from a mostly down hill slope.
Accuracy is critical on the 9th tee shot – 330m par 4
The 9th has a large dogleg to the left (2017)
More bunkering short of the 9th green
The tee markers and pin flags at Kingston Heath Golf Club
The 10th – a 127 meter par 3
The tenth hole is a great short par 3. With waste covering the area from tee to green it is essential to hit the correct distance. This hole is generally not played during tournaments, with the longer 19th being a more popular choice. All the same this is a little gem.
Large bunker covering the left side of the 10th green
Heavily protected by bunkers around the green, finding the dance floor is essential. Even reaching the green does not guarantee par with gentle slopes found all over the green.
Long par 4 at 380m – 11th tee
This hole is slightly deceiving from the tee. The best line is slightly to the right as the trees straight ahead will come into play for the long hitters.
The 11th has some layup areas to the left
But be cautious as there are many bunkers located along the center of the fairway ready to catch the brave trying to shorten the hole.
Looking back from the 11th green
The green is slightly raised, as are most at Kingston Heath, with more traps to the right of the green.
A long par 5 at 509m – avoid the middle bunker on the 12th
The biggest caution on your tee shot here is don’t hit it down the center. A large bunker awaits, making life difficult to reach the green in regulation. Plenty of space left or right, however water hazards come into play if too far left.
Sand, scrub and hazards are all left of the 12th fairway
I truly think this is a genuine 3 shot hole. The safest route along this hole is to the right, but also makes it much longer.
The 12th green – avoid being long
Short, long all find MacKenzies brilliant bunker design. Damn that Scotsman.
This hole played longer than 330m into the wind on the 13th
The thirteenth does not look overly spectacular, its probably better known for Tiger Woods bouncing his driver into the crowd during the 09 Masters. Fairly flat and open from the tee you can’t go wrong hitting the center of the fairway.
Relatively clear shot to the 13th green if you hit the fairway
The green is protected by bunkers on the right, but shouldn’t come into play if you have gone to the left of the fairway. The day I played the ground was quite damp, making running the ball onto the green difficult.
Tight tee shot on the 14th – another long par 5 at 516m
Hitting the right of the 14th fairway gives a clearer view to the green
Anything left could find sand on the 14th fairway
Difficult chip to 14th green as it is all downhill
The signature 15th hole – a 142m par 3
Very famous for being the signature hole on the course, it was a little intimidating standing on the tee. The fact that it is all up hill and the wind was blowing steadily into our face was not making life any easier.
Many bunkers before reaching the 15th green
Bunkers can be found all the way along the right side to the green and through the front, which I am lead to believe can be difficult to get out of. Happily I avoided these like the plague.
Looking back from the raised 15th green
There is no way that this photo shows how tricky this green can be. Quite narrow, bailing out to the left is an option but not the best, whilst some gentle contours ensure making par is no easy task.
Hole 16 requires a blind tee shot over the hill which doglegs right
This blind tee shot can be difficult, in fact I saw plenty of professionals in trouble when I went to the Australian Masters finding the tea tree on either side. The fairway is generous though so hitting down the middle is the safe play.
Hitting downslope to the 16th green
The shot to the green is off a steady slope downhill with a slight dogleg. Certainly the slope is more apparent than what can be seen in this picture. There is plenty of putting area to shoot at however.
A large double green is found at the 16th with its many undulations
The green is large, but it doesn’t mean that playing to the 8th side is a wise option. The green is slightly raised leaving anything short, left or right with potentially a difficult chip.
Large landing area on 17 – but a long par 4 measuring 420m
By far one of the hardest holes on the course. Measuring a long 420 meters, into the wind this becomes massive. The fairway is large and is shortest route is going down the left side.
Avoid the fairway bunkers on the 17th Fairway or risk not reaching the green
However traps also can be found down the left, making a shot to the green all but impossible. The fairway slopes right to left, but also slopes towards the green for the last 100 meters or so, which also slopes away from front to back.
Our final green on the day – the 17th slopes away to the rear
I must say that I really enjoyed the day at Kingston Heath. Truly a world class golf course for its design and conditioning. Work was being carried out on the irrigation systems during my visit, but had little impact on play (except that the markers had yet to be put back on the sprinkler heads). Having the extra hole certainly reduces the impact on play-ability of the course, in fact I quite liked the 19th hole.
The MacKenzie bunkering certainly adds to the course strategy. Taking the wrong line can make life a lot more difficult than it needs to be, especially on approaches to greens. There is ample room to layup in places or miss in the right spot, allowing a chance to recover. You can certainly see why the course receives such high praise.
Panaromic view from the 1st Tee (2017)
There are a couple of instances where play will move in the same direction for a couple of holes (7-8 and 17-18, but with changes in topography or layout of the hole, this helps to negate the issue largely.
I played here again in 2017 and it appears some of the heavier scrub has been removed in sections of the course. This has exposed some of the sandy base, which is much more preferable to play from, although still challenging, than trying to hit out of heavy grass.
The staff were extremely friendly and I was made to feel welcome at the club. Great customer service which should be apparent at all clubs, especially if we want to see an increase in people playing golf. The round also went relatively smoothly, taking only 4 hours, which was great as I had limited time to play.
To play Kingston Heath Golf Club you need one of the following:
1. Be invited by a member
2. Interstate or overseas visitor (must be a member of a golf club outside VIC)
3. Play one of the charity/open days held throughout the year. Keep an eye out on www.golflink.com.au