The Metropolitan Golf Club was founded by a group of Royal Melbourne members who rejected the club’s 1901 move into Melbourne’s southern sandhills and opted instead to remain at their inner-city home. After a few years, however, the Metropolitan golfers were forced to relocate and they shifted onto an estate in Oakleigh with less natural undulation than the new Royal Melbourne site but the same fertile sandy base found throughout the Sandbelt region.
Engineer member J.B. Mackenzie created the first course, his routing taking advantage of the unusual shape of the estate by including several fine doglegs and fairways that ran in a number of different directions. The other MacKenzie, Dr Alister, also had a major hand in the design of Metropolitan, advising on bunkering and some minor routing improvements during his 1926 visit to Melbourne. Sadly, with the exception of the final two holes and the tee shot on the 10th, none of the back nine is arranged as either Mackenzie had intended, American Dick Wilson rebuilding this part of the course in 1960 after the club had been forced to sell its beloved southern holes for a local school development. Michael Clayton later made alterations to some of the Wilson holes and despite some decent design work and an excellent long par four at 15, the best golf is concentrated in the much stronger outward side where holes like 1, 2 and 5 are the standouts.
With magnificent plantings and some of the purest couch fairways and bentgrass greens on the planet, a round at Metro is an exceptional experience, although the aesthetic contrast between holes, as well as the lack of interesting ground movement on the back nine, ultimately keeps it from Australian golf’s top shelf.
We feel that the nature of the layout changes so drastically between nines at Metropolitan now, that it’s becoming harder to maintain the long-held view of this being one of Australia’s elite courses. The better holes are mostly on the front side, and the general ambience of golf through these early stages is much more pleasant than later in the round, particularly around the large dam.
As a club Metropolitan is fantastic, but the course has clearly slipped a notch and to get back to a 2-Flag level it would need to look at ways of reshaping the back nine to better reflect the mood of the front. There are also some fine trees on this property, but hundreds that wouldn’t be missed.
Once part of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the members who founded Metropolitan worked hard in the early days to ensure its status as a leading Australian golf club. This meant hosting the Australian Open, which it did first in 1930 after the Alister MacKenzie modifications. In 1936 it played host again, with American legend Gene Sarazen winning the title and nominating the now-extinct 14th hole as one of his favorites. Other notable landmarks include the 1951 Australian Open, won by a young Peter Thomson and the 1968 Australian PGA where Kel Nagle defeated a strong field that included the Big-Three of the era, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. In 1979 Greg Norman announced himself to the world, three-putting the 18th to lose the Australian Open by a shot to Jack Newton. American Brad Faxon won the 1993 Aussie Open at Metro, while in 1997 Lee Westwood triumphed after a classic play-off tussle with Greg Norman.
Metropolitan also hosted the 2001 World Match Play Championship, won by Steve Stricker after many of the game’s greatest players opting to skip the event due to its scheduling in early January.