26 Oct 2023 | Clubs & Facilities | Amateur golf |
AAC: It’s the Composite, but not as you know it
by Jimmy Emanuel
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club’s Composite Course is widely regarded as one of the best golf courses in the world.
Combining 12 holes from the Australia’s No.1 West Course and six from the club’s East, the Composite Course first came into existence in 1959 when Royal Melbourne hosted the Canada Cup, the precursor to the World Cup of Golf. But not purely for the purpose of picking the best holes on the property.
“It all came about because when you play West you cross a road and when you play East you cross two roads,” The Royal Melbourne Golf Club Captain Tony Rule said Wednesday.
“So it was announced that Royal Melbourne would be hosting the Canada Cup and they went to Victoria Police, who said they were concerned about the road crossings and weren’t prepared to guarantee the safety of the crowds crossing roads.
"That forced the club to start the discussion and how the Composite Course came about.”
Won by Australian pair of Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson, with a 10-shot margin no less, that week saw a legendary course born.
“Bill Richardson, who was secretary of the club and also secretary of the Australian Golf Union, George Burgess who was a multiple time club champion, captain, president, life member, Peter Thomson was at the table, Claude Crockford (former Royal Melbourne superintendent) was at the table and there may have been one another,” Rule said of who came up with the initial routing.
This week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship takes place across the “Composite Course”, however it is not the 1959 version, nor the iteration last scene by the broader public during the 2019 Presidents Cup.
Many of the holes used are the same, however, the need to necessitate a two-tee start without player transport, especially given the elite amateur field are already hitting range balls across the road at Sandy Links, saw the creation of what is either the fifth or sixth Composite Course to come into existence.
Even Rule was unable to confirm what number Composite this is.
Starting as anyone playing the West Course would on its 1st and 2nd holes, the first change comes at the next with the tricky uphill par-3 that is normally the 7th on the West.
The front nine runs 1West, 2W, 7W, 10W, 11W, 12W, 17W, 18W before concluding on 3W, which is where players at the most recent Presidents Cup players got their rounds underway four years ago. Confused yet?
The back nine is where the most noticeable difference will come for those attending the tournament this week, or watching on TV, with the winner, who will garner starts at The Masters and The Open Championship next year as part of their spoils, crowned on the East Course’s 18th.
That hole is normally 16 at the Presidents Cup where marquees line the hole closest to the Royal Melbourne clubhouse to take in the action where more matches finish.
The most significant change for this comes late in the round with the replacement of the 4th hole on the East Course by its neighbouring par-3 16th that has received recent attention from the club and was always a noticeable omission from the Composite routing.
“We have done a bit of work on 16 East,” Rule said.
“We were just looking at old photos, one of the young guys on the ground staff noted that the bunker at the rear used to go right into the dune. And we thought, ‘That looks fantastic’.
“I thought that was a lost feature that would be great to restore.
"It has been played in the Presidents Cup the last two iterations, but prior to that I don’t think it had been used at all.
"There is a great story of when Ben Crenshaw first played here and he went back home and told Tom Doak, ‘There was one of the most beautiful par-3s I have ever seen and it’s not even on the golf course’.”
The inclusion means the back nine this week goes 4W, 5W, 6W, 1E, 2E, 3E, 16E, 17E, 18E, with the holes around the turn starting at the 7th and concluding at the 12th, arguably one of the toughest stretches in tournament golf.
The argument as to whether this is the fifth or sixth iteration likely won’t be solved this week, but what is certain is the golf course will be one of the stars of the week, so too the eventual champion destined for Augusta National and Royal Troon.
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