The Takeaway: While Kingston Heath is unquestionably a fantastic course and perhaps Australia's finest championship test, the flat and uninspiring terrain hold it back from being extraordinary. Like Winged Foot in the United States, Kingston Heath relies on exceptional bunkering and green complexes to breathe life into land that isn't as engaging from the tees and fairways. Grade A-
Designer: Dan Souter in 1925 with Alister MacKenzie providing a bunkering plan in 1926
Cost: Private Private (Reciprocal and International Visitors welcome at $300 AUD) Click for membership information
Phone Number: 61 3 8558 2700
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Kingston Heath Golf Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Kingston Road, Cheltenham, Victoria 3192
Accolades: Ranked 9th in Australia by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: The storied Kingston Heath course in southeast Melbourne has long been regarded as one of Australia’s best courses with many national publications placing it just behind Royal Melbourne’s West course as the finest track Down Under. While I don’t hold it in the same esteem, Kingston Heath is without question a high caliber championship layout. The course is laid out on nearly dead flat terrain save for one end of the property which non-coincidently contains Kingston’s signature hole. Like Winged Foot that also lacks interesting terrain for a golf course, the best feature at Kingston Heath is the bunkering. Beautiful and strategic bunkers adorn the course throughout thanks to Alister MacKenzie’s work on the property during his visit in 1929 to the famed Sandbelt area which deliver character to the layout and land. Also adding character to the course are the trees and foliage throughout which frame the holes but in general aren’t thick enough to prevent players from the opportunity to work their ball over or around them. While the bunkering, greens, and foliage are great, the lack of engaging terrain and ability to create unique hole designs is a let down that hamstrings it from being truly elite. One unique feature to the course though is a 19th hole, a par three located behind the 1st hole that is incorporated regularly in the layout in order to give one of the other four par 3s a break from play which helps with the health of those greens. A new scorecard is printed daily showing which par 3s are in play that day and what order they are to be played in. The club also honors the tradition of walking and makes it a requirement except for offering motorized carts to those with medical issues preventing them from walking during their round. With an expansive clubhouse, championship layout, and located in a large metropolitan city, Kingston Heath is set up to host as high of a level of golf tournament as would ever be asked of it.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 15th Hole – 154 Yard Par 3 – Without question one of the most famous one-shotters in Australia, the 15th at Kingston Heath is a brilliant hole and further proof that length isn't required to achieve greatness. In fact, the bunkering that Alister MacKenzie put on Dan Souter's routing at Kingston Heath accounts for a significant portion of what makes Kingston Heath special, and the 15th puts that on full display. A sea of sand sits between the tee and green while both sides of the putting surface features deep bunkers that create a challenging scenario to save par from given the challenging putting surface above. In typical Sandbelt fashion, the bunkers are cut so tight to the putting surface that absolute precision is required to safely get aboard this green and navigate the sloping surface. Pictures don't do this hole justice, but the moment you get to the tee box you will know you are about to embark on a special hole.
Best Par 3: 5th Hole – 189 Yards – The par threes are solid throughout the course, including the 19th hole that is consistently brought into the routing to give the other one-shotters a break. But the 5th is featured here and stands out with its raised putting surface surrounded by semi-deep bunkers, seven in total on the hole, with the front left of the green providing the most generous area to attack. Half of the bunkers aren't in play for a shot that is struck at least fairly well, and the cylinder shaped green begs you to aim for the middle no matter where the flag is. With majestic trees creating the backdrop, the eye candy isn't too bad here either.
Best Par 4: 9th Hole – 359 Yards – Perhaps the most exciting hole on the course, I still find myself wanting to go back and play the 9th hole. I hit what I thought was the best drive of the day over the trees framing the left side of the fairway in an effort to try and reach the green. After minutes of searching I never did find my ball and the lack of closure still resides within me. The potential outcomes and strategies on this hole vary wildly day to day and player to player which is at least half of the fun of it. A trio of bunkers protects the inside corner of this slight dogleg left 250 yards from the tee and aren't visible from the back box. The safe play is 225 yards straight away which sets up a relatively short approach to a front-to-back sloping green the becomes difficult to stick considering an aerial shot is virtually required to avoid the bunkering protecting the putting surface. The bold play stays left of the fairway bunkers and carries the trees on a line with the opening in the green that awaits beyond. However, with firm conditions and a sloping green, having it work out just right is a high risk indeed; but a ton of fun to try and full off.
Best Par 5: 14th Hole – 563 Yards – The 14th is a mid-length par five that will be reachable by long hitters while the average player will have to decide how exactly to plot the best path for safety. From the tee a series of bunkers stand out on the right side over 300 yards in the distance and proof to be a legitimate aiming point as long as you stay short of them; especially since the fairway pinches down to its tightest spot here. The approach shot ideally comes in from the right and bend left towards the green in an effort to take the series of bunkers on the left side of the hole out of play. The entrance to the green is accommodating to a bounding shot and misses to the right set up an easier up and down opportunity, so play fearless coming in at this putting surface.
Birdie Time: 3rd Hole – 294 Yard Par 4 – A great birdie opportunity presents itself early in the routing at Kingston Heath with this sub-300 yard hole that begs you to be aggressive. The fairway bends slightly right at the end and calls for a cut off the tee to set up a short chip to the opening of the green. Trying to drive this green isn't prudent considering the bunkering that pinches the opening to the green, unless you can control a cut on your driver as well as you can control your wedge. The second shot is dictated fiercely based on the pin placement with a front pin being the ultimate green light while a back pin can get a little dicier to challenge, unless you can control a low skipping shot to it. With a pure putting surface waiting to green you, roll your birdie putt with confidence and take a stroke back from Old Man Par.
Bogey Beware: 16th Hole – 434 Yard Par 4 – The conclusion of Kingston Heath's version of Amen Corner, the 16th features a blind tee shot which always makes it difficult to summon up the right amount of confidence. What you see as you walk from the 15th green back to the 16th tee is that the fairway takes a strong turn right and pivots on a bunker complex that protects the driving zone. The fairway tilts a bit from left to right so the best play is a slight cut that starts at the two tall trees straight away and works toward the green while avoiding the bunkers. A shot that is tugged left will run into trouble and quickly take par out of play while blocking it right will see the same fate. The approach plays to a double green that shares with the 8th hole while a half dozen bunkers create the separation between the two lobes of putting surface. With so much going on and the difficult closing stretch looming, the 16th is a hole that can throw a bogey on your card quicker than it may appear on paper.