The METROPOLITAN GOLF COURSE - 16 POINTS
The Metropolitan Golf Club, or Metro, was one of the courses I was most looking forward to seeing on our trip to Melbourne. The course has hosted many professional events, so I had seen a fair bit of it on the TV and the architect and podcast star Mike Clayton is a long time member and over the years I have picked up quite a lot from his discussions on the course. So I was keen to see first hand.
There’s nothing quaint about the clubhouse at Metropolitan. The current building opened a few years ago and it provides a really sleek, polished, top-end experience (although be warned, they don’t serve breakfast beyond a coffee and banana bread!). As with everywhere we went on our trip, we got a really warm welcome, although, once again this is a golf course primarily for members.
Even a cursory bit of research about the course will set your expectations high about two things - the quality of the conditioning and the unusual look of the greenside bunkers. Neither will disappoint!
Firstly, the conditioning was truly exceptional. The fairways (couch grass for those interested in such things - most Australians were!) and greens (bentgrass) were among the very best I have played anywhere in the world. The greens were phenomenally slick, and often a good size as well, so putting the ball in the right place with your approach was key. Our group had many three-putts, but we didn’t stop smiling!
While the look of the greenside bunkers was something I thought I was prepared for, they were still hypnotising. They are cut right into the green, which is mown to the edge, creating a line on the top that looks like it has been carved with a samurai blade. They make approach shots more intimidating and the large greens seem a little smaller.
The logos of Metropolitan and Royal Melbourne look like they were separated at birth and there is a reason for this. Metro was formed when a group of Royal Melbourne members chose not to move with the club when it relocated away from the city in 1901. A few years later though they did move south and built the bones of the course we see today. Alister MacKenzie’s visit to these parts brought some modifications to the bunkers and other changes to the course. However, the course changed dramatically in the 1960s when much of the land for the back 9 was lost to a local school expansion and new holes were constructed on adjoining land.
The first 2 holes are a fantastic start - an accessible par 4, before a wonderful mid-length par 3 when you will really notice those Metro bunkers. Another call-out hole would be the par 4 5th where placement from the tee to allow the right approach to the sloping green is key. The website description is good - ‘Two deep fairway bunkers are right in play down the left side of the driving area, the right hand fairway bunker is of little concern. The green features a huge slope off the shoulder of the right hand greenside bunker and if the flag is in the right half of the green an approach from the left half of the fairway – usually with a short or mid iron – is ideal. ‘
The impressive opening concludes with the winding par 5 6th - another world-class hole that would grace any top course.
It is fair to say that the front 9 is stronger than the back where the land is a little flatter and less interesting. However, I wouldn’t want to exaggerate that too much. Despite a bit of awkward routing there are some lovely holes - the par 3 13th comes to mind particularly.
While I have majored on the quality of the presentation of the course, you will still get an authentic sandbelt experience. Away from the fairways you will see the exposed sand and, if you miss the fairway, your lie is going to be a bit of a lottery - just as golf should be!
I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Metropolitan if you are in the area. It’s not in quite the same league as Royal Melbourne or Kingston Heath but it more than holds its own with everything else we played on the mainland.
BOOKING THE COURSE
Like all private members clubs in Melbourne, you can book a tee time at Metropolitan Golf Club and times aren’t as limited here as they are at some of the other courses in the area. Having said that, visitor play is restricted, so do try to book well in advance. At time of writing you could request a time on Mondays (all day), Wednesday and Thursday (mornings) and Fridays (all day).
Again, like other courses in the area, there is no online booking facility - you will need to email - and you will require a letter of introduction from your club (don’t start me!). The Guest Services Manager, Ben, was tremendously helpful and the welcome was particularly warm. The green fee was A$350.
You can have a look at my blog here for how we organised our trip. We chose to stay in Melbourne which has a vibrant city centre with much to offer (even if we only really saw the restaurants!) and the drive out was around 30 minutes. But there are options to stay closer if you are looking to focus purely on the golf.