Sandy Golf Links
Sandy Golf Links resides in the heart of the Melbourne Sandbelt. It sits just a half wedge over the road from Victoria Golf Club, and a short gimme putt across the street from Royal Melbourne Golf Club. A very prestigious golf neighborhood to be sure.
However, unlike the exclusive memberships and years-long waiting lists of its impressive neighbors, Sandy Golf Links is open to the public. And at $43.50 for 18 holes mid-week, Sandy is easily one of the best values in the Sandbelt.
It was a beautiful sunny late April day, early fall in the Southern Hemisphere, and we were extremely excited to play another Sandbelt course. As we pulled our campervan Putu into the car park, we immediately noticed the new clubhouse being built. Once it is complete, it will be the impressive new home of the PGA of Australia as well as Australia Golf.
Originally formed in 1937 as Sandringham Golf Club, Sandy Golf Links was completely redesigned and rebranded in 2019. Sandy has 2 sets of tees, the back 5331-yard Purple, and the forward 4692-yard Orange. Both play to a par of 65. There are no par fives at Sandy, but 11 par 4’s and 7 beautiful par 3’s
Out at Sandy Golf Links
There are a ton of greenside bunkers on the right, and a big bunker on the left of the 164-yard par 3 second, named Sand Pit. But, upon closer inspection, we saw that there is also a dangerous collection area on the left of the green. Today’s pin on Sand Pit was front left. With a slight right-to-left breeze, we knew that aiming more toward the cluster of bunkers on the right was the safer choice. Menekse smoked a 5-wood right at the pin, which in hindsight might have been 1 club too much. It was exactly on target and we both thought it had a chance to go in! Just missing the pin, her ball quickly scooted to the back of another enormous green, before rolling long. Even though the greens are huge, if you aren’t able to hit your approach shots to the correct positions, you are likely to have a very long putt. Or roll off the sides as we so often discovered!
Named Southpaw, the 399-yard par 4 third has just a hint of a dogleg left. Positioned perfectly at that hint, is a small fairway bunker. The right side of the fairway is safe, but in typical Sandbelt fashion, there is a bunker that guards the right side of the green, making the open right side the less wise option. I took aim down the middle of the fairway, hoping to turn it over towards the bunker. Taking off as planned, my ball turned over more than I hoped and headed straight towards the bunker. Luckily, I found it just a couple of steps short of the hazard. With 154-yards in, but in long grass, I decided on 9-iron to account for a possible flyer.
First Sandy at Sandy Golf Links
We really loved the number 2 handicap 388-yard par 4 fourth (no name). The fourth tee box is perched just above the ninth green, and the bunker that guards the green also borders the tee box.
From the tee box, you can also see the enormous net from the practice range at the neighboring Royal Melbourne Golf Club. We heard a story about that net when we attended the Presidents Cup. When US Captain Tiger Woods was on site prior to the Cup, he highly recommended that the already tall net be heightened by another third. Else, he warned, Bryson DeChambeau would be rocking range balls down Cheltenham Road all day long!
With a massive bunker that protects the left-front of the green, the best approach would be from the right side of the fairway. However, typical to Sandbelt golf, trouble safeguards that side of the slightly downhill dogleg right. I picked a target on the right side of the fairway, but, as I too often tend to do, hooked it to the left. Now faced with having to carry the greenside bunker, and awkward yardage, I proceeded to chunk my wedge deep into the greenside bunker. But I made a good splash out and am proud to report that I had my first sandy at Sandy!
The 334-yard sixth is named Temptation, and I must admit, I couldn’t resist. Just a short dogleg right par 4, there is a full-length waste bunker that guards the entire right side. Trees add an additional defense on the right. But, as the name suggests, if you can cut the corner, a potential reward awaits. There is a large gum tree at the bend, and I thought if I could fade a shot around that tree, I might finish close to the green. With a clear target in mind, I absolutely ripped a 3 wood that cleared the tree! As we walked down the fairway and began getting closer to the green, we found it on the left side of a well-bunkered green. With not much green to work with, I had a scary uphill chip to the short side of a pin on a green that sloped away from me.
Menekse nailed it when she said that Temptation reminded her of the beautiful second hole on the Coast nine at The Els Club Desaru Coast in Malaysia. Just a mirror opposite. OK, and without the monkeys!
In at Sandy Golf Links
When you see the 170-yard twelfth, named High Tee, you immediately think Melbourne Sandbelt. And what is the first thing you think of when you hear Sandbelt? That’s right, bunkers. And there are a ton of bunkers on twelve! There are four greenside bunkers on the left, a single bunker right, and one devilishly hidden bunker long. The par 3 played slightly into the wind, which canceled out any distance advantage of it being a little downhill.
I decided to knock down an 8-iron to the well-protected green. It flew higher than I intended but came to rest on the front right of the green. The bunkers left came more into play from Menekse’s Orange tee. Wanting to avoid trouble, Menekse also hit her tee-ball out to the right. It landed short and didn’t quite roll up onto the putting surface.
Fox Trap is the 366-yard straight-away par 4 thirteenth. With a fairway bunker on the right side, as well as a dry gulley, it is easy to not tempt danger and play it down the left. However, while safe off the tee, the left side brings a multitude of greenside bunkers into play. I would know because I hooked my tee shot into the left rough. With only 116-yards in, I was forced to carry the bunkers, making a large target feel small. Aiming to the safe side of the fairway, Menekse lightly sliced it off the tee, and her tee ball found the middle of the fairway. A 3-wood from the fairway put her in perfect position down the right middle. From there, she had a clear 100-yard shot into another large green.
Fox Trap is a perfect reminder of lesson number one of Sandbelt golf. It is all about creating angles, and fairway hazards are the key to tee shot placement. The closer you can put your ball to the fairway bunkers, the easier your approach is going to be. Playing towards safety off the tee will more than likely force you to face danger on your approach. Sandbelt golf is about playing to the angles in order to create the best and easiest approach to well-protected greens.
The 142-yard par 3 sixteenth is named The Rise, which we think could easily be named The Cliff! Slightly uphill, there is a huge bunker that runs the full length of the right side of the fairway. The green is also surrounded by a bunker on the right, and another two on the left. Menekse hit a great 8-iron that landed short left, but safe from trouble.
I landed a wedge to the middle of the green, but it trickled to the back and I quickly lost sight of it. As I walked around the huge green, I saw that the back runs off to a collection area that was almost head high! And what’s more, I was looking for at least a 40-foot putt. My ball needed enough speed to first climb up the nearly 6-foot cliff, and then ease off the remaining 25-feet that was all downhill. Unable to master the task, I walked away shaking my head as I wrote a 4-putt 5 on the scorecard. Now, before you judge, trust me when I say that a 4-putt isn’t difficult to do in the Sandbelt!
Missed and Made Opportunities
Seventeen (no name) is a marvelous 416-yard dogleg left par 4. There is a healthy collection of tea trees that are common in Melbourne that frame the entire left side of the fairway. But, if you keep your tee shot close to the trees on the left, you will have a much shorter approach. I hit my best tee shot of the day, drawing it perfectly around the bend of the fairway, and coming to rest just 86-yards to a pin that was located upfront. This is one of my favorite distances for my 54-degree wedge, and I proceeded to hit it to 10-feet.
There is a large bunker that protects the right side of the green. Menekse hit her approach long and right of that huge bunker long and was a full 50-yards to the front flag. With the collar cut to perfection, she decided to putt it onto the green. She hit a great first putt that rolled onto the green, caught the slope, and broke left away from the pin. Faced with a 30-footer, she drained it center cup for a great bogey, net birdie! I never settled over my putt, and quickly pushed it to the right, missing my best birdie opportunity of the day.
Sandy Golf Links is a member of the mecca of golf, the Melbourne Sandbelt, and is an absolute must-play while in Melbourne! Common with its Sandbelt cousins, the fairways at Sandy are wide, and the greens are large. This enables the course to be playable for all levels. However, also playing true to Sandbelt norms, Sandy’s hazards are enormous. And, exactly like the Sandbelt icons of Royal Melbourne or Kingston Heath, to be able to score well, you need to place your ball in very specific spots. This makes Sandy a great test of golf for all abilities. But at a mere fraction of the price.
We can’t say enough great things about the specular greens. They made a beautiful dark sounding thud when the ball landed. While Sandy’s greens are sizable, if you miss them in the wrong place, your ball will either roll off the green, or you have a 3-putt waiting. Or worse as I found out of sixteen! The collars are also wide, which seem to double the size of the already giant greens. In all honesty, I haven’t played more perfectly maintained public golf greens in my life. We understand that Sandy uses the same maintenance staff as its sister Club, Royal Melbourne.
While we were playing, we happened to notice the local rules printed on the back of the scorecard. We’re not usually one to take notice of local rules, but for some reason, the rules at Sandy Golf Links caught our eye. There was no fuss about OB, relief, or any of the other “normal” local rules. No, these were rules that we promise to do our absolute best to follow! Here are a few of our favorites…
It’s OK to not keep score.
It is OK to give yourself a better lie by rolling the ball around a little.
It’s OK to drop a ball where you think it might be…. Or where you want it to be!
It’s OK to get enthusiastic. High fives, fist pumps, and big smiles are encouraged. And the greatest rule of all time- It’s OK to play golf for fun!!!