Woodlands Golf Club

Woodlands, 5th hole – ‘try to avoid a cricket score’, Brendan James

Woodlands is one of the Melbourne sandbelt’s oldest courses, and since expanding to an 18-hole layout in 1917 it has also had a reputation for being one of the finest. That reputation is starting to spread as the course emerges from the shadow of its famous neighbours Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath. In a recent ranking of Australia’s 50 best layouts, Woodlands was listed at No. 13. The course that today lies hidden behind a tall line of trees, separating it from the bustling Boundary Rd traffic in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, has a rich pedigree. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I the newly formed Mordialloc Golf Club, as it was then named, consulted Royal Melbourne greenkeeper Mick Morcom on the construction of its greens. Three years later professional golfer Sam Bennett, who would later set out the original 12 holes at Commonwealth, laid down the remaining nine holes to complete the course. It had no bunkers and few trees. All that changed in 1921. The club’s secretary at the time, Hunter Rogers, took an aerial survey of the layout, noting all the topographical features and the approaches to each green – a first for Australian golf. The bunkers were then built and hundreds of native trees, most of them flowering gums and wattles, were planted.

Today the trees have grown to frame each hole beautifully. The bunkering, which has changed little in the years since, is both dynamic in style and regular in frequency. Combine this with immaculate year-round presentation and it is no wonder Woodlands has a growing legion of fans, among them former women’s world No. 1 Karrie Webb: ‘Woodlands is one of those special courses that has a look and feel all of its own – it’s unlike any other course I’ve played. The signature greens will test you to the limit.’ Indeed they will. By sandbelt standards the greens are small. But they are generally hard, fast and surrounded by sand, hollows and humps. The fairways are mostly generous in width, but still you get the feeling that you are working your ball gently round the layout, forever conscious of avoiding a fairway bunker or an encroaching tongue of rough. This is not a course where you can simply bang away with your driver all day.

Two early holes, the 3rd and 5th, set the scene for what is to come. Woodlands has some very good short and mediumlength par-fours that demand clever strategy from the tee if you are to avoid racking up a cricket score. The par-four 3rd, a 300-metre dogleg-right, presents an early birdie opportunity for the player who doesn’t get too greedy on the tee. A cluster of three large bunkers on the inside corner of the dogleg must be avoided, so an iron or fairway metal is the best idea. This will leave a wedge or short-iron approach, a shot you cannot afford to get wrong, for chipping on to the green from over the back or from one of two huge greenside traps is problematic.

If you have never experienced Melbourne’s sandbelt before, and Woodlands happens to be your first stop, consider the par-three 5th hole your welcome mat to the region. It is 168 metres long and a fine example of the strategic bunkering for which the sandbelt is renowned. The green is a deep, narrow target, with four large bunkers short and left and another three bunkers to the right. One look at this sea of sand will certainly make you think twice about your club selection.

Memorable holes

3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 14th and 15th

Where to go

White St, Mordialloc, Victoria 3195

Book a round

(03) 9580 3455


Where to stay

Dingley International Hotel, a few minutes’ drive north of Woodlands, has spa and standard rooms plus a restaurant and swimming pool.

Before/after your round

The beachside suburb of St Kilda lies at the northern gateway to Melbourne’s sandbelt. Grab a coffee at one of the trendy cafes before browsing the music shops and bookstores.

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