THE sleepy Victorian town of Beveridge, 40 kilometres north of Melbourne, probably thought its brush with fame came and went with the birth of Ned Kelly. The notorious Australian bushranger is said to have drawn his first breath, not gun, just over the hill at nearby Mount Fraser in 1854.
Some 160 years later, another straight-shooting journeyman would waltz into town and leave his own indelible mark on the rugged landscape.
Such is life when you’re five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson.
‘Thommo’s’ ineffaceable footprint would be called Club Mandalay – the region’s newest golf course and the epicentre of an impressive 2,000-lot residential development that’s transforming barren farmland into a state-of-the-art alternative for a Melbourne population bursting at the seams.
One of Thomson’s final design projects before he announced his retirement earlier this year, Club Mandalay was anything but a token farewell gift for the 88-year-old links legend.
First, there was the stiff competition he had to beat for the job – most notably Greg Norman Golf Course Design. Once that hurdle was crossed, Thomson and his crew had to work out how they were going to build a lush, green golf course on a bed full of rock.
“There was a large pile of basalt rocks as you drove in and past the clubhouse,” recalls design partner Ross Perrett. “Transporting all that basalt off the site was a pretty big job.”
Peeling back the rocky layers quickly revealed a natural canvas they could work with, and rather than see the clumps of basalt as obstacles, the Thomson Perrett team set about making them a reoccurring theme throughout the design. It proved to be an aesthetic masterstroke, adding drama to an otherwise flat layout that didn’t escape the Thomson signature of rolling fairways and elevated greens, both guarded by intimidating bunkers ready to punish the errant strike.
“We have been most fortunate to have Peter Thomson design and follow our post-opening progress over the past two years,” says the club’s new general manager Marcus Sullivan, who made the move across town from Sanctuary Lakes Club. “Club Mandalay is fast growing a reputation for its all-year-round condition and being great value for money.” At $38 for a round (midweek), or deals like $79 for two players that includes a shared cart and a drink, Sullivan isn’t lying about the value-for-money bit.
But said value doesn’t end at the pro shop till.
Finally, The Cliché Rings True
It’s so often an overused term in golf. But suggesting Club Mandalay is “fair for all ages and abilities” is far from a throwaway line. In fact, it’s a mantra that influenced the design.
For the thousands of new residents expected to call the region home over the coming decade, a course that is either too difficult a walk or too challenging on the scorecard won’t resonate with the vast population.
Generous landing areas from the tee and strategic bail-out zones around the greens greet golfers throughout the round, while those brave – and good – enough to take the holes on will be duly rewarded or punished, depending on their execution. There is no finer example of this than the 327-metre par-4 fifth, which doglegs right and tempts the big hitter to cut the corner and go for glory. If you pull it off you may land yourself a makeable eagle putt. For the rest, a long iron or wood will leave a semi-blind approach with a short iron. Plenty of fun either way.
With very strong ties to local schools, council and our wider community, Club Mandalay is highly regarded as the “lifestyle of choice” for those wanting it all on their doorstep – Marcus Sullivan
The risk-and-reward cry could be said for any one of the par 5s, which are reachable with two solid strikes but well-guarded by Thommo’s Kingston Heath-inspired sand traps.
The most intimidating hole for the novice is the par-3 11th, which, at 172 metres off the tips, demands a forced water carry to a green that’s definitely more receptive to a high ball flight.
Then there’s the 200m par-3 15th, aptly nicknamed “Thomson’s Curse”, that’s got enough sand around the green to resurface Brighton Beach.
Of course, such monster holes do have forward tees to welcome visitors and those new to the area.
Look out for the club’s signature windmill on the back nine, while the pine needles bordering the fairway at the short par-5 16th provide a whole new playing experience.
The round doesn’t come to a close without a glorious stroll up the signature 18th fairway, where a view of the modern clubhouse is met with a stunning backdrop of Kelly’s historic Mt Fraser.
The Lifestyle Of Choice
When the opportunity came knocking, Sullivan didn’t hesitate to move to Club Mandalay.
“To be able to work with James Cooper and his team from Avid Sports (managing company of Club Mandalay), it was too good to refuse,” says Sullivan. “With exposure to private ownership and developer-centric facilities previously, I felt confident I could add value to Club Mandalay and the team on the ground.”
And add more value is exactly what Sullivan plans to do. Already boasting a 25-metre swimming pool, tennis courts and gym, residents and their guests can also relax in the club’s cafe, bar or restaurant, and pick up the essentials at the Urban Grocer – the club’s very own onsite boutique supermarket.
“We have the potential to mature into the hub for all leisure activity and spending for our estate and those neighbouring us,” declares Sullivan. “With very strong ties to local schools, council and our wider community, we are already growing a footprint where Club Mandalay is highly regarded as the ‘lifestyle of choice’ for those wanting it all on their doorstep.”
So, what’s next for this innovative young club on the rise? In the short term, Sullivan and his team are focusing hard on training up their young staff to meet the club’s friendly and efficient service culture. They also want to keep the entire operation local. “We have promoted from within on a number of occasions already, showing our faith in the next generation of senior team leaders and staff,” says Sullivan. “We currently have 45 staff on the books, the majority of which are locals.”
In the long term, Sullivan’s strategic focus is to mature the golf course and its market reputation. “We will continue to drive up the value proposition for our residents and external golf members and, hopefully, become renown for our customer-first and friendly service cultures.”
A new town built entirely in and around a golf course with world-class facilities to match? If only old Ned was born today. He may never have left.
430-450 Mandalay Circuit, Beveridge VIC 3753
(03) 9037 3700
For more information on a Golfing Great head to Visit Victoria.