The 5th Hole
I have always wanted to play Royal Melbourne. In recent times as I became obsessed with exploring scale, I have always looked to Royal Melbourne and San Francisco as the two greatest examples. After playing both, I actually think that Royal Melbourne is the best example that I have seen. But the course is far more than that. The hilly property has been utilized to the fullest to create a rollercoaster journey over a wonderfully undulating landscape. One of the great joys of scale is the options and playability that comes with it. Missing fairways or approaches comes at a price, but this also affords you the opportunity to play for the best place to approach from.
The 10th - the green is behind the bunker
The opener is surprisingly plain and the second is nice but not quite what you are waiting for, but the third is the start of one of the greatest runs of holes in golf. It’s one of the very best short fours I have ever seen featuring a diagonal swale just short of the green followed by a green that falls away from play to create one of the toughest and most interesting second shots I have seen. This green site can easily be recreated and used in a flatter site! The 4th plays up over a knoll full of great bunkering and swings wildly right with the land sloping the same way to the green. The 5th is one of the greatest threes I have ever seen played from a high plateau to a natural plateau set into a beautiful natural bowl in the land. This was the only hole that Alister Mackenzie witnessed the building of at Royal Melbourne! The 6th features a diagonal carry over native grasses and shrubs, simply challenge as much as you dare. The hole turns hard right and finishes at another plateau set up within a great natural bowl.
The 17th green
The next set of holes are all very good, but the spectacular holes are so good that they overwhelm the other holes. The next high point is the short 10th, which is one of the very best short fours I have ever seen. The tee shot is with a driver to the narrow plateau up top leaving a half wedge to a green fraught with all sorts of severe trouble. You need to get up top to see and take the fall off behind out of play. The alternative is to try and drive the green by carrying the 25 foot deep bunker just in front. The green is clearly reachable but a miss is a disaster, long is worse!
All the holes that follow are brilliant and fun and challenging and beautiful. The next highlight is the par four 17th. The tee shot is played over a subtle ridge to a fairway that goes slightly away to the right. The green is another natural plateau set into a natural bowl. The amazing thing about this hole is there is lots of fairway left and wide and all the bunkers are cut into the right side front, side and back of the green creating a risk as much as you dare approach because of the arrangement. It’s one of the best holes I have ever seen.
The final hole involves a similar carry but the opposite side and a lovely approach to a well bunkered green. The golf course was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’m not sure if it’s the best course I have ever seen or played, but it’s certainly a worthy candidate. I can’t wait to play it again.