Fresh off our morning round at Commonwealth, our group took a short cab ride over to The Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The mighty Royal Melbourne, this is the image I held in my imagination. As one of the most renowned courses in the Sandbelt, I was hearing polar opposite opinions of the place for better and worse. The legend of Royal Melbourne will no doubt grow as the President's Cup returns in November 2011, but I intended to be as objective as possible. I would walk to the first tee at Royal Melbourne West with open eyes and see for myself.
Boy did my eyes get opened, wide open. In fact, wide is a good word if you only had one to describe the golf. Royal Melbourne was built to a grand scale, noticably bigger than the others of the Sandbelt. The fairways offer considerably different lines of play from side to side and the greens come in a variety of sizes, part of the brilliance of their design. Some par 3's offer big targets like the famous 5th hole while the shorter par 5's have smaller greens, protecting against aggressive plays to have the green in two.
(5th hole 161m par 3)
The golf course gets real good starting on the famous boomerang right par 5 fourth. Played from the proper tee this hole can accommadate all skill ranges. The trick is to make the heoric uphill carry over a set of bunkers on the left. If one manages to get far enough down the ensuing hill going for the green is possible. Starting with this hole I knew I was in to see a special golf course.
(4th hole 461m Par 5)
The edges of the holes at RM, like Victoria, had sand exposed through the turf, giving you the feeling that you were on a different category of golf course. Another special feature of Royal Melboure is how big the place feels, almost like you are golfing through a game reserve. Once you get on the golf course there isn't so much as a passing airplane to bring you back to reality.
(12th hole 435m Par 5)
There were a few detractions that I would like to note however: Much of the sandy waste areas were overgrown with vegetation. Our host told us many of these plants had been beefed up since the use of automatic irrigation. The look of the course and playability would change for the better if all that extra low brush were thinned out lending to a more sandy appearance. I was slightly dissapointed by this as any ball hit into the waste was almost surely lost under the low growth. 2. The greens were extremely slow. I was able to overlook this shortfall in conditioning, however it's a shame we were not able to see the course in its top condition like the other courses in the Sandbelt. 3. A menacing lightning storm off in the bay threatened to either kill us or soak us for our entire round. Luckily we did not get struck by a single drop of water or one bolt of lightning. The rain only came in buckets as we sat relaxing over our Carlton Draughts.
Having finished our 36 hole day at Royal Melbourne those beers couldn't have tasted any sweeter as we reflected on the world class golf that we had seen on this day. Commonwealth had the conditions to match any club in the Sandbelt and Royal Melbourne will have to live up to those standards if they are to make a good impression at the President's Cup. It seems that they are experimenting with their turf, for example, a 10 yard ring of fescue will play around all of the greens to combat some notoriously dry conditions. It was an odd look but it still needs time to weather in.
(15th Hole 434m Par 5)
Through the shaggy greens however, the heart and soul of Royal Melbourne shines through easily. The qualityof the golf holes combined with the grandeur of the property make Royal Melbourne one of the special places for golf in the world. It is an incredible facility of which I only saw 18 holes! The composite course that will be put in play for the President's Cup should be something special.