The Takeaway: The Composite course stands with Cypress Point as the finest combination of class, confidence, and compelling architecture in the world. There is nothing brash here, but instead the course oozes with fine tuned subtleties, world class bunkering, and natural movement in the terrain that is the envy of the golfing world. It is simply the finest non-coastal course ever created. Grade A+
Designer: Alister MacKenzie (West) in 1931 and Alex Russell (East) in 1932. Composite first used in 1959.
Cost: Private Private (Interstate, International, and Reciprocal visitors welcome) Click for membership information
Phone Number: 61 3 9599 0500
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Composite)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Cheltenham Road, Black Rock, Victoria 3193
Accolades: Ranked 2nd in Australia by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: A top 10 course in the world that is only playable a handful of times a year, the Composite course at Royal Melbourne is an absolute treasure to experience for both members and visitors alike. The Composite course features the best six holes from the East course and best twelve holes from the West course to create a world class routing that is set up at the club less than a dozen times a year. Different from the routing that is used for the Presidents Cup, the Composite features the following order of holes: 1W, 2W, 1E, 2E, 5W, 6W, 7W, 10W, 11W, 12W, 17W, 18W, 3W, 4W, 3E, 4E, 17E, and 18E. There are so many great holes and combinations to utilize them that other routings exist, including this one from the 2019 Presidents Cup: 3W, 4W, 5W, 6W, 7W, 10W, 11W, 12W, 17W, 18W, 1E, 2E, 3E, 16E, 17E, 18E, 1W and 2W. You’ll notice that the Composite course employs the 4th hole from the East course while the Presidents Cup course instead uses the 16th hole; both of which are par threes that border each other. Also, when these alternative routings are used the 2nd hole from the West course is slightly shortened and featured as a par four rather than par five while the 12th hole from the West plays the same length as its usual par five self, but carries a par of four. When both courses are in play the West course puts up flags that are white and blue and the East course flys white and red flags. On days when the Composite course is set up, the flags are solid white with the club logo centered in the middle. Bottom line, the holes used in the Composite course and Presidents Cup course, those found south of Cheltenham Road and west of Reserve Road, are some of the finest holes in the Southern Hemisphere and are found on beautifully rolling terrain as opposed to the mostly flat terrain on the other sides of the roads. If you ever get the opportunity to play the Composite course, consider yourself fortunate to tee it up on this choice routing.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 5th Hole – 176 Yard Par 3 – The instant you stand on the tee box for the 5th hole you know you have arrived as a special one-shotter and one of the best mid-length par threes in the world. A total of five bunkers hug the edges of the putting surface and flighting your ball far enough onto the green that it stays is paramount for success as chipping from the apron short of the green requires the finest of touch. Getting above the hole is one of the scariest experiences in golf, and if you have some side slope to add to it your knees will be knocking over a three footer more than anywhere else that you've likely experienced. The hill the green sits on with the natural amphitheater surrounding the putting surface is truly one of the finest greensites in the world and never provides a dull moment. (5th hole on the West course)
Best Par 3: 16th Hole – 201 Yards – Included in the Composite course but left out of the Presidents Cup course due to the tight constraints the property yields for spectators, the 16th is the most difficult par three on Royal Melbourne’s vast property. Another brilliant example of an uphill par three, the 16th requires both distance control and an ability to turn the ball over from right to left. The green angles away from the player and so the further left the hole is the harder you have to turn the ball over to get it close to the pin. Bunkers frame the line of play and mimic the shape a professional bowler’s ball takes bending from the right side of the lane and curling into the perfect pocket position. This hole encompasses a beautiful mixture of compelling design and a challenging test to create an exceptional one-shotter. (4th hole on the East course)
Best Par 4: 8th Hole – 312 Yards – There are so many great short par fours Melbourne’s Sandbelt, but none are better than this hole. From the elevated tee players are presented a choice on what club to hit and how aggressive of a play that will result in. The cavernous bunker on the left side must be avoided at all costs and protects a direct line to the green. Laying up to the generous fairway right of the bunker brings some sloping contours into play with the fairway tilting back towards the player for much of the time and then falling away to the brush once you’ve crested the peak. Many players have taken out a longer club in an attempt to drive the green only to find themselves tumbling through the brush on the backside if their line wasn’t perfect. The ideal play is a 3-wood that starts right of the fairway bunker and draws in toward the green while staying short of the bunker complex flanking the right side of the putting surface. The small green features a swell in front which gathers approach shots not given sufficient oomph while trying to reach the flag. The sloping putting surface is found at the high point of the hill and is unkind to shots that are struck with reckless accuracy. Pure genius in design and terrain, the 8th on Royal Melbourne’s Composite course is simply one of the best driveable par fours on the planet. (10th hole on the West course)
Best Par 5: 17th Hole – 569 Yards – The longest of the 36 holes at Royal Melbourne, this three-shotter sets up well late in the round as an opportunity to be aggressive in an effort to get a stroke back or play it conservative to protect a score. The tee shot should be played to the left side to open the hole up and best handle the fairway that slopes slightly to the right. If you have a clear look then you can blast a fairway wood over the cross bunkers about 100 yards from the green and try and chase your ball towards the apron of the putting surface in an effort to get down in four strokes. If you are playing for par then laying up short of the bunkers is the prudent play with the left side of the fairway being the preferable spot to keep as much sand out of play as possible. The subtle valley in the green shouldn’t scare anyone but can move a ball just enough offline to cost you a stroke if you don’t read it right.
(17th hole on the East course)
Birdie Time: 3rd Hole – 332 Yard Par 4 – Another one of the great short par fours on Melbourne’s Sandbelt, the 3rd hole on the Composite course is a really fun hole early in the round to enjoy. The landing area is blind from the tee and the fairway bends slightly right while the terrain wants to push balls to the left. The bunker system on the right side of the fairway separates this hole from the 8th on the West course while the bunkers on the right side of the green are nearly impossible to get up and down from. The perfect drive is a baby cut that works its way towards the opening in front of the green and if it comes up short, you leave yourself an opportunity to chip back into the slope. Getting on the right side of the green and putting to a hole location at the bottom left is one of the scarier putts on the course with the ball begging to race off the green. During the 2019 Presidents Cup, Dustin Johnson famously drove this green and left himself a short four foot putt for eagle. But Royal Melbourne wasn’t ready to yield quite so easily as the slope in the green was just enough for Johnson’s eagle putt to catch the right edge and lip out. (1st hole on the East course)
Bogey Beware: 6th Hole – 439 Yard Par 4 – Like the 8th at Pebble Beach, it takes about a millisecond to see how the 6th hole on Royal Melbourne's West course is one of the finest par fours on Mother Earth. The bunkering on the corner of the dogleg is the best I've ever seen in an effort to protect the hole without being unreasonable. The bunkering on that corner stretches out farther the further right you aim; so if you are going to try and cut the corner you darn well better hit your ball solid and precisely online. If you don't take on the bunkers then you aim left of them to what appears to be a wide landing area but can quickly turn against you as the fairway slopes away from the player and towards the tall grass and foliage on the far side. The further left you are off the tee the more challenging the approach shot is as the heinous bunker fronting the left side of the green comes into play; and that is the most difficult bunker on the entire property to save par from. The severely sloping green is a challenge on its own and would surely be considered a par three on a miniature golf course going from one end to the other, and four putts are not that uncommon. This is a fantastic hole that challenges every level of golfer and greatly rewards those that can tame it. During the 2019 Presidents Cup this hole continued to show its teeth as in tournaments past by yielding more bogies than any other hole during the Sunday singles matches. (6th hole on the West course)