Largely unheralded outside Australia, Woodlands is yet another exceptional example of classic golf course architecture within Melbourne’s glorious Sandbelt. Though today it is one of the best bunkered courses in Australia, when formed back in 1913 the club’s landlord prohibited any earth works on the estate and its early members were forced to use portable wire netting as hazards in place of actual bunkers. This policy was altered in the 1920’s when the course evolved into its present form and Royal Melbourne greenkeeper Mick Morcom added the famous bunkering.
Short by modern standards, Woodlands is actually quite a difficult test with tight tree-lined fairways and small elevated greens that get notoriously firm and fast in the summer months and are protected by strategically positioned bunkers and dangerous humps and hollows. Despite its varied mix of intelligent long holes and attractive par threes, the strength of the course are the outstanding short par fours like the 3rd, 13th and the easily reachable 4th, its wicked target narrow and all but impossible to hold unless approached straight on. The 7th is another fabulous four with a tight drive followed by a pitch into one of the most unique greens in Melbourne. Other course highlights include the bunkering on the 5th and 15th, strong back-to-back par fours at the 9th and 10th, and the frightfully tight 17th which has one of the toughest greens to hit of any par three on the Sandbelt.
Woodlands came of age during Australian golf’s Golden Era, yet despite retaining the characteristics that make Sandbelt golf so distinctive, the lack of the Dr MacKenzie insignia has seen this wonderful course perennially underrated.