IN DECEMBER 1824, renowned Australian explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell stood atop Victoria’s Mt Fraser. The duo gazed across the land and spotted Port Phillip Bay – their discovery would result in the founding of the city of Melbourne.
What the pair didn’t realise was that 192 years later, the vast countryside they were looking over would become a sprawling Metropolis populated from Port Phillip Bay down to the tip of the Mornington Peninsula. Granted, it would have been difficult in 1824 to picture a cosmopolitan city whose only viable option for expansion was north – where they were located – or west.
They certainly didn’t expect the paddocks on which they were standing would become an exciting residential golf community with a course designed by five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson as its centrepiece.
Finding the Architect
Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett were between a rock and a hard place.
The legendary Australian golfer and his design partner had “competed hard” to win the design job at Club Mandalay.
They’d come up against Greg Norman Golf Course Design, and won.
But as work began on the site – in Melbourne’s north – the Ross Perrett team discovered there were rocks. Lots of rocks.
“We’d competed pretty hard. It came down to us and Greg Norman,” Perrett tells Australian Golf Digest. “We got the job, and during initial site viewings we noticed it was very rocky.
“There was a large pile of basalt rocks as you drove in and past the clubhouse. Transporting all that basalt off the site was a pretty big job.”
But the firm behind courses such as The National (Ocean), Moonah Links and Hope Island accepted the challenge. Rather than see the rocks as an obstacle, the duo sought to make them a feature of Club Mandalay’s layout. Today, the rocky outcrops act as eye-catching features beside tee boxes and greens, giving the impression the golf course was carved out of the landscape harmoniously.
“The site started to reveal itself,” says Perrett. “And it got better and better as we went through the design process. I’m proud of it and I know Peter is very happy with it.”
A Pleasant Surprise
On first impression, Club Mandalay looks to be a relatively flat piece of land. But this topography was important to the vision for this residential golfing estate in the suburb of Beveridge, 25 minutes north of Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport. Club Mandalay is situated in the northern growth corridor of Melbourne – earmarked for a significant population spike in the future. For those new residents, perhaps not all golfers, a course that is either too difficult a walk or too challenging on the scorecard won’t resonate with the vast population at Mandalay’s doorstep. But rest assured: Thomson and Perrett have created enough changes in elevation to keep the round exciting.
It was also the mantra behind Thomson Perrett’s bunkering at Club Mandalay. Well, one of the mantras. The Thomson Perrett Firm lives by a philosophy: “Respect for land, respect for culture and respect for the game.”
“We were dealing with a rocky site, so we kept the bunkering to a minimum,” says Perrett. “It had to be strategic and make the golfer think about the shot – not just bunkering for the sake of it.”
Thomson Perrett felt the sand hazards at Kingston Heath – ranked No.2 in Australia by this magazine – were best suited to the site. Wide, round bunker complexes – most measuring only one metre deep – complement the layout.
“We love the bunkering at Kingston Heath,” says Perrett. “The bunkering there is about the best in Melbourne. Mandalay’s bunkers are of a similar size to Kingston Heath.”
Indeed, the traps are tough but fair at Club Mandalay – striking a happy medium between punishing errant shots and rewarding good sand play. On almost every hole, they’re placed at strategic distances to invite the golfer to either go for hero tee shots or lay up short of the trouble. Greenside bunkers are slightly deeper than their fairway counterparts, but shallow enough to reward good shots.
The scorecard’s biggest defence are its par 3s – each forcing the golfer to hit mid to long iron shots at considerable trajectories in order to stop the ball on shallow greens. This presents an added challenge as higher ball flights are at the mercy of prevailing winds.
On the other hand, Club Mandalay’s welcome mats are its par 5s – greens that are reachable in two for longer hitters. The entire course is also pleasantly forgiving from the tee via generous driving zones and a light first cut of rough. This is important, especially for new golfers, as getting to the fairway can be the most difficult aspect.
The par 4s here reward the plotter, with certain zones of the fairways considerably easier to approach the green than others.
Club Mandalay’s signature is the 18th – a 391-metre par 4 with views of the clubhouse and historic Mt Fraser in the background.
“I’ve spoken to a few members from Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne who have driven up to play Mandalay and were pleasantly surprised,” says Perrett.
“It’s something of an oasis – there are a couple of water holes that might surprise people given it was farmland. It’s a really good test of golf for all abilities.”
Development and Community
Many believe the only direction the greater city of Melbourne can grow is north.
This was the idea behind developing a residential golf community just off the Hume Highway. But don’t fret – the ultra-convenient suburb of Beveridge can also be accessed via country roads, thus allowing frequent fliers to avoid the motorway en route to Tullamarine Airport.
The planned community was created with a championship course as its centrepiece. Enhancing the community appeal is a six-lane, 25-metre swimming pool, two tennis courts, children’s splash park and playground, clubhouse bar and restaurant offering fine dining, as well as several kilometres of walking tracks and bike paths.
Club Mandalay provides golfers with a few highly tempting benefits – namely two full adult golf memberships to the golf course with the purchase of a home. It also comes with two years of paid Owners Corporation Contributions. Now that’s living.
Where: 430-450 Mandalay Circuit, Beveridge VIC 3753
Phone: (03) 9037 3700