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Royal Melbourne v Kingston Heath

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#1 St_Andrews


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 07:52 AM

Whilst the Composite Course at Royal Melbourne is regarded as the best layout in Australia with the six holes from the East more than complementing the 12 from the West - how does Royal Melbourne (West) compare against Kingston Heath as a pure 18 hole layout ?

I've played both courses a couple of times now and for mine Kingston Heath is definitely the superior layout. I'll put my case forward on a hole by hole basis.

#1: Both have long opening holes but KH places a greater premium on the drive. KH +1
#2: RMW easy P5 v KH tight dogleg left P4. KH+2
#3: RMW easy short P4 v KH 'World Class' short P4. KH +3
#4: RMW great blind P5 v KH mid-length P4. RMW+1
#5: Both are P3's of similar lengths but RMW's best P3 gets the nod. RMW+2
#6: Both are strong long P4's of very similar lengths but RMW 'World Class' excellent dogleg right P4 is clearly superior. RMW+3
#7: RMW uphill P3 v KH first P5 - I believe the latter is a great P5 and the depression at the front of the green makes the pitch even tougher now. KH+4
#8: RMW mid-length P4 is better than KH long blind P4. RMW+4
#9: RMW uphill P4 v KH blind short P4 - call it evens.

#10: RMW relatively easy short P4 v KH short P3. I dont know why 10 at RMW is rated so highly, for mine the fairway is too wide and it's only a 3I + sand wedge ?KH exposed and well bunkered green is a better hole placing a premium on iron play. KH+5
#11: Both are long P4's which place a premium on the drives. RMW+5
#12: Both P5's with KH clearly a better hole. You can go right or left of the bunker in the middle of the fairway on KH and then the hole progressively narrows to the green. KH+6
#13: RMW short P3 v KH short P4. RMW +6
All square going into the last 5...
#14: RMW short P4 v KH classic strong long P5. KH+7
#15: No contest - KH fantastic uphill P3 v RMW easy P5. KH+8
#16: RMW long P3 v KH difficult dogleg right P4. KH+9
#17: I like KH variety in this great long P4 v RMW long P4. Very hard to choose but I will give RMW the nod (just). RMW+7
#18: Both are long and tough P4's to finish but the greensite at KH is clearly superior. KH+10

Thus, on the basis of the above KH is a clear winner in my book - am interested to hear your thoughts ?

#2 ThanksForAllTheFish


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 08:33 AM

As a 30 year member of Kingston Heath I'm very biassed, but I think people are far too generous in overlooking the flaws of Royal Melbourne West.

No true 3 shot holes.
As I've said before I just don't get RMW #5.
A mid length par 3 with a narrow slopey green. Big deal.
#6 has that silly slopey green
#8 & #9 are dull--no surprise they don't make the compo course.
#10 is just a hole
#12 What is it trying to be?
#18 is one of the poorest driving holes on the sandbelt.

It's got some absolute gems of holes as well, and I think it probably was Australia's second best layout (behind the composite) at one stage, but is now probably Australia's #4 behind the composite, KH and Barnbougle (in no particular order).

#3 MatthewM


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 09:34 AM

I can't believe what I've read in the first 2 posts. These have come from two of the most considered and thoughtful posters on ISG!!! Needless to say, you're both entitled to your opinions, but wow, I can't agree.

The gap between RMW and the next best course in Australia is that great it's not funny. The second best course might not even be KH!

In comparison to the Heath, Royal Melbourne West possesses a better set of greens. It's land is better than KH, and while Soutar's routing has maximised a small block, of less quality than RMW, the course doesn't reach the highpoints of RMW for mine. RMW's bunkering is better. The scale of RMW is superior. It's sense of space and grandeur is superior to the tighter feel of KH, where there's a greater prevalence of prescribed lines of play on some holes. RMW's options from the tee are more numerous, for a greater amount of the time. It plays oblique to the prevalent winds more frequently than KH. Having said that, KH doesn't have a weak hole. The similarity between 4 and 13 is a common point of criticism with many, but the greens are sufficiently different for mine.

The stretch of RMW 3 to 7 inclusive is almost unmatched in the world of golf. Period. Anyone who feels RMW3 is just a short easy par 4 hole has missed an awful lot around the green. Not to mention the fact that anything from 5 iron to driver can be hit in a 45degree arc from the tee depending on wind, skill, and pin location.

Many people continue to underestimate RMW 2. The green is sublime, and the hole requires a very long drive, of deadly precision, if the green is to be easily accessed on the second. It's become fashionable to say "oh yeah, i hit this par 5 at RM with 8I, this one with 6I etc.". I simply don't believe lots of the claims. Especially into a SW wind.

RMW 10 is superb. I've seen a 15 marker drive it and make a short eagle putt. I've seen single figure markers rack up a quick triple bogey there. Perhaps the best short 4 in the nation. Certainly not just a 3 iron tee shot. More options than 2 and 3 on KH.

RMW 11 provides one the best driving challenges one could play. 12 is a wonderful 4.5 par hole. 13 is a cool little par 3, with tremendous bunkering, on a dead flat site. The green is wonderful. 14 is good, and 15 is weak. 16 is one of the best long 3's in the country, right up there with Spring Valley #14. RMW 17 and 18 are a wonderful finish, with 17 RMW posing a great driving challenge, with suberb deception with the bunkering on the inside of the dogleg, a brilliant green, and similarly amazing greenside contouring. The meld of formal bunkering at the right greenside, gradually blending to native rough, is the greatest example of it's type I've ever seen. And may ever see.

St. A,

Amazingly, you underestimate KH 9 in all the positive talk on the Heath! And you call RMW 3 a plain jane. Wow. You need to get back there and see it again. There's other points I disagree with, and hope my thoughts above are clearly expressed.


I take your point on the lack of true three shot holes. HOWEVER -

How would you feel if someone referred to #15 KH as a shortish par three with a narrow slopey green? Your criticism of #5 RMW as such a hole may be the silliest thing you've ever said about golf. Clayts will thump you when you next catch up. Either over that or the "#10 - just a hole" comment.


#4 mac


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 07:07 PM

'The West course at Royal Melbourne is the only truly great course in the southern hemisphere. In Australia, however, this fact is obscured at times. With its narrow fairways ruthlessly rewarding accurate driving, some consider Kingston Heath as the finest course in Melbourne. Others claim that title goes to Metropolitan with its beautifully prepared playing surfaces. How can there be such a discrepancy among reasonable men when the choice is so clear?'

This is a quote from Ran Morrissett - an American who knows as much about good architecture and anyone in the world.

Kingston Heath is a fantastic course - as good as it could be on that bit of land - but it's not in the same league as Royal Melbourne.

Just a question regarding St Andrews description of the 2nd West.
Would you class it higher if they altered the number on the scorecard from 5 to 4?
Surely we are rating the hole not what the club choose to call its par.
It is one of the great two-shot holes IMO.

#5 ThanksForAllTheFish


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 07:53 PM

I don't doubt Ran Morrissett's credentials, but I've never thought of KH as having "narrow fairways ruthlessly rewarding accurate driving". It's a lot tighter off the tee now than it was when you and I first saw it in the 70s, but do you agree with Ran's comment here?

The other question is that I was always disappointed with the number of tilted flat plate greens on RMW. I've mentioned them above, but #1 #5 #6 #10 #11 all come to mind. These contrast with some of the gems like #2 #7 #17 and even #18.

Do you believe that RMW has any weaknesses, and can you please explain #5 to me.
I'm not saying it is a bad hole. I just can't see why everybody rates it so highly.

#6 mac


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 09:59 PM


I too don't thinkKingston Heath's fairways are that narrow.The only really narrow one is 9 and it is so narrow you never miss it because it's always an iron.
Nor do I think it's narrower than it used to be. 12 was tighter with all the tea-tree down the left for one.

I don't think it alters the fact Royal Melbourne has so many world-class holes -3,4,5,6,7,10,11,12,16 and 17.

I think #5 is rated so highly for a few reasons.

Brilliant man-made construction made to look like they just threw down the grass seed for the green and quickly scrapped out a few bunkers.

A demand for a fine shot especially when the pin is in the front which is perfectly proteced by a fearsome bank of short grass.

Lots of fascinating short shots from around the green - from short,left,right and the chip down from the back.

It is not as good as 15 at Kingston Heath however but that is one of the worlds great short holes.

I have never felt 10 was a 'tilted,flat planed green' and nor 11.
Does it have a weakness?
Not architecturally but it is weak in the face of the modern ball and player because there is nothing close to a par five.
Would it be so weak if it was a par 68?

#7 ThanksForAllTheFish


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 10:23 PM

Thanks Mac,
going from last point to first I think the par of RMW is pretty much irrelevant. We have reached another threshold in world golf like the one where "bogey 78" was replaced with "par 72" as gentle three shot holes became strong two shot holes.

Sorry, my reference to 10 should have been "flat plate" not "tilted flat plate". I remember the green surface being hard to read (like the greens at Huntingdale) because it was so flat, but what else on the green is of interest?

How about the green surfaces at 6 & 11? Compared to say #2 at RMW, #18 at Metro, or #16 at KH where's the interest?

Maybe time has dulled my memories, so thanks for any light you can shed.

#8 MatthewM


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Posted 30 December 2005 - 11:40 PM

St Andrews,

I've been thinking about your first post. The match play format of ranking one course against another doesn’t work, as the brilliance of both 3 KH and 3 RMW results in one course losing, when the quality of both holes is immense, and should count to a total course score.

Rather than the match play format you use, try ranking each hole out of 10, building a course score out of 180, with an individual hole score of 10 assigned to truly ‘world-class’ holes.

Add up your 18 scores and three things will become apparent. Firstly, the low number of scores below 8 on RMW. Second the total of RMW’s scores is greater than that for KH.

Lastly, the Composite score is considerably higher than RMWs (probably telling you something you already know). RM Composite rightfully deserves its place among the world’s absolute best courses. It averages a tick over nine per hole by my reckoning.


#9 ThanksForAllTheFish


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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:04 AM

Nor do I think it's narrower than it used to be. 12 was tighter with all the tea-tree down the left for one.

Mac I missed this before.

I was thinking of the impact of the changes to the drives on #2, #6, #11, #12, #13, #18 which have given the course the "teeth" it once lacked. #17 has bunkers on the drive as well now I think of it.

Your comment on 12 is interesting, because for years I used to aim at the middle of the fairway trap and belt it into what must have been a 40m wide fairway.

#16 is interesting too. The ti-tree on the right has grown in so much that the norfolk pine line is a guaranteed unplayable.

do you have a marking scheme in mind.
10 = worth an overseas trip just to play eg RMW #17
9 = ??

On courses such as these
6 is a disappointing or dull hole but would be a feature on most courses.
7 is a good hole but is incomplete or flawed in a some way.
8 is an excellent golf hole in its context but not one of the very best.
9 is a great golf hole but not one of the world's best.
10 is one of the world's best golf holes.

Just for my own amusement I've thrown in Paradise Palms for comparison.

I'd rate the courses as follows
RMW#1 7 KH#1 8 PP#1 8
RMW#2 9 KH#2 8 PP#2 7
RMW#3 9 KH#3 9 PP#3 7
RMW#4 8 KH#4 7 PP#4 6
RMW#5 7 KH#5 7 PP#5 7
RMW#6 7 KH#6 8 PP#6 8
RMW#7 10 KH#7 8 PP#7 7
RMW#8 6 KH#8 8 PP#8 9
RMW#9 7 KH#9 9 PP#9 6
RMW#10 8 KH#10 9 PP#10 6
RMW#11 7 KH#11 6 PP#11 8
RMW#12 7 KH#12 7 PP#12 8
RMW#13 8 KH#13 8 PP#13 7
RMW#14 8 KH#14 9 PP#14 7
RMW#15 7 KH#15 9 PP#15 7
RMW#16 7 KH#16 9 PP#16 8
RMW#17 10 KH#17 8 PP#17 8
RMW#18 7 KH#18 8 PP#18 6

Totals RMW 139 KH 145 PP 128

This of course leaves out other factors like ambience, the direction of the holes, susceptability to being torn apart by the modern generation, etc.

#10 AndyA


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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:13 AM

Ross, holes 3-7 at RMW are acknowledged as being world-class holes - as MM has mentioned, that stretch is comparable to anything in the world. All five holes deserve a 10.

#11 mickydavis



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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:18 AM

This is my first post so hope it goes well. How could any Australian golfer not regard RM as no. 1?? As Saint Jack said "its a good Members Course", which it is but put the pros on there with the usual Melbourne wind and fast greens and surrounds and see how they fare? Sure Ernie and the lads ripped it apart a couple of years ago but so did Wild Oats in the Sydney to Hobart. Wonder how she would have fared a few years ago in the hurricane??
As for the lack of 3 shotters?? Huntingdales 14th was toughened a couple of years ago and the pros led by Fats Parry all whinged because they couldnt get home in two anymore. What did Bubba hit in their for second shot the other week?? Real par 5's only exist in the right conditions.
RM is on the best piece of natural ground and has aged superbly. KH is the same as Comm. Hunt. and Metro in being nicely manicured courses on a rubbish dump type piece of land. And please dont give me the "sandbelt" crap.
RM is the only true sandbelt course in Melbourne metro area. Even their poor nephew across the road at Vic has some bogheaps and the last time i played there the worst greens I've seen in the supposed sandbelt golf courses.
Good stuff though St Andrews and by the way where did you have your best score??

#12 ThanksForAllTheFish


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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:31 AM

I agree that holes 3-7 are world-class. I disagree that they are all world's best which is what I reserved a 10 for. Note that I did give #7 a score of 10.

Notice also that no KH holes rated 10 despite Mac's comment that KH15 is better than RMW5

Here's why I would not rate any of 3-6 as a 10

the scenery off the tee is nice. The approach to the green
and the green itself are brilliant. It is only the lack of strategic
interest off the tee and the downhill lie that detract from it, but
they detract enough to drag it down to an 8.
#5 the green really drags it down. Excellent "eye candy"
off the tee, and strategically good as well, but then you have
this uphill shot to a mostly blind green on such a silly slope
that it is hard to find a place to put the pin. The strategic merits
of the green on KH#6 leave it for dead.

#13 ThanksForAllTheFish


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Posted 31 December 2005 - 03:48 AM

Hi keeperofthegreen!

How could any Australian golfer not regard RM as no. 1?

RM composite or RMW?

How could anybody say that Greg Norman had anything other than a perfect swing?

Part of the reason is that different people focus on different things.
Visually it is an attractive place, without equal for atmosphere.

I just happen to think that KH is a better test of golf, and that many people are blinded to RMW's weaknesses because the place is so revered.

Mind you, this is a bit like deciding who is the most desirable supermodel on the planet.

#14 AndyA


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Posted 31 December 2005 - 04:02 AM

QUOTE: rsheehy @ Dec 30 2005, 05:31 PM

#5  -- contrary to what Mac said, this hole has always looked
  artificial to me, and the "hit the green or make bogey" style
  doesn't grab me. After Mac explaining its merits at least I now
  have a clue what others see in the hole. Strategically I rate
  KH#5 higher. Scenically RMW#5 has the edge. It is pretty.

To each their own I guess - to me it looks like its always been there. Wonderful construction by Morcom.

Isn't 15 at KH also a "hit the green or make bogey" hole, perhaps even more so than 5W?

#15 mac


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Posted 31 December 2005 - 04:05 AM


Are you seriously putting Kingston Heath in the same boat as Huntingdale?

KH might be the greatest design ever on a small site without many natural features.
That makes it a masterpiece worthy of study - unlike Huntingdale.

Surely when people refer to 'sandbelt' they are referring to a style of course and a particular style of bunkering.
Ranfurlie in that sense is a 'sandbelt'course - as are Metro,Commonwealth,Victoria,Woodlands,Peninsula and Yarra Yarra.


You are right about 2,13,17 and 18 being more difficult drives.I'm not sure about 6.

11 is a tee shot now but surely not a drive!

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