This month’s second iteration of the Sandbelt Invitational aims to build on the foundations laid last December.

[Photo by Gary Lisbon]

Christmas will be in the air, however before Santa and his sleigh touch down, one of Australian golf’s most important tournaments will again occupy a pre-festivities spot on the calendar.

The second edition of the Sandbelt Invitational – held on four different Melbourne courses in a field mixing men and women, pros and amateurs, seniors and juniors – will run from December 19-22. Taking in Kingston Heath, Yarra Yarra, Royal Melbourne and Peninsula Kingswood, the nascent event is looking to build on the momentum it created 12 months ago.

The tournament is part of Geoff Ogilvy’s desire to gather the best players from across the country on elite venues under the Geoff Ogilvy Foundation’s vision of investing in the next wave of golfers. Think of it as a cross-generational meeting of the minds (and swings) on top-shelf courses at a peak time of year with golf’s future in mind.

The obvious benefits for juniors aside, Ogilvy sees the event as having a little of the end-of-year spirit that was evident at Coolum when tournaments were held on the Sunshine Coast: “Let’s all play the four best courses we can find in Melbourne, let’s get the best players we can together and let’s have a fun time and mentor some kids,” says the 2006 US Open champion.

The first staging of the Sandbelt Invitational proved so popular that any tweaks required will only be minor.

“There’s clearly an appetite for more golf in Melbourne because we haven’t had as much as we used to have,” Ogilvy says. “There’s an appetite for the Sandbelt to showcase itself and there’s an appetite for the guys and girls in the same tournament.”

Invitations have gone to the top 200 in men’s and women’s golf, and while Ogilvy knows “we are going to get very few yesses”, the 2022 field will still be better than last year, plus offer a little healthier prizemoney. “But it’s not really about money, it’s about everybody coming together,” he says.

Ogilvy confesses to picking up on a few minor details last year that any first-time tournament will see as areas to improve – things like car parking, public toilets, ticketing and food and catering. 

“As a golfer, I understand the playing of tournaments, setting up a course and scorecards and balls on the range and all that sort of stuff really well,” he says. “But the whole other side of the operation, we learned a lot about it because we were doing it on the fly.

“This year, we’re a bit more elevated. We’ll have proper pro balls on the range for the warm-ups, smooth out the registration process and the catering and the food for everybody, plus ticketing and where everyone can and can’t go. It’s all that stuff you take for granted when you’re playing in amazing tournaments and all just works out smoothly, but it’s not that easy to execute really well. So, we’re just polishing everything up.”

Ultimately, the goal is to evolve the Sandbelt Invitational into something where word-of-mouth feeds curiosity among the world’s best players.

“I’d just like to make it a really great tournament to play, a great tournament to come and watch, and hopefully one day a great tournament to watch on a broadcast,” Ogilvy says. “Just make it one of those great events that people want to be a part of. It’s also a chance for the golfers who make piles of money overseas to give back a little bit.”

The collective magnificence of the host courses certainly provides part of allure.

“To play Kingston Heath, Peninsula, Royal Melbourne and Yarra Yarra, all trying to show off and be the best version of themselves four days in a row, that’s a dream week for anybody. And then put a fun tournament in the mix and then have a good atmosphere and a few people watching it,” Ogilvy says.

“It’s an opportunity to create a really cool golf experience that everybody always wants to come back and be a part of.”