Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, officially opened in late May, following the completion of a four-year renovation of its North and South courses by golf course architects Ogilvy Clayton Cocking Mead (OCCM).
The club was formed following the 2013 merger of the former Peninsula and Kingswood Golf Clubs, moving to the 36-hole Peninsula site in Frankston, about 35 minutes southeast of the City, where both courses would be renovated.
“We really haven’t seen a renovation of this scale around the Melbourne courses before,” said OCCM director and the lead designer Mike Cocking, who has been a member of the club for over 20 years. “Every green, bunker and tee has been redesigned or rebuilt, fairways reshaped and re-grassed, creeks and water bodies added, a state-of-the-art irrigation system installed, and cart paths, drainage and vegetation developed. What Peninsula Kingswood has achieved in the past four years is basically what every other sandbelt course has spent the last 20 or 30 years accomplishing.”
On both courses the holes play along the original 1960s corridors, but with new distinctive sandbelt bunkers made famous by Alistair MacKenzie and the father and son combination of Mick and Vern Morcom, who built all of the Scotsman’s work around Melbourne. “Mackenzie was the dominant influence in Australia – designing or having an influence on most of our great courses,” said Cocking. “He wasn’t involved at Peninsula, but on a visit to Flinders during his 1926 trip to Australia, he would have come within a kilometre or two of the courses. He’d be kicking himself to think he missed an opportunity to work on such a fantastic site as this.”
“No course on the sandbelt has undergone such a major renovation in such a short space of time,” he said. “Our aim was essentially to realise the potential of the site – one that perhaps is only second to Royal Melbourne – and create a true sandbelt experience, both in design but also conditioning”.
According to Cocking, however, the biggest talking point comes from the putting surfaces. “A new construction method and a variety of bentgrass in Pure Distinction has finally given the club consistently firm, fast greens which rival the best in the world, complementing the strategies set up by the new design.”
Work started on both courses in March 2015. The South course was completed first and six holes on the North course opened for preview play in early 2018. All remaining course work was completed by October 2018, at which point OCCM moved on to the practice facilities and areas around the clubhouse.
While OCCM never intended to create two distinctly different designs, the nature of the site suggested that the North would always feel a little different to the South. “The North, playing over sandier and more undulating ground, with perhaps the best examples of heathland vegetation of any course in Melbourne, was always intended to be a pure sandbelt experience,” said Cocking. “Firm and fast, with tilted greens, expansive bunkers, wide fairways and roughs featuring that distinctive combination of sand, native grasses and heathland vegetation that the region is known for.”
The South course, meanwhile, was always regarded as the longer, more difficult test. “Built over flatter ground than the North, its open, more manicured look often had it labelled – incorrectly – as a parkland,” said Cocking. “The new design looks to capture its sandbelt origins. Greens and bunkers were built in a style and scale which closer matched its more famous neighbours, reworked bunkering and green design putting more of a premium on positioning from the tee. Vegetation was removed to open up views across the course and many thousands of plants and grasses added to complement bunkers and tee carries. Perhaps the most unique characteristic of the new design has been opening up the original creek lines, which proliferated the site and now form a key part of the design on at least half a dozen holes.”