Sandhurst Club is the national base for the PGA of Australia (it moved its headquarters here in 2007) and the two Peter Thomson-designed 18-hole courses that are laid out on the property are set within a very modern Victorian residential development.
The North course was the first of the two layouts to open in 2004 and it’s characterised by large, undulating greens that demand full concentration all the way round.
The 199-yard 3rd hole pays homage to a number of great Scottish holes – such as the 1st at Prestwick and the 13th at North Berwick – where a stone wall plays a prominent part in proceedings. Here, a five-foot high, L-shaped dyke bounds the bunker-free green to the left and rear of the putting surface.
On the back nine, highlights include the 549-yard, par five 11th (“Purgatory”) and the 353-yard 14th, a delightful right doglegged par four, but the best is kept until last at “Woe Betide,” the 443-yard 18th, where water threatens down the left from the tee.
Because the fairway at the home hole also kinks slightly left, the smart play is to drive down the right then play a slightly longer approach to the green – all very well in theory but golfers also have to avoid the seven fairway bunkers and three greenside sand traps that await shots which stray too far off line.
The Sandhurst Club is a 36 hole facility south of Melbourne. Both courses were designed by Peter Thomson. I was only able to play the North course and while this may sound like sacrilege, of all the courses I played this felt the most American.
One is a welcoming par 4. Decent drive will leave you with a short iron into the green. The 2nd is wee bit tougher, longer par 4. Favor the right off the tee. The 3rd is an interesting mid-length par 3. The only hazard is an L-shaped rock wall that is about 4 feet high. It really should not come into play, unless, like me you hook it badly off the tee. The first par five is relatively straight forward, favor the right off the tee and the left on your second shot. The 5th is a straight par 4 with a protected redan green. The 6th is a tough par 4. Favor the right off the tee and you may want to take an extra club to this well protected green. The 7th is another straight par 4. There is an overabundance of straight holes, in my opinion. Favor the right off the tee to avoid the fairway bunkers left. The 8th is a mid-length par 3 that is well protected by bunkers front left, center and right. The 9th is a cool par 5. Yes, you can get home in two, but…. Slight dogleg left, so cut as much of the corner as you dare over the water hazard. The next shot is the sphincter puckerer. There is a small creek protecting the green. Easy decision is to lay up. Courageous decision with a small margin of error is to go for it. I don’t suggest trying to bounce it over the burn, it did not work for me.
The back is much tighter than the front and starts with a dogleg left! Trees right and bunkers left. Favor the right for a mid-iron into the green. The par 5 11th can be reached in two, but certainly not by me. Off the tee there are two large bunkers in the middle of the fairway. Just to state the obvious, left, right, short or long is the play. I could not execute any of the options successfully. The long par 4 12th is a tough hole, with a well-protected green. Favor the right side off the tee, but be wary of the fairway bunker. Now come some scoring opptys. The short par 3 13th is the easiest hole on the course followed by a short par 4. The 14th is a dogleg right with bunkers strategically placed in the fairway and the elbow that catch aggressive players tee shots that did not quite measure up. The 16th is another short par 4. Bombs away but favor the left to avoid the bunkers on the right. The 17th is the last par five. Favor the left off the tee and only the stoutest hitters need to worry about getting home in two. The 18th us a solid finishing hole. A long par 4 that meanders left with a water hazard all the way down the left side. Too far right off the tee and you are through the fairway and into a thicket. This green is well protected and a par here is earned.
Good not great
My friend Mark and I played the North Course first thing in the morning with the 'champs course to be played in the afternoon. The North course is fairly flat and fairly up back and around.
Fairway bunkers line this course whether from off the back or ladies tees.
The wall hole - Par 3 3rd is a funky hole that has to be seen to be believed.
Holes 8 and 9 are good fun with the later having a sneaky creek lurking before the green.
Holes 14,16,18 are the standouts on the back nine, with 18 replicating the 9th but without the creek before the green.
In my review of the other course I failed to mention Holly at the bar who looked after us at lunch time with tucker and beers. And also young Ray (72 years old) who played holes 6-9 on the 'champs course with us.
Mark and I have a story about the 6th holes with ray that will be spoken about for quite some time :)
Mark a double bogey putt from 50 foot out and drained it after yours truly drained a bogey putt from the same distance, opposite side of the green!