To be honest, I wasn’t as excited to play Kingston Heath beforehand as perhaps others might be. I was over in Melbourne with two days spare to play golf, and the idea was to take in 3 courses. With such an embarrassment of golfing riches in such a small geographical spread, then it’s a legitimate decision as to whether I play here or not. I looked at all the images and videos on the internet and I saw a pretty flat property, which I’m normally not drawn to. But you’ll also find the opinions of people who you respect who have been here, and I am learning to be swayed by this when choosing where to play. And the world ranking in every publication is not exactly invented out of thin air either. So thankfully, I chose to come here (and incidentally found out that the pictures I’d seen were deceptive, and there is actually plenty of elevation change).
Still, if you are after pure eye candy from your high-end golf course, you probably shouldn’t come here. Actually, scrub that, maybe you should, so you can reassess your criteria as to what makes a great round of golf. With nothing to look at on the horizon, time to take a lesson in what I can only describe as the most incredible bunkering I have ever seen. Without any rumpled dunescapes, water features or dramatic topography to play with, the character of the holes are largely credited to hazard placement, and it just leaves you wondering that if it’s possible to bunker a course this well, why isn’t everyone doing it? (I am pretty sure there’s agronomic and financial reasons why not, but we’ll leave that discussion to people who know what they’re talking about).
I think that, largely because the bunkering is so good, and on every single hole, there just isn’t a weak moment on the property. I can’t tell you which is the worst hole, but whichever one it is, it’s a very cool golf hole. And the other upshot that seems to flow from such beautiful design is that the course is entirely fair, but without being the slightest bit like target golf. There’s still the odd bit of quirk here and there, bad bounces are possible, but I would imagine that once you know the course, you can know how to avoid any “bad luck” (meaning it’s not actually “luck” at all). No wonder the pros love it here.
A word on the quality of the turf – incredible, but firm as hell. What I found, both here and at Royal Melbourne, is that poor quality contact will not be forgiven. I was happy still playing with my old Mizuno TP Original blades from the late 80’s until I played here, but those butter knives didn’t stand up to any marginally fat shots like they do elsewhere. I am now the proud owner of some brand new Ping irons, and Ping owes the sandbelt some gratitude for that.
Two things I was surprised about from a conditioning point of view. I was expecting firm and fast, which I got, but it was entirely possible to stop a well struck 8-iron well within a metre of its pitch mark. This was not so much the case round the corner at Royal Melbourne, so cannot have been anything to do with the recent weather. I’m assuming this difference was due to decisions about maintenance and watering? Anyway, you might see this as a good or a bad thing, depends on your preference. I was also surprised how shallow the sand was, much more so than at British links courses (for example), but as with the tight turf, this just requires a more pure strike, so I think it’s something that I could happily get used to.
Do I want to play it again? No – I want to go round 100 more times, maybe a thousand. Is this the ultimate member’s club? Could be…
Date: August 01, 2021