Location: Cheltenham, VIC
Architect: Oscar Damman, William Meader & Dr. Alister MacKenzie (1927)
Date Played: 28th February 2016
Victoria Golf Club was my third sandbelt course played, based on my original goal of playing all Melbourne Sandbelt courses. This was four months before I decided to take on the Top 100, so at the time it was all about playing, not documenting. When the chance opened up to play on a charity day, I jumped at the chance, inviting my southern com padre James. Hear are my original thoughts in 2009 on Victoria Golf Club.
Entrance to Victoria Golf Club
The Victoria Golf Club was first established in 1903 by a group of businessmen on leased land in Port Melbourne. It was not until 1927 that the course was opened at its current site in Cheltenham after being designed initially by Oscar Damman & William Meader. In 1926 Dr Alister MacKenzie was engaged by the club to put forward his ideas, which were incorporated into the design during the opening years of the course.
Welcome from Peter Thomson statue
Upon driving into the grounds one of the first to meet is the statue of Peter Thomson. By far one of the clubs greatest players, winning five Open Championships and three Australian Open titles. This is a great way to recognise one of Australia’s greatest golfers.
Entrance to Clubhouse at Victoria Golf Club
The charity day included lunch, which I thought would be a basic BBQ. It was with a lot of joy we found ourselves in the Dining Room sitting down to a fantastic meal (for the record, roast chicken on sweet potato and asparagus). This just lifted the expectations of the experience to another level for me. Made me feel like being in one of the more traditional golf clubs in the UK. Playing, eating, just missing out on the game in the morning. Fortunately we did not require a tie and jacket, so it was not stuffy but quite welcoming. A totally different experience to my original visit in 2009, where I was really made to feel like I didn’t belong.
Men’s locker room
The clubhouse has a lot of character adding to that feel of being an elite club, with its wood finishes and dining rooms. Looking through some of the memorabilia is always interesting, with Victoria Golf Club having a nice collection. One of the great parts is the outdoor balcony overlooking the first hole. Always great to have a beer outside watching fellow competitors.
Map of Victoria Golf Club (Courtesy of Google Maps)
Bordering the course is the Cheltenham Golf Club, which caused a little confusion when driving into the property. When looking at satellite maps of the area, you see how close some of the other Sandbelt courses are, with the number one club in the country, Royal Melbourne, across the road of the 12th green.
Scorecard for Victoria Golf Club
The course is an 18 hole championship layout, having previously held major Australian tournaments, such as the Australian Masters. This can be seen with the scorecard having an array of long par 4 and 5 holes.
Reaching the starters hut and the round begins
With the starters hut at the top of the hill in front of the practice green, both loops start at this point. Our round actually started on the back 9, which I wasn’t complaining about. I will discuss in the traditional order however, to stop confusion.
Hole 1 – 233 meter par 4
Starting the round, is the shortest par 4 and easiest hole on the course. A great short hole, leaving a challenging decision for your first shot of the game. Bunkers are found to the left of the fairway and if carried opens up the green. Playing to the right, with a large safe area to land, brings in bunkers to the right of the green, which will usually have to be carried to reach most pin positions. Get the distances wrong down this line and you will be in the sand anyway.
Sand all around the 1st green
The other difficulty if playing the safe route down the right, is the fact the green is not very wide. Find yourself in one of the rear bunkers and you may find a tennis match evolving playing from bunkers on either side. One thing you learn very quickly here at Victoria Golf Club, is that the greens are firm and fairly fast. Trying to make the ball check quickly, will be almost impossible. I really enjoy this hole from the strategic aspects, plenty of choices and scenarios to play out. But I do feel this would be an even better hole a little further into the round. My playing partners, all of whom had never played the course, on the day actually though this was a long par 3. I could imagine this would make the round start a little slowly.
Hole 2 – 392 meter par 4
The view from the second tee shows you are on the sandbelt, A large waste area must be carried to reach the fairway, on this hole with a subtle bend to the right, dependent on how the tee shot is played. The bunkers are both in reach, more so on the left. This allows quite a wide area to land the tee shot without finding too much trouble.
Wide opening to the 2nd green
Approaching this green can be done in a variety of ways, due to the wide opening in front. This is the case with a lot of the complexes on the course, allowing for a multitude of shot types. Three large bunkers are found either side to catch the slightly off line shot. Caution needs to be taken on many of the holes, as it is quite easy to find the ball landing on the green, only to run away into many of the bunkers. This hole was a good challenge with its length, but forgiveness from the tee, whilst allowing for a variety of approach shots.
Hole 3 – 401 meter par 4
The longest par 4 on course follows. Playing relatively straight, a large bunker to the right may force shorter hitters to play left. This is ideally placed to change how the tee shot is played also based on the wind conditions. The fairway is quite wide, which it should be for such a long par 4.
Long angled 3rd green
Again this green is open a the front, although some small false front may repel some balls. There are various swales and bunkers surrounding. It was here I saw some subtle strategies come into play for my partners. One had left himself slightly behind the left greenside bunker. Watching him play I saw the ball roll right through the green down into the rear bunker. It wasn’t a bad shot, just not the right shot or strategy. Sometimes you just have to take your medicine and get the ball on the green, instead of trying to attack every pin. Not the most exciting hole on the course, but certainly tough.
Hole 4 – 164 meter par 3
Marked as the easiest par 3 on the course, this hole, like most, will be a challenge if you find yourself in the wrong spot. In this case anything long is trouble, with the green sloping dramatically back towards the tee. Waste and bunkers are found most of the way to the green.
Undulating 4th green
One of the more undulating greens on the course, there is almost a couple of tiers to contend with, but also narrow. The ideal place to miss is short on either side of the front bunkers, or short of any back pin position. Nice testing par 3 for the first on the course, but definitely one of the easier ones.
Hole 5 – 398 meter par 4
Coming up to two long par 4’s measuring the same distance, the fifth is a slight sweep to the right. Lined with heavy trees and scrub down the right, a bunker is found on the inside, but will be hard to carry. For the average player this brings in more of a decision on whether to ensure a smaller club to take out of play, as the fairway narrows at this point.
Looking back from the 5th green
The green complex is predominantly raised, having a small rise at the front. One bunker is in play on the right, otherwise the green remains fairly open. Simple but classic design here, make this hole enjoyable.
Hole 6 – 398 meter par 4
Another long par 4, being second hardest hole on course. The tee shot must carry some scrub, but more importantly, avoid the two bunkers which can be reached from the tee. The fairway slopes slightly from the right, bringing the left bunker into play. Overall the hole plays relatively straight.
Well guarded 6th green
Sand covers the entire right side of this green complex, with any ball landing slightly on this side of the green possibly rolling into the trap. The left of the green remains slightly open, allowing a ball to be run in from this side. A good tough hole which will require two great shots to reach the green.
Hole 7 – 165 meter par 3
A very scenic hole, with the trees as the backdrop. This mid length par 3 has the shallowest green of all the one shot holes. Carrying waste and two bunkers front and right, leaves a difficult target. Safest method of hitting the green is coming in from the left.
Cavernous bunkers at the 7th
With huge bunkers beside the green, there is also a large swale at the rear, which will capture most by surprise. Trying to land the ball on the right of the green is difficult, bringing this swale into play. Well designed hole which has a few options to play for all levels of player.
Hole 8 – 448 meter par 5
Next is the shortest par 5 on course. From a raised tee, the hole slightly curves to the right, but has a lot of slope in varying parts of the fairway. Trees line both sides of the fairway, but its width makes this a fairly easy target.
Approach up the slope to the 8th green
For those long enough of the tee, reaching the green is highly possible, with the green being open at the front. Laying up leaves an easy chance for par however. Bunkers line the fairway all the way to the green complex, so any shot slightly off-line will find sand. Not a difficult hole, with the strategy coming into play from the second shot.
Hole 9 – 559 meter par 5 – Playing partner Ezy teeing off
Following the shortest par 5 is the longest hole on course, as well as being the hardest par 5. The tee shot will play over a rise to a gully, where the fairway is wide, joining the 10th. This is a true three shot hole, with the second carrying another rise before rolling down towards the green.
Approach to the 9th green
The main defense on this green, is the bunkers either side, with the left covering part of the green. The one thing I enjoyed on a lot of the holes, was the ability to run the ball in. Critical in this area where the wind can pick up, being close to the coastal area. Certainly a monster hole, but allows a bit of forgiveness with the wider fairways. A stark contrast from the previous par 5, which makes having two in a row work.
Tee marker and pin flag at Victoria Golf Club
One thing most good clubs do, is having decent tee markers and emblems on the flags. A simple thing, but one which makes the journey a bit more enjoyable.
Hole 10 – 348 meter par 4
First hole on the back, is a dogleg left hole, playing from a raised tee. Internal out of bounds is found to the left, where the driving range is also located, but it is possible to carry the trees shortening the hole dramatically.
Approach to the 10th green
Play to the green is uphill, with bunkers covering the left. These however finish well short of the green, creating a bit of deception. There is something about classic design, which I tend to enjoy. This hole is not tricked up, but well designed offering a bit of strategy to start the back.
Hole 11 – 370 meter par 4
Another well designed hole is this mid length par 4. A dogleg to the right with a narrow fairway running away on an angle. Protected by a large area of trees, the right corner can be carried to shorten the distance, but finding these will make life difficult. Playing too far to the left however will find the bunkers running most of the length of the hole.
Sand all the way to the 11th green
Playing the second shot from this narrow fairway, is uphill to reach the green, with a false front. A hole which looks intimidating from the tee, but offers a variety of play from the tee. A standout hole.
Hole 12 – 390 meter par 4
Playing from another elevated tee, is this long par 4 which doglegs to the right. A large landing area is found to the left, which looks a lot smaller than it actually is. Carrying the bunker is high risk, with the fairway narrowing at this point.
Wide open area for the 12th green
Probably one of the least inspiring greens to play to on the course, with the area being extremely open, leaving a solitary bunker the only thing to break up the landscape. This does not mean the green plays easy. A large mound is to the right, with the green sloping slightly right to left. Landing out in this area will leave some imagination in holding the green. Not the most visually appealing hole on the course, but certainly can test the golfer if taking the wrong strategy.
Hole 13 – 392 meter par 4
Another long par 4, in fact the hardest hole on course is next. Play is over a hill, at which point the fairway narrows dramatically.
Approach from the 13th fairway
The green complex is built into the hill, leaving a large false front. Bunkers cover either side, with trees surrounding the rear.
Looking back at the 13th green
The green here, slopes significantly from the rear to the front, making the rear bunker one to avoid. A tough hole, where the second shot needs to be accurate. Simple, yet effective design, makes this an interesting and memorable hole.
Hole 14 – 142 meter par 3
After two long holes, we come to the shortest hole of the day. Playing up a steep slope, this par 3 requires a carry over waste and a few bunkers, so it is all about the carry. The putting surface is quite large, with a subtle slopes towards the front and right. Not my favourite hole as it is very one dimensional compared to the other par 3’s on the course.
Hole 15 – 289 meter par 4
Another stand out short par 4, which is the second easiest hole on the course. Strategy is critical on the tee and can make or break the play. A narrow fairway has bunkers to the left, but trees down the right. Running out of fairway is possible if playing straight, so picking the right club here is the key.
Approach along the bunkers from the 15th fairway
As we get closer to the green, the fairway narrows further, with bunkers either side of the opening to the green.
James putting on the 15th green
The putting surface is much wider at the rear, but playing too long will see the ball run down a hill. Not as visually stunning as the first, this par 4 plays just as well. Another stand out.
Hole 16 – 178 meter par 3
The last par 3 for the day, is the hardest and longest on the course. Playing up a large slope, bunkers cover most of the length down the left, gradually making their way up the slope. Play to the right allows the ball to be run into the green, but hitting to long will find an extremely deep bunker. Quite stunning from the tee, this is definitely the toughest of the one shot variety. I did find the par 3’s on the front nine more enjoyable however.
View of the clubhouse from the 16th
There is a great view of the clubhouse from the 16th fairway, looking across the driving range. Accommodation is also possible for those travelling to the area, with play and stay packages available.
Hole 17 – 550 meter par 5
For the finishing holes, we find ourselves coming to two par 5’s, however the order is reversed on length, compared to the front. From the elevated tee, waste must be carried to reach the fairway. This is the only hole on the course where water, from a large dam, comes into play, on the right. The fairway is wide, but narrows near the left bunker, which is in play from the tee.
Approach to the 17th green
Another true three shot hole, the second is played around the slight dogleg to the right. Playing the approach to the green complex, requires a carry over the left bunkers to find the middle of the putting surface. A large slope is found to the right, for any shot not quite making the difference. A tough but enjoyable hole, where some long hits will be required.
Hole 18 – 461 meter par 5
Bring a close to the round, is a shorter par 5, requiring an accurate shot from the tee. A hill blocks the second half of the fairway, but also sees slopes to the bunkers either side of the landing area. Carrying this hill will ensure the green can be reached in two.
Pitch to the 18th Green
Some inside knowledge certainly helps with the last approach shot for the day. The green slopes from front to rear, making it much harder to stop the ball on the green. Playing over the fairway bunker on the right, allows the ball to roll down the hill onto the green, without running through. Memorable way to finish the round.
In summary, I certainly enjoyed my second visit a lot more than the first. For a start the temperature was a lot more comfortable, the service was much better on greeting players and the lunch was a lot better than I had expected. It also helped being the second time playing the course and amazingly I remembered much of the holes and strategy required.
The difference between the back and front nine where quite dramatic. The latter holes in the round had a greater variety in hole lengths, styles and play. Although there was a good mixture overall in the direction of play, ensuring conditions would have varying affects. The greens were firm, fast and of an extremely high standard, what else would you expect on a Sandbelt course, or should that be a top private club. The ball rolled perfectly, well most of the time, with little deviation. Even better was the surrounds, which were generally cut short, allowing a variety in play getting the ball onto the green. The condition of the course was extremely high, with the fairways feeling like sponge at times, a joy to walk on.
My biggest criticism is the inconsistency with the sand in bunkers. I know that there is the possibility of the main bottom section of the bunker being quite thin on sand, due to the type used. However the bunker face and surrounds were extremely heavy in places. On numerous times, players in our groups found the ball being plugged in the face. Yes you shouldn’t be in the bunker, but this just compounds the problem, with players having to stand at times on the face to play, breaking down the sand even further. I certainly appreciate the bare face style of bunkers a lot more these day, seeing the ball roll to the base.
Another peculiar area was finishing each loop with two par 5 holes consecutively. Certainly unconventional, although I have seen two par 5 holes in a row at maybe one or two other clubs, but not multiple occasions for the same course. Having differences in direction and length made this not such a big issue.
It is always a pleasure to play a course where the round has passed so quickly, you want to continue playing. This was the case at Victoria Golf Club.
Playing at Victoria Golf Club can be done in the following ways:
1. Be invited by a member
2. Interstate or overseas visitor (must be a member of a golf club)
3. Play one of the open days held throughout the year. Keep an eye out on www.golflink.com.au