May 19, 2014
I guess you can say I started off my Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore trip with a bang. On my first free day, I played Royal Melbourne's East Course in the morning and Kingston Heath in the afternoon. I think it is rare when a person can play two top 100 courses in one day so I really made sure to enjoy each experience to the fullest.
"The Heath", as some locals called it, was designed in 1925 by Australian professional Dan Soutar. Bunkers were kept to a minimum when the course was built to see how it played. The 18 holes were built on only 50 hectares (most courses in the modern era are built on over 100 hectares). Soutar was paid a fee of 25 guineas plus traveling expenses from Sydney. He planned the course around the tenth hole, which is set among a picturesque avenue of gum trees. Soutar routed the course so you wouldn't have to play into the afternoon sun. The course was constructed by M.A. Morcom, who was the superintendent at Royal Melbourne.
While Alister MacKenzie was visiting Australia he was hired to offer suggestions on bunker placement. The course was 6,892 yards long when it opened, which is very long for the 1920s. In his 1926 report on the course, MacKenzie criticized it for being too long.
I knew, with a tee time of around 1:30 p.m. and with sundown schedule around 5:15 p.m., it was going to be tough to get a full walking round in. But, I am not in Australia often and didn't want to miss the chance. After grabbing a quick lunch while driving, I followed my Garmin to a very understated entrance - an unmarked gate on the side of the road. From the parking lot, the clubhouse doesn't stand out from any other, but once you are walking towards the fourth green, its elegance is on full display.
|The Kingston Heath clubhouse and restaurant.|
|The gentlermen's locker room.|
|The club logo on the locker room door.|
|The flag of each hole on the course.|
- Hole 6 is listed as one of the top 18 holes in all of Australasia and Japan.
- Hole 6 is also listed as one of the 18 hardest-to-putt greens anywhere in the world.
- Hole 6 received further accolades as one of the best Par 4s in all of Australia and New Zealand.
- Hole 6 is one of the best 18 holes ever designed by Alister MacKenzie.
The first tee looks out at a wide fairway, with the fairway from #4 to the right adjoined to it, giving giving an even bigger presentation of the first hole. It is a Par 4 that plays 418 meters. To score well at Kingston Heath you really need a good start over the first six holes. The ideal drive on this first hole is a fade down the centre.
|A look down the fairway from the 1st tee.|
|A look into the 1st green from 150 yards out.|
|If you find yourself in the front right bunkers, par is going to be difficult to achieve.|
From my understanding, this is a newly lengthened hole, playing 351 meters. If you hit a strong three wood, it is ideal to use and place your shot to the right side of fairway, avoiding the traps on the left. The scrub brush that crosses the fairway shouldn't be an issue unless you badly mishit your drive.
|A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee.|
|A look into the green tucked into the back left corner.|
|A closer look into the 2nd green from 75 yards out.|
A\The 3rd hole is a short par 4 playing to 269 meters. The short length is adequately compensated for by the the small green and deep bunkers guarding it.
|A look down the fairway from the 3rd tee.|
|A look into the green from 80 yards out.|
The 4th hole is a Par 4 that plays to 357 meters. A drive down the left side of the fairway is ideal as it leaves a good angle to attack the green with a wedge. The alternative is a long iron short of the fairway trap on the left.
|A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.|
|A look into the 4th green from 75 yards out.|
One of three great par three holes at "The Heath", it plays to 173 meters. The best shot is over the traps to the front side of the very sloping green. The left trap is deadly.
|A look into the 5th green from the tee box.|
As noted towards the beginning of this blog, Hole #6 is the standout hole with accolades as one of the best holes in this part of the world, as well as one of the hardest 18 greens to putt anywhere in the world.
|A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.|
|A look into the 6th green from 120 yards out.|
The par five 7th hole plays to 462 meters. Drive down the left centre of the fairway, short of the cross bunker.
|A look down the fairway from the 7th tee.|
|A closer look at the cross bunker mid fairway.|
|A look into the 7th green from 125 yards out.|
One thing I have definitely gained experience from playing while in Australia is the blind tee shots. The 8th hole, a 398 meter Par 4, is a blind drive that will likely leave all but the longest of hitters short of cross bunkers.
|A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.|
|A closer look at the cross bunkers just past the top of the hill.|
|A look into the green from 100 yards out.|
The 9th hole is a Par 4 that plays to 330 meters. You have a very tight entrance to this blind fairway, between thick tea trees. You probably want to put your driver away, opting for a long iron or hybrid for the tee shot.
|A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.|
|A look into the 9th green from 130 yards out.|
Below is the approach shot you will be looking at if you hit to the right side of the fairway.
|A look into the green from the right side of the fairway at approximately 60 yards out.|
The 10th is a Par 3 that plays to 127 meters. The trick here is trying to feed the ball over a ridge that runs across the middle of the green. Any shot landing over the ridge will be lucky to stay on the green that slopes off the back.
|A look into the green from the 10th tee box.|
The 11th is a par 4 that plays to 380 meters. A set of bunkers in the center of the fairway forces you to play left, leaving a mid iron to a very firm, small green. Down wind, a wood or a long iron to the right of the trap is likely the best play.
|A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway towards the green at the turn in the dogleg.|
A beautiful tree sits behind the 11th green. Not only does it give a mark to aim for from the long fairway, it makes for a nice photo for my blog so I shot a vertical and horizontal photo of it framing the green.
|A look onto the 11th green from the backside of the green.|
|A look onto the 11th green from the backside of the green.|
Number 12 is a par 5 that plays to 509 meters. An extra 60 meters were added to this par 5 just a few years ago from my understanding. A drive left of the huge bunker in the centre of the fairway is the shortest way to a well-protected small sloping green in calm conditions.
|A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.|
|A look at the cross bunkers from mid fairway.|
|A look into the 12th green from 100 yards out.|
The 13th is a 324 meter, par 4. Position is important on this fairway and depends on the different hole positions. I hit a driver down the left side and from there, I found myself in good shape to hit a wedge into the green.
|A look down the fairway from the 13th hole.|
|A look onto the green from just behind the front right, green-side sand trap.|
The 14th hole is a par 5 that plays to 516 meters. This is the last par five on the course. The green is reachable in two with a strong northerly wind.
|A look down the fairway from the 14th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the right side fairway bunkers.|
|A look into the 14th green from 100 yards out.|
Once I arrived at the 15th tee box, it started to get dark quickly. I had to open my camera shutter lens more than I am comfortable with, as well as increase the setting to a longer exposure. From there, I had to balance the camera on the top of my putter to keep it still so I could attempt to take a non-blurry photo.
|A look into the green from the 15th tee box.|
|A look onto the green from just behind the right bunker. A tough shot indeed!|
A very difficult finish at Kingston Heath starts here with a par 4 that plays to 391 meters. I hit my three wood to the blind fairway here because I was unsure how far it was going to roll after clearing the hill which slopes away.
|A look up the fairway from the 16th tee box.|
|A look down the 16th fairway from the top of the hill.|
|A look into the green from 140 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.|
|A look into the 17th green from 200 yards away.|
The finishing hole is a par 4 that plays to 391 meters. A drive to the right of the huge deep bunker on the left side of the fairway is the best play. This will allow a mid to high iron to the green – which is very firm and well protected by sand traps and deep crevices. The 18th is a quality final hole but unfortunately it was the only hole I didn't play because it was just too dark.
Overall, Kingston Heath lived up to all my expectations of what a top 30 golf course in the world should be. The course was in fantastic shape, the staff was very professional and cordial, and I had a hell of a fun time playing it. A win on all fronts and I recommend it if you find yourself in Melbourne.