"Three beers and three steak sandwiches, please." We were told not to miss the steak sandwich in Metropolitan's grill rooom, someone suggested it was nearly the best part of coming to the club. It was prpbably another member of one of Melbourne's other illustrious clubs. I took the lunch reccommendation very seriously, but once again I vowed to be as objective as possible while seeing the golf course for the first time. So we sat waiting for our food and began tallying the scores, recounting the highlights of the day.
The first highlight was being greeted by former professional golfer turned full time golf architect Mike Clayton. Mr. Clayton is probably most well known for his collaboration with Tom Doak on the design and construction of Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links. Mr. Clayton made a great gesture by coming to greet us on the tee. Unable to join us for our Wednesday morning round he took the time to chat, watch us tee off (I somehow managed to find the fairway with my drive) and wish us well for the day as we left the 10th tee in warm morning sunlight.
We were all immeadiatly impressed by a secluded and natural feeling on the golf course, amplified by many small chirping birds and squawking parrots. An ideal setting found only in Australia.
The back nine begins with a slight dogleg left played to a green which is open to a running approach. The next hole standing at 140 meters is a real stunner. All by itself, this short hole requires a precise approah over two large bunkers guarding the left and right sides of the green. Once on the green, a ridge protrudes naturally from the back edge of the front right bunker across to the back of the green, creating two distinct putting zones. Highlight here, we all made 3!
On the very next hole an interesting option is presented off the tee with a large diagonal cross bunker splitting the fairway in two. Having never played here before we all decided to go with the unknown and attempted a carry over to the right side of the fairway. It would be nice to come back and attempt a play down the left side, but I'd probably just repeat my bogey save from the bunkers around this well protected green.
The par 3 13th was out of play so we skipped straight over to the strong and strategic 474 meter par 5 14th. A well placed bunker on the left side guards against a thoughtless drive. A long drive up the right side is required to attempt a well placed second shot that will surely cash in on this hole. Depending on the location of the pin on this large perched green your lay up will be directed to the left or right side of the fairway. The hardest pin to get to would be a front right pin as the left side of the fairway is patrolled by a deep bunker running diagonally away from the line of play.
The next highlight came on the short par 4 16th. The landing area affords plenty of room to the left but the fairway turns nearly 90 degrees around a cluster of bunkers off the right side of the fairway. It is a deceptive hole from the tee and requires more than a little course knowledge to get the drive right. A long iron or fairway wood played to the left will leave about 140 meters to the green. My super human partners attempted driver over the corner while I was once again confronted with my golfing mortality, having to "smartly" attempt driver just left of the corner bunkers. While my partners sat snuggly in the neck of the dogleg my drive was snared by the last possible bunker on the sharp dog leg. I then expertly lofted a sand iron just past the pin and meekly two putted for my par. Phewww! A good par on a fun "thinkers" hole.
The front nine also impressed us with some strong holes. Namely the first which puts on an impressive display of bunkering along the entire hole. The green is heavily guarded on both sides requiring a precise approach for so early in the round, not an easy starter.
The second hole is also a good par 3 at 143 meters, but only a watered down version of the 11th hole. Both have similar settings, alone amongst the trees and guarded in front by bunkers. However, the number two hole is only slightly less dramatic from a visual standpoint.
The other par 3 to note on the front nine would be the 19th hole which we were delighted to play. The hole itself is only a short uphill wedge from the tee, but it was interesting to see the clubs' extra hole as we did at New South Wales. The planning of a 19th hole is a very useful addition to any club as it allows work to be done on various holes around the golf course without disrupting the 18 hole loop.
The last of the golfing highlights came on our 18th hole or the 9th. The drive is obscured off the tee by some mounding of a time gone past. However, the mounds make for any interesting perspective from the tee and hide the severity of the dogleg. All three of us drove through the left side of the fairway because of the well camoflauged dogleg. The second shot also proves to be a stern challenge as you must not miss long or left. Either result will surely end in bogey or worse. Almost comically, all three of us ended up directly behind the green. As some members casually walked past we could hear the teasing as we sized up our delicate chip shots. All we could do was smile and take our bogeys back to the grill room.
Since the cats are out of the bag on Metropolitan's golf course, I'll ease the tension some more and bring in the verdict on the steak sandwich. I assure you that it was an excellent sandwich and went down faster than my beer. However any dining experience that does not include the words "all you can eat lobster" would fall short of the satisfaction that you get from playing just 18 holes at the Metropolitan Golf Club.