The Furrows, a new short course by OCM Golf, the design firm that comprises Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead, has opened for play at Kingston Heath Golf Club near Melbourne, Australia.
The nine-hole par-three layout was built on a 20-acre parcel next to the club’s eighteen-hole course. “Since the mid-1990s, the club has had the foresight of purchasing land surrounding the course, as a means of protecting the boundaries,” said Cocking. “This included land along the eastern side of the course, and alongside the twelfth hole, which is known as the ‘Madden Land’. Used as a market garden for the best part of the last century, the club have looked at a variety of uses for this land, starting around 20 years ago when a nineteenth hole was first built.”
The opportunity to make use of this land, purchased in 1986, has long been on the mind of Kingston Heath’s club captain, Matthew McKenna, who wondered how the market garden space could host something more interesting than water storage or a turf nursery.
That something different turned out to be a nine-hole par-three layout. “It didn’t take much prodding to get us excited about the idea of a short course, and we talked through a number of different concepts,” said Cocking. “An early idea looked to incorporate the first, sixth and nineteenth holes so the course would start and return at the clubhouse, but this became awkward jumping in and out of a full field, so it was quickly dismissed. Another design had fewer holes, but included an option to play a short four, and yet another embraced the freeform option.
“However, these weren’t that practical on a small piece of land, especially if a number of groups want to use the course at once, so we gravitated towards the idea of a formal loop of par-three holes. Despite not trying to stick to a nine-hole layout, the dimensions of the Madden Land made it hard to create anything but nine.
“At 600 metres in length, it would be long enough for roughly four holes out and four holes in, and the widest section to the south would also allow for a hole to play across the property, to make nine holes in total. We did, however, want to avoid the feeling of just playing four holes down the same corridor out and back. Therefore, with the routing we were conscious to move the holes around as much as possible. We also wanted to maximise the more attractive backdrops and limit those against the eastern boundary where a few houses were visible. And, just like the Old course at St Andrews, which is also built on a thin strip of ground, bringing the holes together with shared fairways and even a couple of double greens would help maximise the limited space.”
After deciding on the nine-hole concept, OCM began working with the club on the design of the individual holes. The main course provided inspiration, in particularly the approach to the par-four third and the par-three tenth hole. “Beyond ‘the Heath’, there were other great short holes we were keen to use as inspiration, certainly locally around the sandbelt, such as the third and fourth at the nearby Woodlands, the third on the West course at Royal Melbourne, and further afield, the second, twelfth and eighteenth at St Andrews,” said Cocking. “These holes are some of the most enjoyable and thought provoking in the game, so we figured with nine of them, why couldn’t a short course like this hold the same interest as something a little longer?”
Construction of The Furrows began in late 2021 with the last green seeded 10 months later, delayed slightly by one of the wettest winters the area had ever experienced.
“Aside from the weather, one of the challenges during construction was managing a very inconsistent sand profile,” said Cocking. “In some places, the sand went down a metre but then in other areas there was just a few centimetres before we hit clay. Despite what many think of the sandbelt, there are not just metres and metres of beautiful grey sand below the surface.
“We wanted to add some character to the land and introduce the same sorts of hollows and mounds one finds on the big course, but to do so, meant we had to strip off all the available sand and then shape the clay, only to bring the sand back to cap the ground.”
Greens have been seeded with Pure Distinction bentgrass, supplied by Atlas Turf International and Pure Seed. The course also features native grasses and 50,000 indigenous heathland plants and shrubs, which have been planted so The Furrows has a similar look to Kingston Heath’s main course.
A key aim of the project for the club and OCM has been to create a new asset for the membership.
“We wanted to create a unique facility for members – outside of the formal practice facility or the main course – a layout that could be played in an hour or two, and allow golfers to hone their skills from under 120 metres,” said Cocking. “It also helps create a pathway for new golfers to learn and get interested in the game, and short courses such as this help prolong the golfing life for older golfers, who may find the main course a little too long or too difficult.”