The 6th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club
Logo for Sanctuary Lakes Club

Location: Sanctuary Lakes, VIC
Established: 2000
Architect: Greg Norman & Bob Harrison
Date Played: 27th June 2015 (revisited 14th August 2016)

Magazine Ratings

Logo for Australian Golf Digest which does a ranking of the Top 100 Golf Courses
77 (Current)

Custom icon for Golf Australia Top 100 courses
67 (Current)

Custom icon for Golf Australia Top 100 Public
31 (Current)

Heading west of Melbourne for the first time to play golf, and won’t be the last, I arrived at Sanctuary Lakes Club. I didn’t know much about the course, other than it had quite a bit of water in play, as well as being designed by Greg Norman and Bob Harrison.

One year later I returned with occasional playing partner James, to revisit and evaluate the course. It seemed like a good idea with a lot of courses around the city still suffering from the heavy rain during the winter months.

Note – This is a combination of two visits a year apart, which assisted in the actual story being on the website and a bit more relevant. Photos where grass is greener, from 2015 visit.

Entrance to Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club Entrance

Located in Point Cook, the course was built on reclaimed land which was previously swampland and then a salt works. This was converted to a resort and land development area in the early 2000’s.

Clubhouse at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Clubhouse at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

The club has all required modern facilities. A new outdoor balcony area was being built during my second visit. This will overlook the 18th green and be a pleasant area during the warmer months.

 

Map of Sanctuary Lakes Club

Map of Sanctuary Lakes Club

Incorporating some waterways around the estate, allow some nice scenery. My only issue is being totally surrounded by housing most of the time playing. This doesn’t impact on the design, but does on the atmosphere.

The scorecard for Sanctuary Lakes Club

Scorecard for Sanctuary Lakes Club

Play has been from both the blue and white tees, on respective visits.

The 1st tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 1 – 370 meter Par 4

Starting the round is a mid length par 4, which is relatively straight. A bunker sits to the left of the mid size hill. This plateaus before dropping again. Many smaller mounds are found along the fairway, ensuring some to have an awkward stance.

The 1st fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Approach to the 1st Green

There is a gully to carry before reaching the green, which sits raised above the fairway. Bunkers sit either side, although the right side is much larger. Anything slightly long will run away down the slope. Similar to the 10th hole in both length and play, these could be interchangeable for the start of the round.

The 2nd Tee at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Hole 2 – 146 meter Par 3

Play to the shortest par 3, requires avoiding trouble on all sides bar the front. The green slightly angles away to the right, requiring a longer carry over water to rear pin positions.

The 2nd green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Well guarded 2nd Green

A small opening to the green is found at the front, with a large bunkers located to the left. Another located at the left rear, allow part of the green to run between the two. Although the shortest par 3, an accurate tee shot is required, however some respite is given short and to the left. Nice hole sure to test the nerves of some players.

The 3rd tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 3 – 304 meter par 4

From the shortest hole to the shortest par 4, this hole plays with a dogleg to the left. A large area of rough is found on the inside line, the types which could result in a lost ball (something easily done around this course). Along the outside of the turn, a stream runs almost the full length of the hole. Most of the green surface is unseen from the tee, due to the small rise in the fairway.

The 3rd Fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Approach from the 3rd Fairway

The fairway drops before the green, allowing it to be slightly elevated. A large bunker runs almost the entire length of the left side of this two tiered green. There has not been reliance on physical hazards for the risk, reward component of this hole, which you find on most, but still allows strategy to be employed.

The 4th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 4 – 485 meter Par 5

Although the shortest par 5, this is the most demanding tee shot for its type. With a water hazard to carry, there is reward on offer for those trying to gain distance. The water extends diagonally, with around 5 meters of the fairway sloping towards the hazard, so risk can be great if not precise. Ample fairway is available to the right of this, where a few bunkers are located.

The 4th fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Approach from the 4th Fairway

The green sits partially raised above the fairway, with two cavernous bunkers built into the right side. Missing left is the preferable option, as it is quite open to the green.

The 5th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 5 – 363 meter Par 4

Another mid length par 4 which plays relatively straight. Bunkers, located right are built into a rise running the entire width of the fairway. The fairway gently rolls along until reaching the green. Approaching from the right opens up the green slightly.

The 5th Fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Club

View from the 5th Fairway

Traps are located left of the green, allowing a small entry to the right. The putting surface slopes mainly to the left and from the rear. A large mound is located to the right which may assist feeding balls back to the putting surface.

The 6th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 6 – 148 meter Par 3

The easiest par 3 is also the signature hole of the course (or so I was told by the members on my first visit). Playing directly across a water body from the blue tees, there is a large area to layup, miss to the right if not confident of reaching the green. Two bunkers protect the front corners of the green, with one further back on the right.

The 6th Green at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Looking back from the 6th Green

With the rear of the green complex, a few swales are found, whilst the putting surface slopes back towards the water. Designing of this hole is quite clever, as the social and women’s tee will have the right bunkers protecting the front predominantly from the approach angle.

The 7th Tee at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Hole 7 – 347 meter Par 4

This hole plays slightly downslope with a dogleg to the left. On the outside of the turn is water, which longer hitters may reach.

The 7th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Small opening to the 7th Green

The green sits slightly almost level with the fairway, with bunkers located either side. The left are sunken where as the right is elevated into the hill. Not the most exciting of holes on the course.

 

The 8th Tee at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Hole 8 – 510 meter par 5

Starting the run back to the clubhouse is this long par 5, which snakes left, right then left again. Water located to the right, slightly encroaches to the fairway. At the end of this is a line of bunkers. Longer hitters can try and carry these, gaining distance and slightly better angle for the second shot.

The 8th fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Bunkers block the green on the 8th Fairway

A large mound with multiple bunkers built into its face, blocks the view of the open green. Those out to the right, may seen around, otherwise a blind shot will be required. Slightly reminds me of the 1st at St Andrews Beach.

The 8th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Looking back from the 8th Green

The putting surface is multi-tiered with no real dangers surrounding. Enjoyable hole which allows a variety of play, depending on the conditions.

The 9th Tee at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Hole 9 – 356 meter Par 4

To end the first loop is a mid length par 4 which plays straight. From an elevated tee, play is over a gully to reach a hill running across the fairway. A collection of traps are located right, which will make it almost impossible to reach the green.

The 9th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Looking across at the 9th Green

The fairway falls away again before slightly rising to the green. This sits elevated with run off either side, of various swales. Nice hole to finish the front loop.

Tee Marker at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Tee Markers for the course

Standard tee markers are found, showing hole, distance and par. Each shows the colour for the tee.

The 10th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 10 – 370 meter par 4

A mid length par 4 which plays with a very slight turn to the left. A fairly wide fairway awaits, which rolls up and down before reaching the green. Amazingly there are some bunkers which I did not even notice until looking back through the photos, out on the right. They almost look to be built into the scrub on the hill.

The 10th Fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Approach from the 10th Fairway

The fairway slopes mostly to the right in the last portion of the fairway, which this side also has a wide opening into the green. Lots of bunkers to the left with a couple right and behind. The putting surface here has some varying slopes and small undulations. The strategy here is fairly simple, with play from the right an easier approach, especially for rear pin positions. Having started on the back nine with the second visit, I also found this to be a good opening hole, not demanding too much from the outset.

The 11th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 11 – 161 meter Par 3

Coming to the second longest par 3 on the course (both longest are found on the back), is a medium length hole. The green has had shaping to make the land fall away on all sides, in particular the right. Plenty of tight grass is short, which sees the sloping away from the green and to the right. Bunkers are on either side almost meet at the narrow front.

The 11th Green at Sanctuary Lakes Club

Plenty of short grass around the 11th Green

The putting surface slopes mainly towards the front on this narrow green, although a slight plateau is towards the rear. Interestingly, this is not the easiest par 3 hole according to the index, as the 6th has this ranking. Although the green is a much smaller target, the surrounding land is quite open, not punishing dramatically anything off line.

The 12th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 12 – 486 meter Par 5

A dogleg right hole, playing gently down hill to the green. Those willing to take on the inside line are required to carry two traps, which if successful will shorten the hole and leave a more open approach to the green (if long enough). The fairway, which is generous, has some gentle rolling hills, to make the trip a little more interesting, along with a few extra traps.

The 12th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

View from the 12th Fairway

The green is angled to the left, with a large mound of bunkers blocking part of the view, if on the left portion of the fairway. Surrounds here are not short, like most of the other greens, which limits the type of shots available for recovery. Nice hole which asks questions with each shot along the way.

The 13th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 13 – 383 meter Par 4

The second hardest hole on the course, which I would consider the hardest, especially into the westerly wind, is a dogleg left. Playing the tee shot uphill, does not allow the left line of the fairway to be seen, enticing players to take on more than they should. Ample room is available for the tee shot, especially to the right, which lengthens the hole, but leaves a clear approach to the green.

The 13th fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

View of the 13th Fairway

With bunkers narrowing the fairway significantly leading to the green, those finding themselves out of position are best to layup short. The green itself sits raised on a small hill, with a large false front. Grass surrounding this green is mainly rough, with about a meter of short grass available. Challenging hole into the wind, but one which requires multiple play to find it’s intricacies.

The 14th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 14 – 356 meter Par 4

Probably one of the more plain holes when looking from the tee, this straight mid length par 4 plays dead straight. From the tee it looks predominantly flat, but a small hill running the width, with two large traps to the left, breaks up the ground slightly. Playing to the left allows a better line, but brings the bunkers into play. The fairway is quite wide up until this point, then narrows towards the green.

The 14th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Open expanse around the 14th Green

The left side of the green complex, which is slightly raised, is quite open, with a small bunker to be avoided. Tight grass covers most of the surrounds this side, however the right is vastly different. A larger trap and secondary rough make the right, not the correct side to miss. Although the hole doesn’t look amazing, it has some strategy to make it play a simple as it looks.

The 15th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 15 – 308 meter Par 4

Indexed as the easiest hole on course, this short par 4 plays with a slight dogleg right. Bunkers are built into the slope down the right, which if carried leaves a short approach. Even a wayward shot in this direction will still allow play, but leave an awkward angle. This was the start of the best run of holes on the course in my opinion.

The 15th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Well protected 15th Green

Those trying to drive the green, which is highly possible with a westerly wind, will contend with bunkers either side of the green and heavy rough. Finding yourself to the side of this green is not desirable. With a large false front, this small green has a few undulations which may prove tricky. Good risk reward hole.

The 16th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 16 – 513 meter Part 5

The run home faces some of the most difficult holes on the course. Starting with the longest and hardest par 5, playing predominantly straight and slightly down hill. A wide fairway is found for the tee shot, with bunkers staggered either side off a hill to be carried. From here the fairway narrows slightly, with out of bounds right and water to the left.

The 16th fairway at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Approach from the 16th Fairway

Both times I have played the course, this hole has played into a strong wind. This along with the distance of the hole make it a true three shot hole, especially with a green perched out into the water. Certainly a shot to test the nerves of most players. Ample room is located to the right of the green, where a clearer shot into the green is possible, but also bring two bunkers into play. Good use of undulation on the fairway, helping to break up the distance, but also leaves potential blind shots and unusual stance at times. Being a true three shot hole, strategy comes into play with how the approach will be made to the green, leaving a safer but longer shot from the right, or playing closer to the water but a shorter approach. Enjoyable hole.

The 17th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 17 – 192 meter Par 3

The penultimate hole is the longest par 3 at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club. This hole can play every meter of distance with the wind up. Water is found down the left, but it is the longer grass and bunkers which may prove more of an issue. The green angles away to the left, so the ample room available right of the green, is the ideal place to allow for any miss.

The 17th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Looking back at the 17th Green

A small dip is found short of the green, which may stop a ball running in, which is certainly an option on this hole if the breeze is up. The putting surface has a spine running diagonally, sloping away to the front predominantly, but also a little towards the rear. This hole is all about the tee shot and taking the danger out of play to the left. The tee position strategically placed, certainly coax the golfer to take on more, bringing this into play.

The 18th tee at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Hole 18 – 386 meter Par 4

To finish the round and the tough run home is the hardest hole on course, also being the longest par 4. This plays with a slight curve to the left, between the clubhouse and water. A large hump is found to the right of the fairway, helping to feed the ball back towards the center, but right of this is out of bounds. The fairway is fairly wide and accommodating, but playing to the left is the ideal line, bringing the hazard more into play.

The 18th green at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club

Looking from the Clubhouse at the 18th Green

With a fairway split by a water hazard just short of the green, there is no way around this. If found in the wrong position, a layup maybe required. Two large bunkers are located either side, but some leeway is allowed to miss right. The putting surface is quite long, with sloping from rear to front. A nice hole to finish on, which offers some strategy, but this can also be forced upon you if out of position.

To summarise Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club, let me discuss in an unusual way. When discussing the quest I am on, a common question is what’s my favourite course? (normally The National Old course is the answer). But whilst playing Barwon Heads the question was asked what course would I not play again. Sanctuary Lakes came straight to mind among three others which have disappointed. Going against that initial thought I did return, but the feeling still remains the same after the second visit.

Looking at the course makeup:

  • Hole Directions – There was a good variety allowing for conditions to have wide ranging effects during play. This was quite evenly split around the compass face. The only two points to note are the front nine have a couple of consecutive holes flowing in the same direction, although these both involved par 3 holes (2 & 3 as well as 6 & 7). Two of the last 3 finishing holes faced a westerly direction, which could cause issues trying to view the ball playing in the late afternoon
  • Hole Lengths – Par three holes had a reasonable variance in distance, the majority in mid length. Two were separated by two meters, although one was downhill so this would be greater. Par four holes ranged from short to long with the majority being either mid or long length. These were all spread out quite evenly throughout the round. Par 5 holes were all long. With four holes, oddly two were separated by one meter whilst the other two by three meters. They all played quite differently which helped, due to slopes utilised and hole directions.
  • Hole Layout – There was a decent mixture in how the holes played, with a slight majority favouring left turns, where two shots or more were required to reach the green.

The second visit did have some conditioning issues, a lot uncontrollable due to winter conditions, but some of the tee boxes had ground chopped up drastically. Oddly enough the social tees looked almost perfect in comparison. My biggest issue with this course is the grass types used for the rough, especially when used close to the fairways. When groups in front, within or behind are having to constantly struggle to find balls which are barely off the fairway, there has to be a serious look. This drastically slows up play and causes frustration. Yes you shouldn’t be in the rough to start, but with firm conditions the ball does run quite easily off the short stuff.

There are some great design elements and certainly fantastic holes on the course. I quite enjoyed the last four holes of the round, thinking they were a strong finish to the course. There were just too many so, so holes which seemed to be found between the good ones.

How to play at Sanctuary Lakes Club:

1. The club allows public access on most days outside of member competitions

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Aussie Golf Quest
Aussie Golf Quest
Man on a mission to play Australia's Top 100 Golf Courses

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