All the Sandbelt courses are celebrated for the rugged beauty and challenge of their bunkering, many from the sketching pad of the itinerant Alister MacKenzie, Metropolitan has common features to the other benchmark courses. Whereas you marvel at the expanse of sand at Royal Melbourne and the rugged edges of Kingston Heath, many of Metropolitan’s bunkers are cut into the greens’ edges in the most stunning way. There is simply no better hand finishing of a golf course to be found anywhere else in the world.
Indeed, Metropolitan and the Melbourne Golf Club (before the Royal was attached) were one in the same before the loss of land to the encroaching city necessitated Melbourne’s move to Port Philip Bay. The remaining members authorised the purchase of land and a two-storey farmhouse and formed Caulfield Golf Club in 1908, playing on a course designed by club member J.B. MacKenzie, an engineer. Tournament play began here in 1930 following a series of modifications suggested by Alister MacKenzie in 1926.
Much of the back nine was reconstructed by American architect Dick Wilson on adjacent market garden land during a visit he made to Australia in 1959. As a consequence the 7th and the back nine between the 10th and 17th are markedly different holes to the original layout.
Seven Australian Opens, five Australian PGAs and ten other professional tournaments have been hosted at Metropolitan. The World Golf Championships Match Play Championship was held here in 2001 where Steve Stricker prevailed over an illustrious field to beat Pierre Fulke in the final. The world’s finest arrived and heaped praise on the course. Memorable comments included Ernie Els who said: “I’ve checked my schedule (for the year) and I’d say this is the best course I’m going to play for the whole year.” Stuart Appleby risked the ire of the committee at Augusta National when he made the following comments: “I think it’s a whole set of clubs ahead of Augusta in condition. This is a natural golf course where the grass is playable twelve months of the year.”
Metropolitan is a fine members’ club with a tremendous course and a just reputation for excellent all-year-round conditioning.
The above passage is an extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
It is probably 50 years since I last played Metropolitan, just at the time the club had lost some of its land at the end of their property and the new holes looked very sparse especially in comparison to the glorious first nine with so many fine eucalyptus trees .Time heals all wounds and the new holes have gained much in beauty even without the towering gums and the condition of the course is the same all over;excellent . The wonderful thing about Metropolitan is that it is a delight to play , sandy loam fairways beautifully covered with couch and fast but totally fair greens together with a glorious collection of tweetering bird life . It is a flat course but as good as any in Surrey or Berkshire and that is saying something!!
Metropolitan GC is known as the best conditioned course in Australia, and one of the best in the world- comparisons have even been made with Augusta National because of the magnificent carpet of santa ana couch fairways, and immaculate presentation of bunkers and greens. But Metro has more to offer than it's wonderful presentation.
It is a joy to play, and demands a golfer put some thought into his game. The fairways are wide, but the distinctive clean edged bunkering is everywhere. Fairway bunkers push you one way off the tee, and then challenge you again with approaches to greens amply protected by more sand.
There is no better example of this than the long par 4 first hole. The 'safe' drive to the right side of the fairway avoids a larger bunker complex at driving length on the left. As with much of the fairway bunkering at Metro the bunker intrudes well into the fairway, and draws the player’s eye. However the green is heavily protected on the right side, and has more gaping bunkers well short and right as well- meaning the safe tee shot to the right will then demand a long approach over a number of bunkers to reach the green. It is strategic, it is difficult, but it also eminently fair as it is all laid out before you on the tee.
Welcome to Metropolitan!
The first 6 holes at Metro are absolutely world class in my opinion. The aforementioned opener is followed by a devilish, but picturesque par 3, a dogleg par 4, short par 5 with tricky elevated green, and very tight tee shot over sand and rough, and a par 4 and par 5 that flow through the native gum trees and shrubbery. The vegetation is dominated by the red flowering gum that became the club logo, and it frames the holes beautifully. The bunkering is wonderful, and the crisp lines eat into those santa ana carpet fairways and demand your attention. But it is the sculpting of the fairways around the bunkering that really impresses me. I don't know of any other course where these dips and hollows in the fairway carpet are so captivating – they give movement to the fairways in such as way as to make them a natural extension of the bunkers.
However after hole 6 the course is laid on flatter terrain. This is a result of the land swap in the 60's. There are many good holes later in the course- the par 3 11th is a gem. And the short, tight dogleg par four 16th is memorable with bunkers everywhere. The longer par 4 seventeenth hole is unique with a copse of non native trees protecting the right side of the green. And the closing par 4 is a strong hole.
However as good as the course is, it does not consistently match the quality shown in those first 6 holes. The latest revision by Crafter + Mogford Golf Strategies may well rectify this!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Metropolitan is quite simply one of the best courses in Australia, beautifully manicured fairways are a treat to the golfer upon standing to address their shot.
Pure couch fairways with large landing areas are kept in pristine condition all year round, fast bent grass greens are hand mown to the edges of the outstanding greenside bunkers which are those ones found typically on the Melbourne sandbelt, they're a real treat.
Enjoy the opportunity to play here if it comes your way :)