Victoria Golf Club

The 11th hole at Victoria, Brendan James

Strategy wins out over brute strength every time at Victoria Golf Club, acclaimed worldwide as a fantastic shot-makers’ course. This is probably why the club has produced so many fine players. Peter Thomson was a member here when he triumphed in five British Opens. His pennant team-mate Doug Bachli won the 1954 British Amateur Championship. More recently, Geoff Ogilvy won the US Open in 2006 and Stacey Keating was Australia’s 2010 amateur women’s champion. Who actually designed the course was for many years a mystery. It opened for play in 1927. For decades it was thought that William Meader, the driving force behind the club’s formation, and founding captain Oscar Damman were solely responsible for creating it. And it is true that they laid out the holes across this beautifully undulating terrain. But the bunkering plan was undertaken by a third party – one Dr Alister MacKenzie. MacKenzie was working across the road on the design of Royal Melbourne’s West course when Meader asked him to take a look at the Victoria layout. Impressed by what he saw, MacKenzie recommended a few hole changes and drafted a plan for the bunkers. An aerial photograph of the layout taken in 1934 shows the magnificence of MacKenzie’s bunkering work, which sadly became obscured or lost over the decades because of overplanting, the extensive spread of ti-tree and the growth of huge cypress pines. In 1995 the club recognised that the course had got overgrown and lost some of its star quality. Mike Clayton was commissioned to consult the club on recapturing its original essence. Using that same aerial photograph, Clayton has spent much of the past 15 years tweaking aspects of the layout. ‘It was an extraordinary course when it was built,’ he says. ‘Much of that great work was lost after World War II, with most of the bunkers turned into round pits. Much of the flair was gone. The redesign hasn’t been an attempt to modernise Victoria or make it more difficult. It is simply an attempt to put back what was there originally.’ Classic, memorable holes are scattered across the layout, but the greatest concentration of exciting golf is on the back nine, where the undulating terrain gives rise to a huge variety of shots and strategies. The 390-metre, par-four 12th is a dogleg to the right that plays down to the fairway from a high tee. Guarding the corner of the dogleg is a bunker Clayton produced to replace three round and shallow traps that had posed little threat to anyone. Players are now best advised to drive to the outside corner of the fairway, leaving a clear approach shot. Many experts point to the 15th as the finest hole on the course and one of Australia’s best short par-fours. Measuring only 297 metres from the championship markers, it presents players with some intriguing choices. The bunkers start down the left side of the hole, about 180 metres from the tee, and run all the way to the green. Some players will lay up short of the sand, leaving an approach shot of about 90 metres. Big hitters with a perfect running draw can find the green, however a bunker 20 metres short leaves anyone in it facing a horrible prospect. A big spotted gum on the left of the green looks out of place – and it is. It was planted there when Jack Nicklaus holed a wedge from the other side of the parallel 11th fairway, after hooking his tee shot while going for the green. Clayton’s work continues, meanwhile, and one gets the impression he won’t rest until the complete majesty of MacKenzie’s contribution is recaptured. Victoria is a private members’ club but interstate and overseas players can apply for tee times through the general manager.

Memorable holes

4th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th

Where to go

Park Rd, Cheltenham, Victoria 3192

Book a round

(03) 9584 1733

Where to stay

The clubhouse at Victoria Golf Club has 15 spacious and well-appointed rooms. Play-and-stay packages are available through the club.

Before/after your round

Venture to the top of Melbourne on the Eureka Skydeck 88. A bold feature of the skydeck, on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower in Southbank, is The Edge – a glass cube that slides out from the edge of the building while you are standing in it.

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