Location: Black Rock, VIC
Architect: Dr. Alister MacKenzie
Date Played: 31st December 2010
The day arrived. After waiting three months to use a gift voucher I received for Fathers day, I was finally about to play one of the hallowed grounds of Australian Golf, Royal Melbourne Golf Course, well the West Course anyway, which makes up two thirds of the world renown composite course
Note – Visited again in July 2017 – Some photos updated from this visit
Gates to Heaven or Royal Melbourne Golf Club as it is better known
Royal Melbourne Golf Club was established in 1891 and is the oldest golf club in Australia without interruption. The original course was established in Caulfield until 1901, when it moved to Sandringham where it remained until 1930. After this point the club moved to its current location in Black Rock. In 1926 leading golf architect Dr Alistair Mackenzie was chosen to design the new layout, now known as the West Course.
Clubhouse and proshop at Royal Melbourne Golf Club
From outside perimeter it is hard to even get a view of the course. It’s no different when arriving. The clubhouse and proshop facilities still hide what lies beyond.
Men’s Locker Room
Quite modern in appearance, the men’s locker room will met all the requirements before and after the round. The plaid floor certainly gives a Scottish feel.
Memorabillia in the Clubhouse
A nice collection of clubs and accessories can be found in the clubhouse and are well worth the look. The ‘Square Toe Iron’ from around 1700 was a standout, having never seen a club so old. Showing the evolution of the driver was also interesting.
I was originally playing by myself, but luckily was teamed up with a father and son. Luke (Lake Karrinyup) and his dad (Heidelberg) were great company for the day making the day that much more memorable. I hope to take Luke up on a return visit to his home course at some stage in the future.
Royal Melbourne Golf Course – West Map
Scorecard for Royal Melbourne Golf Club West course
View of the 1st Green (2017)
Standing at the first tee I was filled with excitement and trepidation, but gladly saw the ball sail down the middle of the fairway. The adventure had begun. The first hole of the west course is probably one of the most least interesting, but a fairly easy hole that lets you warm into the round before the challenges begin. A wide fairway awaits, but playing from the right side allows a clearer shot into the green.
View of the clubhouse from 2nd fairway
The second hole is a short par 5 at 439 meters, as are most of the five shoters on the course. From the tee hole snakes right the left to the green. There is one fairway trap to avoid from the tee on the right, but longer hitters can clear this easily.
The second green
Once you start looking at the approach to the green is where the difficulty starts. Bunkers cover both sides of the hole, with the green sloping back to front. Avoid going long at all costs as it will be near impossible to keep the ball on the green coming back. When I played the greens were quite firm, as were the surrounds, but the ball ran true. On my second visit in 2017 the run from the rear was not as severe with the greens slightly slower.
Approach to the 4th green
The 461 meter par 5, playing a tee shot blindly over a steep hill with bunkers covering the left side, was slightly intimidating. My group knew there was a dogleg to the right, but not sure how much, as it was the first time we had all played the course. Luckily my tee shot was dead straight and managed to get quite a bit of run down the hill. I was shocked to see how narrow the fairway was over the hill though, which made me feel even luckier. For those in range it is a big decision whether to attack the hole.
The fourth green and its thick rough surrounds
The green slopes back to front and is surrounded by four bunkers, three right and one left. The green and surrounds slope towards the bunkers on the right, so if you get close to them, pull out your spade and bucket as the next shot will be sandy. Thick rough also surrounds the green area making the bunkers look a promising proposition.
Hole 5 – 160 meter Par 3 (2017)
The 5th is a classic par 3 hole. Playing at 160 meters over a valley, the green is raised with a large slope to see any ball not long enough run well away from the green. Five bunkers surround the green which slopes from back to front. This hole is one of the standouts on the west course.
The 5th green has a huge false front
Putts from the back to a font position are not guaranteed to stay on the green if struck to well. This is a popular hole for other courses to copy, but in the end they are just copies and do not compare to the real thing.
Hole 6 – 391 meter par 4
The sixth hole, is one of the most infamous par 4 holes in the World. From an elevated tee of this long par 4 doglegs to the right. You can play the safe choice and stay left, hopefully hitting the fairway, but leaving a long approach shot to the green. Alternatively take the risk of carrying scrub and fairway bunkers, as well as ti-tree to shorten the approach to the hole.
The tricky sixth green
The raised green is protected by a large bunker front left, and also a cluster of bunkers on the right for those trying to play the safety shot into the green. This truly is a challenging hole and is ranked accordingly number 2 on the course. Through a souvenir snapshot by my golfing partners, I was lucky enough to discover that my feet alignment was terrible, pointing way to much to the right of the target. Maybe I should do this more often to discover other faults. This explained the reason for most of my shots ending up right of the target.
9th green – 380 meter par 4
View from the tee – Hole 10, short par 4 (2017)
As most golfers already know, every course should have a great short par 4. The tenth at 285 meters gives this and more. Playing across another valley, you are presented with an enormous bunker covering the left side. For the adventurous (those that can hit the ball a mile) you can try to carry the sand trap to hit the green. For the slightly risky player, you can hit the top of the hill close to the bunker for a short pitch. The safe player, there is plenty of fairway to aim at. A small gully is just before the green so you must carry this or see the ball fall short of the putting surface, or take a devious bounce to the side of the green in my case. Through the green is a large run off area leaving a difficult chip back up the hill. Truly a great short hole and one to remember.
Approach to the 12th green
Hole twelve was my favourite of the par 5 holes. At only 435 meters it actually played much longer with the strong head wind we were hitting into. There are bunkers to carry if playing left, but plenty of fairway for the tee shot. The second is where the challenge actually starts. The green is hidden behind scrub, so if you are going to take on hitting the green it is a big carry. The safe option is to play to the narrowing fairway, allowing an easy pitch to the green. There are two bunkers right to catch the long shots whilst another protects the front of the green.
My playing partners – Robert and his son Luke
Hole 16 – Challenging par 3
The sixteenth is the last of four holes which are not on the main grounds. The 202 meter par 3 looks very intimidating with numerous bunkers surrounding the green. For those not confident of the carry, bail out to the right. This is truly a tough par 3 and rates accordingly at three on the course. Hit the green and you shouldn’t encounter too much trouble, but at this distance easier said than done.
18th Hole – 396 meter par 4
A great way to finish the West course is on this 396 meter dogleg right par 4. Bunkers and ti-tree protect the right side of the fairway, but the reward is great for those that can carry the distance. Over the sand traps the slope runs towards the green and can greatly shorten the approach shot. Find the sand or trees and you are going to have a disappointing finish to the round.
18th Tee in 2017
On the return visit in 2017 one thing noticeable was the fairway had been cut in front of the bunkers.
Hopefully the last iron shot of the round to the 18th green
The green is protected by two large bunkers. Quite a spectacular hole. Visually appealing from tee to green, finishing with the clubhouse to the left. A great way to complete your experience of Royal Melbourne’s West Course.
This was an enjoyable day because of the following; a great course, good company with my playing partners, friendly service in the pro shop and the clubhouse which certainly make you feel welcome as a guest. The course had quite expansive fairways most of the time, immaculate greens although they started off much slower than the perceived look, but rapidly changed throughout the round. The bunkers and routing have to be commended. Not that you should enjoy a visit to a bunker, but they were a pleasure to play out of. The sand was so fine that the club cut through with ease, but more importantly it was consistent in depth.
I look forward to the day I return to play the East course and also watching the Presidents Cup in 2011 to see how the professionals handle the course.
To play Royal Melbourne 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). Contact the Royal Melbourne Golf Club
3. Play one of the open days held throughout the year