Royal Melbourne (West)
Everything Golf Should Be- A MacKenzie Masterpiece
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Architects: Alister MacKenzie
Green Fee: $750AUD
Kiwi Caddy Tier: Zero
The Holes that Stick:
5th- Par 3/161m
6th- Par 4/391m
10th- Par 4/285m
Let’s get this out straight away, the West Course at Royal Melbourne is truly special, a lifelong legacy of Dr. Alister Mackenzie and unanimously held as one of the places that matters in the world of golf. In a world where everyone loves an argument, I haven’t heard or read a bad word about the West and that should tell you everything you need to know. After a loop of the course I can now be added to the long list of disciples.
There are few better feelings than walking through the gates of Royal Melbourne, one of the rare courses which lays bare to double-tiered greatness where its brilliance in design is matched only by its aura and sense of place.
Everything about being on site is special, and having the opportunity to soak up the history and aura is one which can be scarcely matched with clubs in hand.
The first thing that struck me about the West was its rolling terrain. As a general rule, the collection of Sandbelt courses generally occupy flat parcels of land with very little elevation change to speak of. Routed across dramatic rolling terrain with grand scale in slopes, contours and elevation, Royal Melbourne was given a significant head start!
If I could pick any site for golf this may well be it- the landforms appear seemingly random but are present throughout the entire property offering something unique to each hole. These landforms create opportunities to hitting thrilling golf shots, not least the tee shot on the short par 4 (270 metre) 10th hole, where the longer hitter has the opportunity to take on the elevated blow-out bunker in an attempt to hit the blind green, or the sweeping right to left tee shot down the hill on 11.
As I made my way around the course it struck me that the strategy of the West Course’s strategy ran closest to the principles of the Old Course that I have come across. Beautifully wide fairways making holes playable for all abilities, but opening up strategic angles for every approach- the closer to the hazard the easier the next shot- a Mackenzie trademark.
The sixth hole is an elite example where a left to right dogleg is created by a long row of bunkering rather than trees and as I stood on the tee I couldn’t help but be tempted into biting off a touch more than I could chew. Had I flown the ball 3 feet further I would have had the best angle at the flag, but the bunker left me pitching out sideways- the beauty of risk and reward!
The layout does an excellent job of offering both the more difficult shot and a bailout- the poster child for easy bogey hard birdie.
On theme with The Old Course, the West is a course of exclusively short grass and I took great joy in bouncing balls through slopes into greens. The best thing about short grass is that you will always find your ball, at Royal Melbourne I always felt as though I had a chance to hit a miraculous recovery shot. Being out of position doesn’t make you dead, it just demands a fantastic next shot- to me that makes for the most fun golf. Greenside, the short grass maximises the impact of swales and contours, demanding creative and precise chipping and putting.
The mark of a great course is always in its variety and RMW’s routing is second to none with a smorgasboard of holes asking different questions. Uphill, downhill, doglegs both ways, short, long and blind shots. I truly think I used every club in my bag more than once and for a course that never attempts to beat you with length that’s truly remarkable and a reflection of the thought which goes into mapping your way around the course.
A special mention must also go to the gorgeous set of par threes which may be the toughest going round, each commanding a different club and shot. Sharp edged bunkers cutting into their greens, putting accuracy at a premium.
The bunkers, although beautifully artistic to the eye, are true hazards. They are firm, nasty, and in my case a complete no-go if I wanted to make par. Green complexes are enormous and loaded with character, their firm and fast conditioning means anything above the hole is three putt territory!
I could talk about the course forever, but I honestly think RM West is the first place I would send someone to learn about golf courses and what makes them great- you will find out anything you need to know during a loop of the course if you look for it. The course is fun, its playable for everyone and it forces you to truly consider your what’s in front of you before you hit your shot.
This is golf the way it’s meant to be played and will forever be one of my favorite places in the golfing world.
Booking a Tee Time
Like most of the Sandbelt, playing Royal Melbourne is a heck of a lot easier if you don't live in the State of Victoria. Visitor tee times for International and interstate visitors are available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays- enquiries can be made HERE. I would advise enquiring as early as possible as tee times are few and in high-demand!
It should be noted that Royal Melbourne's West Course is the most expensive tee time of any course in the Top 100 in the world at $750AUD!
Where to Stay
The great thing about the Sandbelt is its proximity to Melbourne's CBD, which can be reached in around half an hour. If you want to experience the city of Melbourne as well as the golf, this is 100% your best option! If you are in town strictly for golf, then staying in the suburb of Cheltenham is a fantastic option as the heart of the Sandbelt. There are a few hotels and a number of Air Bnbs available.
A note should also be mad of the train network, which can get you from Cheltenham direct to the CBD in around 35 minutes.
Best Golf Within 45 Minutes:
Melbourne is an absolute hotbed for world-class golf, with the Sandbelt at the forefront. Within 45 minutes of Roiyal Melbourne West you can get to:
- Royal Melbourne East
- Kingston Heath
- Peninsula Kingswood North
- Peninsula Kingswood South
- Yarra Yarra