Kingston Heath Golf Club pushes Royal Melbourne – and in some opinions exceeds it – as the premier course in Australian golf. The West course at Royal Melbourne gets all the accolades, but Kingston Heath's pure 18-hole layout could be even better than its neighbour. We'll leave that debate to you.
Dan Soutar designed Kingston Heath in 1925 and the course is located in the famous sand belt region of Melbourne. The famed Dr Alister MacKenzie was also brought in to offer bunker advice and guidance. In the view of many, he created the best natural bunkering one would ever wish to encounter. MacKenzie also suggested some minor alterations to the original Soutar layout, including turning the 15th from a short par four into a medium par three – and what a par three it is! The deep bunkers tend to overwhelm the small target and you should definitely try and avoid them by hitting the green at all costs.
The challenge begins with a demanding long par four, which is soon followed by Kingston Heath's shortest par four and the variation in length is compelling to say the least. Both can be equally damaging to the scorecard and the latter proves that a dual combination of tight bunkering and slick greens can be just as lethal as length. Modern course designers tend to forget about the strength of a tactical short par four, believing that length is necessary to combat modern day equipment. When we encounter the 3rd at Kingston Heath, we realise that nothing can be further from the truth. It is the ultimate risk and reward hole and always leaves an indelible impression on those who try and overpower it – either successfully or unsuccessfully.
The same can be said for the rest of the course, as Kingston Heath is an ultimate example of strategic golf. The long par four 6th, which runs parallel to the 1st and heads back towards the clubhouse, is one of the best par fours in the country.
The last five finishing holes are probably, as a collection, the best in all Australian championship golf. The strategic par five 14th is followed by the mercurial par three 15th. You’re then faced with three long par fours, all around the 400-metre mark. The dogleg right par four 16th is followed by a blind par four 17th with no bunkers surrounding the green. A tough and long par four finishes off your round. These holes will ask questions of you and they require all facets of your game combined into three words: pinpoint accurate golf.
Kingston Heath is a classic design that has stood the test of time and it certainly rates among the best courses in Australia and the world. With nearby neighbours such as Royal Melbourne (West and East), Metropolitan, Victoria and Commonwealth to name a few, we think that you will find no better place in Australia to play golf than here on Melbourne's sand belt.
For 30 years, the Australian Masters was held at Huntingdale Golf Club in Victoria, but in 2009 the event was switched to Kingston Heath. The 2009 event saw world No.1, Tiger Woods, aiming to win his first ever stroke play title in Australia. After a final round 68, Woods lifted the 2009 Australian Masters title, and joked, “now I've won on every continent, except for Antarctica”. Woods went on to say: “All the guys have raved about this golf course and I understand why. I really enjoy playing on sandbelt courses because it brings back shot-making and we don't see enough of that.”
The World Cup of golf visited Kingston Heath in 2016 and the Danish duo, Søren Kjeldsen and Thorbjørn Olesen, dominated the event to claim Denmark’s first World Cup triumph. The Danes carded an astonishing 12-under par 60 in strong southwesterly winds on Friday, by which time Kjeldsen had fallen under Kingston Heath’s spell: “This is my favorite type of golf. You've got to control the ball and look at the angles. You don't just get up and whack it, you've got to think your way around.”
No. 2 ranked course in Australia and for good reason. Beautifully designed by Soutar and MacKenzie in 1925. From the moment I entered the front gate, to having my bag taken to the pro shop, to receiving wonderful token gifts and a photo from the staff of me standing at the starters box to a beer at the end of my round, all the hype surrounding 'the Heath is justified.
Absolutely perfect day had on the 2nd best course in Australia in my opinion! No wonder it's held every major golfing event :) It's easy to walk around this course that sits on such a rich sandy base. Not a lot of elevation change to this course as is the case with most of the sandbelt courses, but the routing and design of the holes are what makes it truly world class.
The course has great holes everywhere, no more so than on the run home, at the 142m Par 3 15th, design heaven is seen from every angle. The bunkering at KH is outstanding in terms of design and the quality of each one, good depth, quality of sand. This is only one of the dangers as the razor edge greens attached to them play generally very quick with bunker to bunker shots more than likely if the golfer gets it wrong. Undulating and great sized greens make for the beautiful make up of this world class course. Tys.
10 years ago I played Kingston Heath for the first time along with 14 other top courses in Australia all in one long trip. Back then it was my favorite course of the ones I had seen in the entire country. Recently I was back Down Under for a new adventure and it all started with a repeat visit to Kingston Heath and yes indeed, it’s still my favorite course in Australia. Most will argue Royal Melbourne is the superior routing and better golf landscape ever so slightly and they would be correct. However, Kingston Heath is the ultimate example of how wonderful truly firm and fast conditions can be on a golf course. Short for today’s standards, KH is all about strategic options, driver is most certainly not the play on many of the holes, wind is usually an added challenge and putting is scary fast.
Kingston Heath is graced with some of the most amazing greens and greenside bunkering of any course in the world. Bunkers run into the greens like no other course. There is a seamless natural transition not just of greens and bunkers but also the surrounds. The day’s pin positions will most certainly dictate the strategy of which angles need to be utilized in order to approach the greens from the correct angles. The turf being of fine grasses is some of the best and most fun turf to play on in the world. The ground game is essential as is making sure you land the approaches well short in order to gauge their roll out otherwise shots will simply run through the green. Kingston Heath truly has 18 great holes. Naturally there are a couple more famous ones like the par 3 16th with its all-world bunkering and crazy narrow green leaving a daunting tee shot or extremely tough recovery shot.
On top of all this Kingston Heath’s routing makes it one of the best and most pleasant walks in all of golf. It’s the perfect way to spend any day on the links as far as I’m concerned and it’s hard to imagine a Top 20 World course being underrated but this may just be the case with Kingston Heath. If you ever have a chance to experience it make sure you jump on it. It’s really that good!
I developed a deeper love for Kingston Heath on this trip and was fortunate to play it on three occasions with various Pennant (interclub team scratch match play competition) level members. Although on a flatter piece of land, the strategy for ball placement is truly paramount in order to get the best angle into the greens. MacKenzie continually asks golfers to hit the ball as close to hazards/bunkers/doglegs as possible. Of all the golf courses in the Sandbelt, I would hands-down choose to play Kingston Heath the most. The simplicity of its creation married with the genius of the strategy to negotiate each hole, offers up what I consider to be the greatest course in Melbourne. No matter which way the wind blows, no two rounds are the same and this old lady deservedly wears a crown.
The Australian and five-time British Open Champion Peter Thomson is a big fan of Kingston Heath’s third hole, which is an 269 meter yard par four. He says, "holes of this length are not built any more - a pity. This one is a gem. In this day and age it can be driven, although the possibility must be ten or more to one against. For this reason, the penalties for missing the target should be more severe, this enhancing the challenge."
Planet Golf also feels that the best hole of all at Kingston Heath is the drivable but dangerous third because the shallow green is angled to accept only the most precise pitch shots.
Thomson is also a big fan of the fifth hole, a 173-meter par three. “The threes here at Kingston Heath are very much the heart of the course, and this one is the first of three beauties. The original natural bumps and hollows have been preserved blessedly."
The bunkers at Kingston Heath are penal since the sand is shallow and many have high lips and a green that slopes away from your shot.
Tom Doak compares Kingston Heath to Merion in that it is a strategic design on a tight piece of land and has a similar great use of only about 125 acres. Combined with the intricate bunkering, it makes a compelling golf course. I whole heartedly agree.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
This course is rated no 2 in Australia and 17 in the world and it has been my privilege to play the course 7 times over the last 4 years, and from start to finish it is a severe test not of brawn but of brain. The first tee shot is the easiest that you are going to get, a good wack over the ridge left of the bunker on the right will set you up, from then on direction on a target line is what is all about, the third is one of the best short par 4 that you will ever play and the 6th back to the clubhouse is the best hole on the course, treat the course as a severe examination paper, be conservative off the tee, keep the ball in play, enjoy the short 15th (6/7 iron from the tee), and if you get a 3, just run and get out of there, I have had 7 goes at it and haven't hit the green yet. For those of you that read this you have one problem, it is a private club and you must find a member to take you but be assured it will be a visit that you will always remember and the clubhouse and general ambiance is one of the best that you will ever encounter and the food is not bad either!
Robin McCall, The Berkshire.
To quote directly from KH website..."Kingston Heath extends a warm welcome to international visitors ....".
If living in Aust you need to be a member of a reciprocal club..
KH doesn’t have the jaw dropping cliff top location like NSW or is not blessed with the natural undulations of Royal Melbourne, but it’s the subtleties that make this course just as good (…or better).
Its renowned bunkering receives praise from all who play, but it’s the unassuming run-off areas around the greens that can hurt your score most. Take the steep fronts on 3 and 7 or over the back of 10 and 11 as examples, a less than perfect approach could be punished by a 20m pitch to a raised green in order to get up and down for par. As far as best holes, the 15th is legendary. Personally I’m a huge fan of two short par 4’s (3rd and 9th), both have relatively tight tee shots but it’s on and around the green that things get interesting. As you would expect from a course of this stature there is not a weak hole on the layout and a tough finishing stretch emphasises this point; from the tee box on the par 5 14th hole right through to the 18th green this course demands good golf, there is no limping home.
KH has been recognised as Australia’s top course in 2010 and 2011 and I have no doubt its push past NSW and RM is due to the immaculate condition of the course, leading up to and following, the hosting of the Australian Masters in November 2009. I walked the course the morning of Tigers first practice round and again on the Sunday and I have never seen fairways (or grass anywhere for that matter) as perfect. The positive attitude of staff and members also contributes to a memorable round; I get the impression that they all recognise they’re part of something special in the golfing world but are proud to be and are very grateful for privilege. The new clubhouse is now complete and is a beautiful addition to a beautiful course. KH is as good as it gets and undoubtedly one of the best in the world!