The Takeaway: The East will always be the little brother to the West, but unlike most 36 hole facilities, the East stands tall in its shadow and is certainly one of the elite courses of Australia. The opening holes of the East are world class and the finish is compelling. Visiting Royal Melbourne to just play the West would be a grave mistake. Grade A-
Designer: Alex Russell in 1932
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 (East)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Cheltenham Road, Black Rock, Victoria 3193
Accolades: Ranked 11th in Australia by Golf Course Gurus.
What to Expect: Royal Melbourne is simply the finest 36 hole facility in the Southern Hemisphere with the East and West courses both being worthy of world recognition. The historic club found on Melbourne’s famed Sandbelt is in the perfect location for golf with rolling terrain and a sandy base. But the story at Royal Melbourne really is a tale of which side of the road you are playing on. After the opening four holes, the East course crosses Reserve Road and enters the much less inspiring portion of Royal Melbourne’s property, similar to what the West course experiences after the 12th hole when the routing crosses Cheltenham Road to the flat ground. South of Cheltenham and west of Reserve exists some of the best terrain in the world for golf and each course shares part of it. The East course comes back onto this choice property after the 15th hole to finish out its final three holes. Six of these seven choice holes (all but the 16th, which is a fantastic hole) from the East course are featured on the Composite course which comprises the best holes from both courses. The non-Composite holes from the East course are still great and offer some good scoring opportunities, but there is no doubt where the elite holes reside. That being said, the three hole triangular loop of holes 10-12 highlight the routing east of Reserve Road and are worthy of recognition. The majority of golfers will be walking at Royal Melbourne with caddies being sent out with visitors, however carts are available for players with a medical necessity. Ultimately the East will never replace the West as the best course at Royal Melbourne, but the East must be played on your trip to Australia.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 1st Hole – 332 Yard Par 4 – Another one of the great short par fours on Melbourne’s Sandbelt, the opening hole on the East course is a ton of fun and an exciting way to start your round. 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.
Best Par 3: 16th Hole – 165 Yards – Just a beautiful par three and the hole that replaced the 4th East hole in the Presidents Cup routing in 2011 and 2019 compared to the traditional Composite holes, this one-shotter designed by Alex Russell features one of the most unique green shapes at Royal Melbourne. Shaped like a butterfly due to two of the seven bunkers around this green encroaching the centerline of the green in front and back, this hole creates two distinct portions of the green to attack. The hole plays true to the distance if not a touch longer as the terrain begins a slight ascension from tee to green though virtually the entire putting surface remains in view. The 16th isn’t a terribly difficult hole but is certainly one of the most attractive.
Best Par 4: 3rd Hole – 383 Yards – Another great example of why length isn't necessary to design a great hole that is still challenging. The fairway tightens to a claustrophobic level 265 yards from the tee so players must choose whether to play an iron short of the neck or whether to blast a driver passed it. Players that hit their driver need to bend it left to right mimicking the shape of the fairway in order to avoid the patch of manna gum trees on the left, but bending it too hard right will finish in a forest of trees. The approach shot will play from a downhill lie to one of the most challenging greens on the course à la the 13th at Crystal Downs. In fact, this hole is very reminiscent of a shorter version of the infamous 13th at Crystal Downs which demands precision from tee to green.
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.
Birdie Time: 15th Hole – 303 Yard Par 4 – The 15th hole underwent changes in 2004 and took on further changes by Tom Doak later, but none of those changes change this hole from being an excellent birdie opportunity. The hole is short enough to be reached with a big drive, but even a conservative play that favors the left side of the fairway opens a generous angle to the green where pinseeking is certainly in order. The green slopes from front to back so be sure to take that into consideration when transferring energy to your approach shot and don't get so aggressive that you find the chipping area beyond the putting surface. Avoid the half dozen bunkers peppering this hole and cross the road to finish the East course on the superior home paddock holes.
Bogey Beware: 2nd Hole – 440 Yard Par 4 – After an easy start, the East course counters with its most difficult here at the 2nd. Perhaps the most difficult driving hole on the East course, the landing area on the right side of the fairway is obstructed from view which makes it easy to miss to the more visible left side where a patch of trees lie in wait to punish your cowardliness. The severely uphill approach shot calls for at least one extra club to avoid tumbling down to the divot ridden areas short of the green. Featured as the 12th hole during the 2019 Presidents Cup, bogies were flying around like crazy on this hole including double bogies by Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama on Sunday during the singles matches.