The Sandhurst Club (North Course)

Sandhurst North, 3rd hole – ‘the eerie presence of bagpipes’, Brendan James

Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson has strong ties to Scotland, the home of golf. Not only was it the scene of some of his greatest triumphs but he spends several months a year living there. So it should come as no surprise that a course bearing the name of Thomson as one of its designers might, in some small part, pay homage to the great links of Scotland.

With the aid of modern construction equipment, computer-aided design and a lot of imagination, the design team of Thomson and Ross Perrett were able to turn degraded cow pastures into rolling links land. The North course at Sandhurst, 35 kilometres south-east of Melbourne’s CBD, opened for play in 2004. It is a layout that closely follows Thomson’s design philosophy, which in turn comes from the traditional links courses of Scotland: the belief that golf is a game played along the ground, not in the air.

Thomson and Perrett had made the most of less than ideal land before, with their courses at Hope Island on the Gold Coast and Sea Temple Country Club at Port Douglas. This time expectations were particularly high, given the new layout’s proximity to Melbourne’s sandbelt and the best courses in the land. They have delivered a fine course that will only grow in stature as its playing surfaces and the wild grasses surrounding most fairways fully mature, giving the layout even more definition. If you are not hearing bagpipes as you wander down the 1st fairway, you will undoubtedly feel their eerie presence by the time you are standing on the 3rd tee. This 185-metre par-three, the North course’s signature hole, transports you to the 1st hole at Prestwick, or the 11th at Royal Troon, or the 13th at North Berwick – holes made famous because a stone wall borders an edge of the putting surface. Thomson pays tribute to this design trait with a 1.6-metre, L-shaped stone wall flanking the entire left side and rear of the green. There are no bunkers on this gem of a hole, just a slightly rolling landscape that flattens out to accommodate the putting surface.

Wind is a major factor at Sandhurst. Thomson, drawing on more than 60 years of playing the sandbelt, has routed the course to take advantage of prevailing breezes and more unusual winds. From the championship markers, the par-four 6th measures 418 metres. The fact that it runs east to west means this hole will rarely if ever play downwind, for easterlies are almost non-existent in this part of the world. In summer, the hot northerlies will blow you left; in winter, right-handed faders might be lucky to find the fairway, as the brisk Bass Strait winds push your first, second and third shots towards the right rough.

The back nine has some wonderful highlights, including the 497-metre, parfive 11th – known as ‘Purgatory’. Players who risk everything from the tee and attempt to clear two fairway traps will, if successful, be rewarded with a generous kick forward, putting the green within range in two shots. The 321-metre, parfour 14th is a delightful short doglegright. The 392-metre 18th is a solid closing par-four with water to the left, seven fairway bunkers left and right, and another three large sand traps guarding a grand putting surface.

The North course is one of two layouts at the enormous Sandhurst Club development, home of the PGA of Australia and host course of the Victorian PGA Championship. Sandhurst is primarily a private club but tee times are available for visiting golfers.

Memorable holes

3rd, 9th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 18th

Where to go

75 Sandhurst Blvd, Sandhurst, Victoria 3977

Book a round

(03) 8787 7011

www.sandhurst.com

Where to stay

Nearby Frankston and Cranbourne offer plenty of accommodation options.

Before/after your round

Visit the renowned McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park, which houses works by Russell Drysdale and Fred Williams.

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