Kingston Heath Golf Club

Kingston Heath, 10th green – ‘the only putts holed are short ones’, Brendan James

Kingston Heath has long been regarded as the second best course in Australia, only marginally behind nearby Royal Melbourne’s West course. Both layouts call on players to be strategically smart from tee to green. The overwhelming difference is that Royal Melbourne winds around an expansive, rolling landscape, while the Heath has been squeezed across flatter terrain and into a smaller area – just 50 hectares, about half the size of most modern-age courses.

Sydney-based professional and course designer Dan Soutar routed the original layout and created the entire course, starting with the outstanding 130-metre, par-three 10th, which lies at the heart of the property. The genius of Soutar’s routing is that this diminutive hole is surrounded by seven others, something that has made Kingston Heath a popular tournament venue among spectators. Soutar’s creativity in confined spaces is outdone only by the bunkering, which was added to the layout by Dr Alister MacKenzie and masterfully constructed by Mick Morcom, the course superintendent who brought MacKenzie’s Royal Melbourne sketches and masterplan to life. MacKenzie thought Soutar’s layout, although long for the time at 6200 metres, was excellent. But he suggested one important change: that the blind par-four 15th be turned into an uphill par-three, with bunkers covering 75 per cent of the journey to the green. Today the 15th is regarded as one of the finest, if not the finest, one-shot holes in Australia.

The visually stunning bunkering is the backbone of the challenge at Kingston Heath, and one reason why this classically designed layout has withstood the test of time. So many courses built in the same era have had to be redesigned to maintain an edge over modern equipment. Yet Kingston Heath seems ageless. That’s not to say there haven’t been significant alterations in recent years, with many greens rebuilt, some bunkers added and remodelled, and the fairway turf changed. But the character of the Heath remains intact.

If the 15th is the jewel in the crown, the two other par-threes are also memorable. The 173-metre 5th is one of only a few holes that run to the east, so the prevailing breeze here is from right to left. This brings the crop of five bunkers down the right side of the hole into play, as the hitting line shifts to the right to allow for the wind. Further judgements of wind and club are needed on the short 10th. Three enormous bunkers guard the entire front half of the green, which features steep slopes off the shoulder of the bunkers and a ridge running across the middle. It is not a hard green to hit with a short iron – but the only putts holed here, usually, are short ones. Kingston Heath has some long, stern par-fours. The best of them is the shortest. At 269 metres, the 3rd green is easily reachable from the tee for long hitters, but the placement of seven bunkers short and around the small, sloping putting surface demands the respect of even the finest professionals. Tiger Woods, an unabashed fan of the layout, went for the green only once during the 2009 Australian Masters. He found a greenside trap and had to summon a Houdini-like escape from the sand to make birdie.

Perfectly manicured, Kingston Heath is a private course. A limited number of tee times are allocated to visiting golfers who are members of interstate or overseas clubs.

Memorable holes

3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 15th, 16th and 18th

Where to go

Kingston Rd, Cheltenham, Victoria 3192

Book a round

(03) 8558 2700

Where to stay

Dingley International Hotel is 4 km south-west of Kingston Heath.

Before/after your round

Catch a show. A big-name musical or theatrical production is always playing at one of Melbourne’s iconic venues, such as the fully restored Her Majesty’s or Princess theatres.

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