Sandbelt Splendour

There's no doubt that Melbourne's sandbelt region is home to at least a dozen world-class courses. HK Golfer's Australian correspondent Paul Myers checks out a select few

Sydney has the glamour, but Melbourne has the golf. It’s true: Australia’s second largest city and acknowledged sporting capital has a golfing pedigree second to none Down Under. Some say it even beats St Andrews and the Monterey Peninsula – it certainly falls into the very highest echelon of the planet's finest golf destinations.

Six of Australia's top-ranked courses can be found here and the appeal of the city as a golf hub par excellence is further enhanced by its convenience. You can reach each of these layouts in less than thirty minutes from the central business district, while at least another dozen world-class tracks are no more than an hour's drive from downtown. It needn't be said but these are jaw-dropping facts for those of us in golf-starved Hong Kong.

This golfing nirvana is all down to physical and human influences. The sandbelt of land circling Port Phillip Bay, with Melbourne at its apex, offers the game's ideal landscape. Throw in the design skills of Dr Alister MacKenzie, the Scotsman who created Augusta National, Cypress Point and two of Melbourne's best courses and – bingo – you have the perfect mix.

When all this and a Mediterranean climate come together in a vibrant, fast-growing cosmopolitan city of four million sports-mad people, the place really has it all. Which explains why, in golfing terms, Royal Melbourne, which will host the President's Cup in November for the second time, its neighbour Kingston Heath and the city's dozen other sandbelt courses are so revered.

The great news for Hong Kong golfers is that while these are all private clubs – and proudly so – midweek tee times are available to international visitors if booked well in advance. An up-to-date handicap from a recognized body (in our case, the Hong Kong Golf Association) is normally all that's required. Not surprisingly, green fee rates are high (especially at the moment given the strength of the Australian dollar), but deals can be found. Victoria Golf Club, in harness with Kingston Heath and Metropolitan, for example, is currently offering attractive three- and five-night stay/play packages. Check the clubs' websites for details.


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