“Golf came and went in Melbourne in the 1840s,” wrote Sir Peter Allen in The Sunley Book of Royal Golf; “the Club such as it was ending with a dinner at the Royal Oak Hotel in 1850. After that the discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria caused a huge boom and influx of people, followed by slump, which put aside most frivolous activities, so that organised golf was not revived in Melbourne until 1891.
The Melbourne Golf Club which was formed that year subsequently divided into two, one of which today is the Royal Melbourne Golf Club and the other the Metropolitan Golf Club.
The split was caused by disagreement among the members about moving from the original site occupied by the club at Caulfield. One group, led by J.M. Bruce, moved out to Sandringham, not far from the sea, taking with them the royal title which had been granted in 1895. The new course was opened in 1901. The other club remained onsite as the Caulfield Golf Club, but later in 1908 moved out to the sand-belt area and became known as the Metropolitan Club, which flourishes today.”
The following passage is a brief edited extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
"Although six holes from the East course are incorporated with twelve from the West when Royal Melbourne is presented in its championship livery, when played in its entirety as the playing style of the East course is distinctly different. The bunkers are not so cavernous as to diminish the golfer. The fairways, though generous when compared to the Sandbelt average, are not as wide as on the West.
While it does not quite offer the grand theatre of the West, it is still a fantastic golfing experience and holds its own versus all other courses in the Melbourne area.
It is with the par threes I think where Alex Russell and Mick Morcom’s design most closely approximate their Svengali. All bar the short 13th make use of some natural drama. All involved some carry over the sandy heathland. As the greens are large enough to permit multiple pin permutations and you find yourself poised over your bag in between two or even three club decisions."
In April 2018, Paul Rudovsky, one of our most respected globe-trotting contributors, revisited the East course after being too long away:
"I first came to Melbourne in February 1977 and played Royal Melbourne’s West and East courses (as well as the Composite Course) on that trip. I have been back to Australia at least twice since and played RMGC’s West course at least three more times, but had not replayed the East. I clearly remembered holes 1-3 and 17-18, but to be honest not much about holes 4-15 (except remembering that it was almost as good as the West). So this time I decided that it was time to revisit the East and was very glad I did. It is an outstanding course and its only fault is that it sits in the shadow of RMGC’s West (which a good number of knowledgeable observers consider to be the finest in the world)."
Designed by Alex Russell with Mick Morcom again in charge of construction, The East Course traverses less undulating terrain than it's older sister, but has the same iconic green and bunker complexes.
In recent years the club has employed Tom Doak to modify the design.
My favourite hole would be the long par 5 seventeenth hole which meanders along the course boundary dodging bunkers left and right, and the absolutely classic par four closing hole with its stadium finish. The green is surrounded by a sea of bunkers, and different pin positions will dictate the best line of approach. The hole doglegs from right to left and requires a long accurate tee shot to hit the fairway and a steely nerve to find the green surface.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Royal Melbourne's East course is always going to live in the shadow of it's big brother the West course, there are great holes here in my opinion, mostly at the beginning and end of the round.
Course was is good shape when I played there, greens running very true like you would expect them to on the sandbelt.
Shot values score well here as do all the sandbelt course, the contours of this course are still of a very high standard.
The resistance to scoring here at the east course is indeed fair and not to difficult, the fairways are wide enough, bunkers are in good condition to hit out of. Not that much elevation change at the east course but the routing is strong.
The memorability at the east course is high as well, with great bunkering and green complexes meeting the golfer.
Overall I enjoyed my day here immensely !!!!!!!!
The East course has recently reached the top 100 world rankings on its own merits and I can see why. It's a great collection of holes. The par three 13th on the East, 135 meters, which doesn't play in the composite courses is a spectacular little par three. It has the best protected green of the 36 holes at Royal Melbourne.
The third hole on the East is a dogleg right down a sweeping hill and the fourth is an interesting uphill par three. The second on the East is a great par four that has a blind tee shot to a fairway that starts far left and comes back to the right.
The composite course at Royal Melbourne was devised for tournaments in 1959 so that crowds would not have to cross Cheltenham Road. While it can be confusing playing the courses trying to figure out which holes are part of the composite, the easy rule of thumb is that if you are still on the side of Cheltenham Road near the clubhouse, you are on the composite. The holes from the East course (1,2,3,4, 17 and 18) that are part of the composite are a worthy bunch.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs