Skip to content
  • Free shipping on all orders over $150 (Australia & USA only)


On the Road:
Marvelous Melbourne

Travel • Australia •  Courses

Article by Evin Priest
Images by Wiliam Watt @ Contours Golf Travel

WWP_Contours_WalkerGolf_Sandbelt-38 Large.jpeg__PID:80292d0c-e277-4c45-9298-bd8f2212433a

I’ll never forget my first taste of the Melbourne Sandbelt, almost 10 years ago. It was a balmy Melbourne day in May of 2014, with grey skies, a bit of wind, and a tee time at Kingston Heath.

Working for Australian Golf Digest magazine, I was lucky enough to make my Sandbelt debut with a course architect – Darius Oliver. Playing Kingston Heath with a design guru was an eye opener given I was a novice when it came to course architecture.

Now, course design – the appreciation of it – is my favourite corner of the golf world.

WWP_Contours_WalkerGolf_Sandbelt-4 Large.jpeg__PID:f69906c1-8029-4d0c-a277-6c45d298bd8f

The Melbourne Sandbelt is Australia’s most important contribution to global golf, with respect to the tour players we’ve produced. Champions come and go, but masterpieces like Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Victoria Golf Club have stood the test of time.

They’ve delighted golfers for more than 100 years and they’ll wow locals and tourists for hundreds more. There’s something so magical about landing at Melbourne Airport and making the drive out to the south-eastern suburbs like Black Rock, Oakleigh, Cheltenham and Sandringham, where the soil is sandy and the terrain rolls gently enough to be a great walk, but boldly enough to produce exciting layouts. 

WWP_Contours_WalkerGolf_Sandbelt-8 Large.jpeg__PID:9906c180-292d-4ce2-b76c-45d298bd8f22

I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that Melbourne is the greatest golf city in the world. Many think it’s Chicago, and Long Island in New York, the Monterey Peninsula in northern California. Honourable mention to the heathland courses outside London. They’re all incredible golf regions, sure, but the best courses there (Cypress Point on the Monterey, Shinnecock and the National Golf Links in the Hamptons, and Chicago Golf Club) are virtually impossible for the average golfer to get a tee time. Melbourne Sandbelt clubs, while private, are accessible. And they’re on the doorstep of one of the world’s most vibrant and culturally impressive cities.

"Melbourne is the greatest golf city in the world.”

I remember in vivid detail Oliver explaining why the short, par-4 third at Kingston Heath was a special golf hole. Because, when you looked at it, yes, it was rustic and exuded that Australiana beauty, but it wasn’t strikingly obvious in its appeal. It wasn’t lush or green or dramatic. Non golfers would likely not find it aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

No.3 is 260 metres long, with some sandy scrub in the rough to the left, and beyond that was a native bush area guaranteed to swallow your ball. As Oliver explained, the safe side was the right side of the fairway, but then a golfer was coming into the narrow green over a series of ruggedly handsome, but treacherous, bunkers. If the pin was at the front, that would require a lofted approach even more vulnerable to getting knocked down by the wind and falling short into those bunkers. The further left a golfer put their tee shot would make for an easier approach shot in, but a slight pull could lead to a reload from the tee. The fairway, though, was inviting in its generous width. There were so many options. Oliver went on to wax lyrical that great architecture meant laying out a hole that highlighted risk and reward for good players, but disguised the trouble for the occasional golfer so they would only see the wide fairway and feel confident.

WWP_Contours_WalkerGolf_Sandbelt-9 Large.jpeg__PID:c180292d-0ce2-476c-85d2-98bd8f221243

Sandbelt golf is its own unique style that is, in some ways, similar to Scottish links golf but also entirely different. In both styles, bouncing the ball onto the green is often the best way to get close to the hole, and you certainly have to look at where the pin is, and work your strategy backwards to your tee shot. But in Melbourne, the greens are far quicker, and more undulating, than Scottish courses. They are, quite simply, the best putting surfaces on planet earth.

As Woods told me, “[Melbourne] is a lot like my favourite golf, which is links golf. It’s firm, it’s fast, it’s hard and the ball bounces forward. You have to think about what you’re going to do and how the ball is going to bounce. Too often in the States, we put the ball straight up in the air and let it plug. In Oz, you have to chase the ball and anticipate whether it’s going to take a big hop when it gets to the green. That to me is fun and is how the game of golf should be played.”

WWP_Contours_WalkerGolf_Sandbelt-2 Large.jpeg__PID:95f69906-c180-492d-8ce2-776c45d298bd

Woods famously won the 2009 Australian Masters at Kingston Heath and returned a year later to defend his crown. He’d fallen in love with the Sandbelt on his first trip to Melbourne — but second to Australia after the 1996 Australian Open in Sydney — to play the Aussie Masters at Huntingdale Golf Club in February 1997. He tied for eighth, two months before he changed golf forever with his first major win at the Masters at Augusta National.

He returned to the Sandbelt at the 1998 and 2011 Presidents Cups, the 2009 and 2010 Australian Masters and, finally, the 2019 Presidents Cup. At the latter, Woods was the playing captain for the US team and went undefeated in his matches to lead the Americans to victory over the International team. It was the last week of truly great golf the world saw from Woods and it was on the Melbourne Sandbelt.

And it’s not just 15-time major winner Woods who celebrates the Sandbelt. Royal Melbourne’s West course is consistently voted by Golf Digest in the top five courses in the world (outside America) on its World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, a biennial ranking. Royal Melbourne’s East course is typically in the top 20, while Kingston Heath hops in and out of the top 10. Australian Golf Digest regularly celebrates the Sandbelt within the best 30 of its Top 100.

The Melbourne Sandbelt also includes Victoria Golf Club, Yarra Yarra, Metropolitan, Commonwealth, and Huntingdale. You could call Peninsula Kingswood’s 36-hole, world-class layout “Sandbelt Adjacent” given it is a little further out at Frankston. This was all a long-winded way of saying Melbourne Sandbelt golf represents longevity and depth. The best things in life have layers, are complex, and take on more meaning with each look. So, it’s extremely cool my mates Glenn Walker and Jack Fardell have paid tribute to the Sandbelt with their latest line for Walker Golf Things. The custom cable knits and heritage caps are timeless and make you proud to be an Australian golfer, just like the Sandbelt.

Your cart is empty

} }