May 20, 2014
Royal Melbourne West appears in Fifty Places to Play Golf Before You Die, as well as numerous times throughout The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes and receives quite a few accolades. Among them are:
- Hole 6 is listed as one of the top 18 holes in the world.
- Hole 5 is listed as one of the top 100 holes in the world.
- Hole 5 is listed as the best fifth hole of any golf course anywhere on the planet.
- Hole 6 is listed as one of the top 18 most heroic holes in the world.
- Hole 6 is listed as one of the best 18 holes in Australasia and Japan.
- Holes 5 and 6 are both listed as two of Alister MacKenzie's best 18 holes on the planet.
After waking and having another good breakfast at the Marriott Melbourne Hotel buffet, I made my way to Royal Melbourne. I again allotted myself 90 minutes to arrive due to never wanting to be late as a guest at a private course, or any course for that matter. It took me approximately 35 minutes to travel from the middle of downtown Melbourne to the golf club with very light traffic this day.
|Upon arrival to the car park, just across from the entrance of the clubhouse, is the large club sign.|
|A look at the clubhouse (right) and restaurant (left) from the parking lot.|
I made another visit to the locker room and had been given a new security code for my own locker. I changed into my golf attire, had another look around the restaurant, and found it a definite must for lunch once again after my round.
|A look down the gentlemen's locker room from just inside the door.|
|The flag pole next to the practice green.|
For those that haven't read my East Course blog, I will give the same background info about Royal Melbourne here that I wrote there.
There are two courses at Royal Melbourne, an East and a West. The composite course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club is made up of twelve holes from the West course and six holes from the East Course. The composite can only be played in tournaments, thus I played both the East and West courses on separate days.
Alister MacKenzie did the routings of both the East and West courses in the mid 1920s. Club member Alex Russell and superintendent Michael Morcon oversaw the implementation and building of the courses and thus are co-credited with the design since MacKenzie spent only 23 days there.
Like many great designs, the course has wide open fairways that are playable for the average golfer, yet demand the more skilled player drive the ball into dangerous areas of the fairways to get closer to the flags. The scale of Royal Melborne has a “big” feel to it with holes routed around big sand dunes, forced carries over bracken fern, and wide fairways with big doglegs.
|The flag of each hole on the West Course. The East Course has red instead of red.|
The first hole is a good open driving hole, playing 392 meters for a par 4. There is a large landing area, even if you draw or fade your ball, and there are no bunkers that come into play until down around the green. Even with the ample landing room, you do not want to hooked your tee shot as it will likely lead to danger in unplayable trees on the left.
|A look down the fairway from the first tee box.|
|A look into the first green from 120 yards out.|
|A look into the second green from the just past the right-side fairway bunkers.|
|A look into the second green from 50 yards out.|
The Par 4, 324 meter third hole is a very makable birdie hole. The fairway turns left towards the green at approximately 125 meters. It also slopes right to left and a solid drive to the right side of the fairway should have your ball rolling down the fairway towards the green.
|A look down the fairway from the 3rd tee box.|
|A look into the 3rd green from 125 yards out.|
The fourth hole is just cruel. It is a par 4 that plays longer than its 368 meters, the drive is uphill to a blind fairway that doglegs right towards the green.
|A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway after clearing the hill.|
|A look into the 4th green from 120 yards out.|
The fifth hole is the first par 3 on the course, playing to around 160 meters, and is one of two signature holes on the West Course.
Accuracy and the right choice of club makes this a superb par three hole. You will need to
cross a valley to the green, heavily fortified with bunkers. The fast green has a steep slope from
front to back and is a tricky test.
|A look into the green from the 5th tee box.|
Hole 6 is the other signature hole on the West Course. It's a par 4 that plays around 390 meters. It is also rated as the most difficult green on the course, the early shots are crucial.
|A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.|
|A look into the 6th green from 130 yards out.|
Number 7 is a deceptively easy-looking hole where club selection is vital. The tee shot must be well-placed as you are hitting uphill towards the green, with an elevation change of 50 or so feet. The narrow green and difficult undulations making long putts tough. There are also plenty of bunkers (five or six if I remember correctly) protecting the green, and for those who over-shoot the green, you find yourself with an almost impossibility to salvage par.
|A look up towards the green from the 7th tee box.|
One word for the 8th hole that stands out - bunkers. There are a lot of them There are like 12 of them, with some bunkers being shared with hole #1 from the East Course. Some of the bunkers have grass running in and out, splitting them, really leaving you with 15 or so bunkers. There are a lot.
|A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.|
|A look into the 8th green from 45 yards out.|
The 9th hole was one of my favorites. It is a blind tee shot uphill. Once the green comes into view, you still have another 150 or 200 meters of downhill and then back uphill to go, but you can see the green from a long ways away.
|A look up the fairway from the 9th tee box.|
|A look into the 9th green from 150 yards out.|
The 10th hole is uphill. It's a short par 4 at 285 meters, but suits the disciplined players who goes the right way around.You drive uphill towards the dogleg left.
|A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.|
You are left with an approach shot uphill again, to a two-tiered green. A long hitter can attack the pin by cutting the corner. But that's where the danger is, as the sand bunker is huge and a miss can cost numerous strokes. I believe all three of us decided to stay on the right side of the fairway and not tempt fate with that large left bunker.
|A look into the green from 50 yards out.|
Another dog leg awaits at number 11, this time to the right. As is the case with many of the holes on both of the courses at Royal Melbourne, a long hitter can probably fly the fairway bunker and rough on the left and go directly towards the green, allowing the risk to pay off with a reward of a birdie. I can't hit that far so I opted for the safer route and hit to the right side of the fairway, letting my ball roll down hill towards the green.
|A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.|
|A look into the green at the turn of the dogleg.|
|A look into the 11th green from 75 yards out.|
You guessed it....another blind tee shot. The 12th is a lengthy fairway which requires a couple of long shots, especially off the tee where some early bunkers await the strong hitter. Luckily, it is fairly straight until the last 50-75 meters, where the green is set off to the left.
|A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.|
|A look down the 12th fairway after clearing the hill on the tee shot.|
|A look into the 12th green from 100 yards out.|
I found the par 3, 13th hole a fairly good challenge. It has a pitched green that made it difficult to get close to the pin. It is also guarded by five sand traps making for a very difficult par.
|A look into the green from the 13th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 14th hole|
|A look into the 14th green from 100 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 15th tee box.|
The green slopes sharply to the front so you want to make sure your ball lands on the backside of the green, taking care to make sure it doesn't end up in the back right bunker.
|A look into the 15th green from 125 yards out.|
|A look into the green from the 16th tee box.|
Again two long shots are required on this par 4, 401 meter, dogleg left. The drive will likely pass some bunkers on the left-hand side of the fairway. It's a tight driving hole and the second shot needs a wood or long iron to an elevated green. Dangerous traps on the right make for a straight approach
|A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.|
|Looking into the 17th green from 150 yards out.|
The final hole of the round is another risk versus reward hole, that ingrains how many times you've seen it in the previous 17 holes. You can play it safe and to the left, but will have very long second shot for a green in regulation. The other choice is to drive your ball more than 200 meters over the left side of the bunkers so it can roll down the hill, leaving a mid to short iron into the green. If you have a low trajectory drive, you are likely going to end up in the bunkers if you try to go over them.
|A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.|
|A look into the 18th green from 150 yards out.|
Overall, I had a tremendous time playing the West Course. It was a round made better by the company of my playing companions. After the round, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer invited me to lunch in the restaurant at Royal Melbourne. They treated me to lunch, paying for it, and sharing great conversation. They even let me in on the secret of the outstanding scones provided by the club. I hope to return to Melbourne soon so that I may repay the favor and treat both of them to lunch or dinner, and hope to provide as good company for them as they did for me on my visit to this very nice club.