WOODLANDS GOLF CLUB - EXCLUSIVE REVIEW
by Darius Oliver, from Australia's Finest Golf Courses
Woodlands Golf Club
Course Opened – 1913
Designer – R.S. Banks, S. Bennett
Largely unheralded outside of Melbourne, the Woodlands Golf Club is yet another exceptional example of classic Australian golf course architecture within the glorious Sandbelt.
Teacher and mad golfer George Rogers found the site while visiting the adjacent Epsom racecourse to seek permission to hit golf balls around the racetrack. The land was part of the stately Mayfield Estate and Rogers, with the help of some keen golf friends who were knocking balls around an old railway paddock, managed to convince the trustees to lease part of its grounds for golf.
Founded in 1913 as the Mordialloc Golf Club, members initially golfed on a nine hole course laid out by Albert Park Professional Rowley Banks. As the popularity of the course grew additional land was allocated to the club and in 1917 a further nine holes, this time designed by club Professional Sam Bennett, was opened. Evolving considerably in the early days, the course has remained largely unchanged since the 1920’s when the classic 7th hole was redeveloped and the bunkering added under the watchful eye of Royal Melbourne Greenkeeper Mick Morcom. Prior to Morcom building his famous bunkers, turning earth on the estate had been forbidden and the club was instead forced to use portable wire netting as hazards in place of actual bunkers.
Short by today’s standards, Woodlands is no pushover with tight tree lined fairways and a clever mix of outstanding short holes and testing, intelligent longer holes. The greens, which get notoriously firm and fast in summer, have their own unique character and are the course’s main defence from low scoring. Small and elevated they are protected by strategically positioned bunkers, banks, humps and hollows. Hitting the tiny targets in regulation means plenty of great birdie opportunities, which is why good iron players particularly enjoy this course.
Despite a number of tremendous holes, it’s the four exceptional short par fours that standout. Three are driveable while the fabulous mid length 7th hole is a drive and pitch to one of the most unique greens in marvellous Melbourne. Each has a distinct character, attacks the wind from a different angle and offers a number of options for players of any level from the tee. Other course highlights include the bunkering on the 5th and 15th, tough back to back par fours at the 9th and 10th, and the frightfully tight 17th which is only short but has one of the toughest greens to hit of any par three on the Sandbelt.
Although not an easy course to score well at, the great variety at Woodlands makes it one of our most enjoyable classic courses. The playing surfaces are always superb and the bunker restoration undertaken in recent years has been a tremendous success with the bunkering now the equal to courses like Commonwealth and Metropolitan, and only marginally inferior to the much lauded hazards at Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne.
Woodlands pre dates Alister MacKenzie’s visit to Australia and came of age during the Golden era that he inspired, yet despite retaining the characteristics that make Sandbelt golf so wonderful, the lack of the great man’s insignia has seen the course perennially underrated.
This review features in Australia's Finest Golf Courses (RRP $49.95).
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