Charm, Character & Strategy on a Distinctly Flat Site
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Architects: Alister MacKenzie
Green Fee: $400AUD
Kiwi Caddy Tier: Zero
The Holes that Stick:
3rd- Par 4/270m
9th- Par 4/320m
15th- Par 3/151m
When I first stood in front of the clubhouse of Kingston Heath, I felt like I could see the entire property. It looked compact, flat and lacking in an ounce of topographical intrigue, for a split second I let myself question how good it really be, traversing land like that. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong about anything, Kingston Heath was everything that it was cracked up to be and more.
When I think about what good golf course architecture actually means, I think the easiest way to explain it is that the course is designed in a way which maximizes the site, crafting holes with the of the greatest variety and interest- Kingston Heath is my poster child. Routed across a primarily dead-flat site outside a single dune which crosses through the back-nine, the layout squeezes every ounce of quality out of the property by maximizing the impact of any subtle slopes and mounds.
Kingston Heath oozes character, charm and provides a true test of golf which will see it play host to the Presidents Cup in 2028.
Sandbelt golf as a genre can be defined by the characteristics of Kingston Heath- firm, fast, exclusively short grass, ample fairway width and a distinctive sandy wasteland off the fairways offering a wide variety of lies, but rarely a lost ball.
To compensate for its non-descript terrain, Kingston Heath defends itself with smaller, firm green sites and through some of the most magnificent bunkering on the planet. The strategy of each hole is defined by the positioning of clusters of visually stunning and strategically brilliant bunkers.
Greenside sand encroaches into the surfaces creating some narrow entries and tiers- putting the ball into the sand is forever on the cards! The bunkers here are true hazards and with flags cut tight, getting up and down is often off the table.
I found Kingston Heath to be the Sandbelt course which required the most thought and consideration off the tee. Fairways narrowed the further up you play, and there are a number of spots on the course which should be avoided at all costs.
The layout lends itself to players plotting their away around off the tee in order to leave the best angle of attack into the green.
The strategy of most holes is undefined, with plenty of options- the course does an excellent job of offering both an aggressive play and a bail-out for all abilities.
The peak of this is the third hole- a perfect half-par two shotter, playing a mere 260 metres it begs you to have a crack at the narrow entry to the green, with a mid-iron to the left corner the safe play. The hazards surrounding the green make it possible to have a chance at eagle or a double-bogey and that makes for fun golf in my books.
The dominant elevation change on the property gives rise to perhaps my favourite par 3 on the planet- the 15th. This gorgeous mid-length one-shotter plays uphill to a green smothered by trademark Mackenzie bunkering, the sea of sand from tee to green leaves little room for a poor strike and a bailout is nowhere to be seen. Sand erodes the putting surface leaving the most narrow of entries for a front flag- daunting, gorgeous and full of character, a perfect encapsulation of Kingston Heath.
Hamstrung by its gentle terrain, it’s a marvel of golf course architecture that Kingston Heath is this much fun for an everyday player and has maintained itself as a stern test of golf for championship golf. Loaded with interesting shots and strategy, without a weak hole to speak of, Kingston Heath is without a doubt one of the best courses in the world. Sure, in my opinion it may not reach the same heights as Royal Melbourne West down the road, but the fact it is a genuine debate is entirely remarkable.
Of all the clubs I visited in Australia, for its charm, character and strategy Kingston Heath may be the membership I would choose- one of golf’s special places.
Booking a Tee Time
Like most of the Sandbelt, playing Kingston Heath 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 Mondays from 12:52pm - 1:30pm, all day Tuesday, Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings- enquiries can be made HERE. I would advise enquiring as early as possible as tee times are few and in high-demand!
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
- Royal Melbourne West
- Peninsula Kingswood North
- Peninsula Kingswood South
- Yarra Yarra