Metropolitan Golf Club- Marvelous Melbourne ‘Sandbelt’ Golfing Gem.

What does the marvelous Melbourne Metropolitan Golf Club course and its unique bunkering have in common with a 100 kilometer long stretch of golden sand on the Atlantic Ocean west coast of Senegal?

The answer is almost nothing!

It’s just that so many wonderful words have been penned about his famed ‘Sandbelt’ gem I found myself struggling for an introduction to this feature.

Metropolitan Golf Club - one of marvels of Melbourne's Sandbelt courses.

Metropolitan Golf Club – one of marvels of Melbourne’s Sandbelt courses.

It was Friday of the World Cup of Golf week and after a late afternoon call the day before, Peter Paccagnan, the General Manager at Metropolitan kindly arranged for me to play the course.

My first visit to Metropolitan had been in 1993 when Greg Norman invited good friend Brad Faxon down to Australia for an end of season holiday, and with the American returning home with the Stonehaven Trophy.

I returned to Metropolitan four years later when a young England sensation named Lee Westwood took Norman to the fourth extra play-off hole to also capture the Australian Open.

My last tournament visit had been in 2001 when American Steve Stricker defeated Swede Pierre Fulke, who had Australian-born caddy John Hort on the bag, to win the WGC – Accenture Match-Play Championship and still the only occasion the event has been staged outside the States.

However it has been longer than a dozen years since I had the pleasure of playing Metropolitan and that was in the days when I used to regularly cover the Australian Masters at closeby Huntingdale.

I was met upon arrival by Head Professional, Adam Smith who had occupied the same role at the Hampton Court Palace Golf Club just outside London.

Adam went out of his way to make me feel welcome and escorting me to the area of the first tee and pointing out the two members who I was to join for the morning.

Peter arranged for me to play Metropolitan in the company of two outstanding members in Nic Lamb and Rick Sharp and here’s where the Senegal connection kicks in.

Playing partners and Metropolitan members Rick Sharp and Nic Lamb.

Playing partners and Metropolitan members Rick Sharp and Nic Lamb.

Nic is the Executive Chairman and Rick the Managing Director of Mineral Deposits Ltd, a firm mining metals from the beach sands along the Senegal coast on the African continent.

So it seemed sand was to be a common theme of discussion this morning in Melbourne.

And in talking of sand there can be no finer example of bunkering than at ‘Metro’, as the course is more affectionately known, as I was to learn close hand on more than one occasion.

A feature of the early bunkering at ‘Metro’ was a collar of rough but after a 1927 visit by Dr. Alister McKenzie of Royal Melbourne, Augusta National and New South Wales design fame, he suggested the bunkers ‘were too far from the greens they were intended to protect’.

McKenzie’s recommendations were then largely implemented with the bunkers cut into the greens surface that is now a feature not seen elsewhere in the world this extent.

The course and its bunkering has long been a ‘must see’ visit for golf course designers including six-time Major champion Nick Faldo who has been known to simply just walk the course on occasions when he competed in the Australian Masters.

‘Metro’ also not only lays claim to a stunning golf course but an equally stunning new clubhouse.

As well, ‘Metro’ naturally also boasts a proud history of major tournament competition with the honour roll of Australian Open, Australian PGA and Australian Women’s Open winners:-

-1930 Australian Open F Eyre (N.S.W)

-1930 Australian P.G.A J Robertson (N.S.W)

-1930 Australian Men’s Amateur. H Hattersley(N.S.W)

-1934 Melbourne Centenary Tournament. J.Thomson (U.S.A)

-1936 Australian Open. G Sarazen (U.S.A)

-1936 Australian P.G.A. W Clifford (Vic)

-1936 Australian Men’s Amateur. J Ferrier (N.S.W)

-1937 Australian Ladies’ Amateur. Miss B Kernot (Vic)

-1948 Australian Men’s Amateur. D Bachli (Vic)

-1951 Australian Open. P Thomson (Vic)

-1951 Australian P.G.A. N Von Nida (N.S.W)

-1960 Victorian Open. J Harris (Vic)

-1966 Australian P.G.A. P Thomson (Vic)

-1968 Australian P.G.A. K Nagle (N.S.W)

-1971 Australian Men’s Amateur. R Hicks (Vic)

-1973 Australian Ladies’ Amateur Miss M Mooney (Ire)

-1975 Victorian Open. S Ginn (Vic)

-1978 Victorian Open. G Wolstenholme (UK)

-1979 Australian Open. J Newton (N.S.W)

-1980 Victorian Open. G Wolstenholme (UK)

-1981 Victorian Open. B Dunk (N.S.W)

-1982 Victorian Open. M Clayton (Vic)

-1983 Victorian Open. B Shearer (Vic)

-1984 Victorian Open. G Norman (Qld)

-1986 Australian Open. R Davis (N.S.W)

-1993 Australian Open. B Faxon (U.S.A)

-1997 Australian Open. L Westwood (U.K)

-2001 World Matchplay Championship. S.Stricker (U.S.A)

-2001 Australian Men’s Amateur. A Buckle (Qld)

-2001 Australian Women’s Amateur. Miss H Beatty (W.A)

-2009 Women’s Australian Open. Miss L Davies (UK)

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