Melbourne & Victoria

By: Bruce Babbitt

Editor's Note: Cybergolf's correspondent in Australia has sent along his second installment from "Down Under." Here, Bruce discusses two of the continent's premier cities, particularly insofar as they relate to golf.

Melbourne was the first capital of Australia and has been traditionally considered more "British" and refined than the New South Wales' capital of Sydney. The difference may be whether or not the region was settled by convicts, as was much of Australia.

Melbourne's climate is fairly mild. If the temperature gets down to 50F in the winter, residents consider the conditions rather cold. To the east of Melbourne is a region called the "Sand Belt." Situated here are the golf clubs of Royal Melbourne, Victoria, Cheltenham and Sandringham. All are located minutes from each other.

My accommodations are in Victoria. Yesterday I played a mixed better-ball match with my old friends and hosts Ron and Kay Barber, whom I met years ago while attending Northwestern University Law School. Ron was studying Advanced Dentistry at the time.

Both Ron and Kay have their names on championship boards and the trophy awarded at the end of the four-ball competition. The event is called the Olympic Torch Trophy, with the trophy donated by Derrick Clayton, a Victoria member and a two-time Olympic marathon runner. Clayton held the world record in the marathon for 14 years. Victoria is also the home course of Peter Thompson, a five-time British Open champion. Another member is Geoff Ogilvy, now a regular on the PGA Tour and winner of the 2006 U.S. Open.

Victoria's course is ridiculously long. The members' tees stretch 6,868 yards, with two of the par-5s extending over 600 yards. Thankfully, golf balls roll far here. The temperature when I played was 94F. Umbrellas are used in these conditions, but not to keep off rain!

Around Melbourne's huge Port Phillip Bay is Mornington Peninsula, which forms a half moon that nearly encloses the entire harbor. At its farthest end is Portsea, where miler John Landy trained for his famous mile race with Roger Bannister in May 1954.

At the very end of the peninsula is where Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared into the ocean - perhaps eaten by a shark, or maybe by drowning. In honor of Holt, the Aussies built a swimming pool!

There are nearly 18 golf courses along the 40-mile length of the peninsula. Most are links layouts and playable at very reasonable rates. The entire peninsula is a beach enclave and features wonderful views of the harbor or the ocean.

I've tested a scientific theory on my trip. Since water below the Equator circles in the opposite direction than in the Northern Hemisphere, I have theorized that if a golfer has a persistent slice north of the Equator he would draw the ball "Down Under." I've since found this to be absolutely accurate, which causes me to consider winding up my affairs in the U.S. and moving here.

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