Southern Golf Club

The 4th hole at Southern, Brendan James

Southern is one of the Melbourne sandbelt’s least-known courses, but in recent years its star has been on the rise. The original layout was created by Sam Berriman, a British expat who began his working life in Melbourne as a gardener, before later gaining a reputation as a fine golf course designer. It opened for play in 1949 and was spread across two sides of Lower Dandenong Rd. By the late 1970s it was apparent that the increased traffic flow was becoming increasingly dangerous for golfers crossing between holes.

As a result six new holes – which adjoin the main area of the course, and now make up most of the front nine – were designed by Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge. Many subsequent design tweaks have been overseen by former Australian Open champion Bob Shearer, one of Southern Golf Club’s favourite sons. The latest and most dramatic of these were prompted by the construction of a multi-million dollar clubhouse, which opened in 2003, its location away from the main road requiring some holes to be redesigned and the routing changed.

Today the course has two distinct nines. The front nine is a sparse layout consisting of huge bunkers, a few lakes and mounds, and a combination of shrubs and tall timbers lining the fairways. One of the more memorable holes on this side of the course is the par-four 5th. Measuring only 340 metres from the back markers, its length belies its difficulty. It is rated the sixth-hardest hole at Southern, with water and lots of sand along both sides of the fairway. The ideal tee shot here is with an iron, getting the ball in play and avoiding the hazards. Having achieved that, take aim at the green with a mid-iron, ensuring your approach shot heads towards the left half of the putting surface and steers clear of the water lapping close to the right fringe.

Shearer’s bunker design, especially on holes like the 5th, is superb. Their shapes and sizes have improved the course cosmetically, while their thoughtful placement has stiffened the challenge of a round at Southern.

Sand and water play a major role on the 8th, a 311-metre par-four, where your driver is best left in your bag. To score well here, accuracy is a must. Three bunkers to the right of the fairway hide the presence of a lake beyond, while another three sand traps to the left will catch longer hitters trying to avoid the water. Many greens at Southern involve plenty of twists and turns, and the two-tiered green here is no different. Your approach shot must find the same level as the flag or a three-putt is almost guaranteed. The inward half, east of the clubhouse, spreads out across a more undulating landscape, with tall-timbered fairways and large schemes of bunkers around the putting surfaces. The dramatic terrain has been used to dictate the roll of the greens and carve out the surrounding bunkers. A good example of this is the 155-metre 12th hole, the hardest par-three on the course. Four deep bunkers shield the front half of a uniquely designed green that features three steep tiers, a false front and drop-offs to the sides towards the back. Depending on the pin position, you should avoid the middle of the green, for the ball generally rolls down the swale – and recovering from the bunker on the left is no simple matter.

Southern is a private club but interstate and overseas golfers can apply for a tee time through the general manager.

Memorable holes

4th, 5th, 8th, 11th, 12th and 14th

Where to go

Lower Dandenong Rd, Keysborough, Victoria 3173

Book a round

(03) 9798 3111

Where to stay

Dingley International Hotel is less than fi ve minutes’ drive away and is ideally located for playing all sandbelt courses.

Before/after your round

The Australian National Aviation Museum, at nearby Moorabbin Airport, has more than 50 aircraft on display or being restored.

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