Commonwealth Golf Club

The 3rd hole at Commonwealth, Brendan James

It is nearly 90 years since the first rounds were played where the Commonwealth Golf Club now lies. The club was constituted in 1920 and land – regarded as scrub country, and comprising only 89 acres – was bought near Centre and Warrigal roads, South Oakleigh, in the heart of the region now known to golfers worldwide as the Melbourne sandbelt.

The course was extended from 12 to 18 holes in 1926 after the club’s devoted captain, Charles Lane, travelled to Great Britain to study the design work of legendary course architect Harry Colt. Lane returned to put the finishing touches on the greens and bunkers, often taking to the course with a shovel in hand to do the work himself. In 1938 the design changed completely. Fairway bunkers were added, tees altered and all 18 greens rebuilt under the watch of the club’s secretary-manager Sloan Morpeth, a former New Zealand amateur champion. In subsequent years, additional land was purchased and several holes lengthened. Course superintendent Mark Prosser has since overseen further changes. Excess trees have been removed, the fairways and greens surrounds have been converted to Legend couch grass, and a 43-megalitre dam has been built to overcome water management issues. The dam reached near-capacity last September and the abundance of water has the course looking better than ever, as shown during the 2010 women’s Australian Open.

Commonwealth is no different to its neighbouring sandbelt courses in that the bunkers, particularly greenside, are brilliant. They combine well with the beautifully contoured greens surrounds and the tilted putting surfaces – which pose a stern challenge. Any approach shot must come from precisely the right spot on the fairway, a quality particularly evident on Commonwealth’s wonderful collection of par-fours. The round opens with one of the layout’s most heavily bunkered holes: a 303-metre dogleg-right. Played well, it offers the chance to get off to a quick start. The key is club selection on the tee. Short and safe will leave a longer approach and a likely par; but in the right conditions an aggressive play – a tee shot blasted over the fairway bunkers – can create an easy birdie opportunity. Risk-and-reward is an impressive aspect of the Commonwealth design. There is no greater example than the 364-metre 16th, one of the most photographed holes on the course. The fairway doglegs left around a lake, tempting some players to smash their drives over the water in search of a simple approach and possible birdie. Yet the conservative play can also reap a birdie, provided your longer approach shot is left below the hole, for the putting surface is steep and slopes from back to front. The 307-metre 17th is another terrific short par-four. Like the 1st, it punishes with bogeys as often it rewards with birdies. An approach hit from the right half of the fairway, thus avoiding a blind shot over some trees, offers a real birdie chance. But a wrong club choice or slight mishit to the right will see your shot kick down a steep greenside slope and into the trees.

Commonwealth is a private course. Members of interstate or overseas clubs with an official handicap can apply for a tee time through the general manager.

Memorable holes

1st, 3rd, 9th, 11th, 16th, 17th and 18th

Where to go

Glennie Ave, South Oakleigh, Victoria 3167

Book a round

(03) 9575 0444

Where to stay

Dingley International Hotel, 7 km south-west of Commonwealth Golf Club, is an ideal base for tackling all the sandbelt courses.

Before/after your round

Head into the city and visit the famed National Gallery of Victoria. The Federation Square gallery is dedicated to Australian art, while the international collection can be seen on nearby St Kilda Rd.

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