All 18 holes of the newly named Sandy Golf Links near Melbourne, Australia, are now open for play. The layout is a result of a transformation of the former Sandringham golf course by OCM, the design firm that comprises Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Cocking and Ashley Mead.
“As kids there was always a little bit of mystery surrounding Sandringham,” said Cocking. “There were always rumours it was once part of Royal Melbourne, so it was a chance as a teenager to get a taste of sandbelt golf. Only later would I discover it was never part of the original Royal Melbourne layout, however some parts of the property have a very similar feel to their famous next-door neighbour with some undulating sandy ground, tea tree and gum trees.”
Originally built as a nine-hole layout, Sandringham was expanded to 18 in the 1950s by Vern Morcom, the long-time superintendent at Kingston Heath who also worked alongside his father Mick, who was responsible for constructing many of Alister MacKenzie’s Australian designs.
In 2019, OCM began a redevelopment of the course in partnership with Royal Melbourne, Golf Australia and the Victoria Government.
“To accommodate a training facility, driving range and the administrative home of Golf in Australia, alterations to the course have been made,” said Cocking. “Whilst it’s a shorter course, we have taken inspiration from its more famous neighbours and have built a set of greens and bunkers that we hope challenges a range of golfers and gives the public a taste of what sandbelt golf is all about.”
OCM worked closely with Royal Melbourne’s course superintendent Richard Forsyth on the project and have used the same grasses – ‘Sutton’s Mix’ bentgrass on greens and fescue for surrounds – that Royal Melbourne converted to 15 years ago.
The front nine opened for play in 2019. “The greens on the first nine have developed really well and are proving to be capable of providing the firm, fast surfaces we were hoping for,” said Cocking.
The back nine was completed this year.
“The design doesn’t necessarily look to ‘copy’ any particular holes or greens from next door, or from other sandbelt courses for that matter, there are certainly some holes which we’ve taken inspiration from,” said Cocking. “The double green at the fifth and tenth has a similar look and feel to the double green eighth and sixteenth at Kingston Heath; the downhill par-three seventh, which plays over similar terrain as the approach into the third hole on Royal Melbourne’s West course, definitely has hallmarks of that famous green with the fall away tilted putting surface and valley in the approach; while the uphill par-three sixteenth pays homage to the lost seventh at Royal Melbourne, which was known as Mount Misery, and also a little from the other famous uphill par three on the sandbelt... the fifteenth at Kingston Heath.
“The broader concept for the holes was to follow the simple rules of strategy, which the sandbelt does so well. Width and angles. Fairways have been made wide both for strategy and to cater for the range of golfers who use the facility with greens angled to reward play from one side of the fairway or the other. Bunkers around the greens and a scattering in the fairways reinforce this strategy.”
The renovated par-65 layout has two sets of tees, both measuring under 5,500 yards. “Whilst they’re both short for a modern course, they arguably fill a gap in the broader market which is typically skewed towards longer courses. It’s a perfect length for those new to the game, kids, and those who find the neighbouring courses too long or difficult. The greens complexes are similar to any of the sandbelt courses, so they will still prove to be challenging for the better player, yet with ample short grass and options to play away from trouble. The course is eminently playable for even those new to the game.”
A grand opening is expected to be held in mid-2021 once the clubhouse and driving range buildings are completed.