One of Melbourne’s premier member courses, The Kew Golf Club is nearing completion of a three-year, multi-million-dollar redevelopment which has seen the layout and condition of the golf course vastly improved.
Working with course designer Graham Grant, the club’s ambitious redevelopment included the re-design/building of eight new holes (1, 3, 8, 12, 14,15,16,17) and the switch to Santa Ana Couch grass for the fairways/surrounds and Bentgrass to the greens. In addition, the plan has also seen the removal of numerous trees throughout the course, and other beautification projects to refresh the 121-year-old club. Comprehensive drainage works have also been included in the design, a by-product of which is to add interesting undulations to the fairways, but more importantly will greatly improve the playing conditions during the winter months.
Inside Golf had the pleasure of playing the newly-finished layout last month, and we were extremely impressed with the overall feel and challenge of the “new” course.
Too often these days, course developments and redevelopments entail stretching the layout’s yardage to unreasonable lengths, or making the course ridiculously tough via multiple hazards or trees, etc. This was definitely not the case with the new Kew. Instead of prodigious length off the tee, golfers playing Kew GC will need to employ keen course management and the ability to hit the ball relatively straight.
This was no more apparent to us than at the first hole, a short-ish 274m par-4 with a slight dogleg right. My well-struck driver immediately found a ball-grabbing bunker on the left-middle side of the fairway. This left me with an extremely daunting long approach to the very well-protected green, which featured more bunkers, swales and trouble right and back. Like a sharp smack in the face, this “easy” hole quickly had me scrambling to avoid a big number.
Indeed, we learned early on that you need to think your way around the course—in many cases you need to plan each hole “backwards from the green”, and choose your tee-off club accordingly to ensure you leave yourself with a comfortable distance for your approach shot. This is a welcome and refreshing change from the modern-day “Grip it and Rip it” philosophy.
It also lends well to the philosophy of the re-design, which, in the words of Grant were to “set up each hole so that all golfers—the average golfers, the better golfers, the ladies, etc—have a certain challenge when they play the hole.”
The other thing we noticed early in our round is the sheer serenity of the entire course. Tall gums, bustling wildlife (there are over a hundred species of native birds), the ever-present Yarra River and numerous billabongs throughout give the course a “country” feel, and you will instantly forget that you are so close to the Melbourne CBD. In fact, the entire course is eerily reminiscent of those along the Murray River.
The standout hole in our eyes was the 125m par-3 4th. Straight out of a painting, this hole is stunningly gorgeous, and features a tranquil billabong just beyond the tee, extending to a larger hazard along the right. The tranquillity is short-lived, however, as you realise that you now need to hit a golf shot. And a very precise tee shot, at that, in order to avoid the imposing bunkers guarding the green, or the collection of trees framing the hole.
The 355m par-4 8th is one of the many holes requiring decision-making, especially on approach. Featuring a large double-green (shared with Hole 1), it is critical that you nail your approach. As the green slopes up and away from you, you can be tempted to go “long” and use the back of the green as a backstop. Hit it too long, however, and you will be faced with a near-impossible downhill breaking putt.
The course presents many risk-reward options, especially at the par-5s. Though they aren’t long by modern standards, they all require solid, straight tee shots, lest you find yourself among the numerous trees lining the fairways. If that happens, you often need to “take your medicine” from your wooded location, punching out perpendicularly to the line of the hole—effectively losing a shot to par.
Another risk-reward hole is the new par-4 15th, a dogleg-right guarded by a thick grassy bunker complex in the middle of the bend. While a well-struck 230m drive off the tee can carry the bunkers and leave you a short chip shot to the green, a pulled or less-than-optimal drive can leave you buried in one of the bunkers, and thus a very difficult approach—especially when you consider that the green is very slick, sloping with a bit of a false front. An iron off the tee is the safe choice for most (with a nice, wide fairway “bail-out” area available), leaving you (hopefully) with a controllable mid-iron approach of around 140m.
The closing holes at Kew GC are lovely, especially the 411m par-4 17th. Rated Index Number 1 for the course, it is absolutely critical that you hit the ball straight to avoid the trees. The sloped and slick green also requires respect, lest you find yourself facing a knee-knocker third putt.
All up, the renovations and redesign of the course have, in our eyes, been a rousing success. Each new hole has a unique character, and fits right in as if they had all been there from the start. Whilst the renovated fairways and greens are still relatively young (providing another set of challenges in the short term—especially with different green speeds and amount of break needed), they are very impressive and provide an enjoyable round of golf.
Moving forward, the club is now embarking on the next step in its transformation, which entails renovating their clubhouse. Stage 1 commences this year, and will include renovating the Northern Lounges, Northern Terrace and men’s locker room. These are scheduled to be completed in July, and will pave the way for the club to become one of Melbourne’s most appealing facilities for not only golfers and members, but also the highly-lucrative corporate/event and private function market, especially weddings, birthdays, corporate seminars and the like.
As the club is a mere 15 minutes from the Melbourne CBD, it is arguably in one of the area’s most ideal and convenient locations for a Corporate Golf Day or private event.
Corporate days at Kew Golf Club are a full-service affair, with a complete array of offerings available. This includes a driving range, group welcome and day’s summary by the club professional, on-course photography, full equipment hire, novelty events (nearest the pins, longest drives and more), refreshment cart, collection of scorecards and processing of results and trophies and prizes from the fully-stocked golf shop. The club’s golf professional and staff can also assist with pre-game coaching clinics, ‘Beat the Pro’, playing one to two holes with each of the groups, novelty games like putting competitions and more. And Kew Golf Club’s management and staff are dedicated to providing creative and professional assistance. They can help with planning of your golf day, arranging top-quality food, fine wine and other premium services.
Overall, we really loved the “new” Kew Golf Club. The picturesque course is suitable and challenging for all levels of player, and is the type of members’ course that you can happily play over and over. We have no hesitation in calling this top class facility one of the most playable members’ courses in Melbourne.
Kew Golf Club
120 Belford Road Kew East
Phone: 03 9859 6848
Pro Shop: 03 9859 2039