Renaissance Golf Design

Royal Melbourne GC, VIC AUS

     In November 2015, Tom Doak and Brian Slawnik traveled back to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia, for seven days of surgical construction work on Alister MacKenzie's West course, one of the world's top ten.  The most significant [and hair-raising] work was done to the green of the iconic par-3 5th on the West course, where bunker edges were lowered from years of sand build-up due to play, and the severely tilted green was subtly re-worked to regain hole locations that had become more severe over time.

     Tom has sometimes compared working on classic greens to open heart surgery, and the pressure was ever higher knowing the history of the course.  When Dr. MacKenzie made his famous six-week consulting tour of Australian courses in October and November, 1926, he spent the biggest chunk of his time revising the routing of Royal Melbourne, and getting to know greenskeeper Mick Morcom and club champion Alex Russell, who would oversee the construction of MacKenzie's new holes after he was long gone back to America.  To give his two new associates a better sense of his ideas and how he preferred for courses to be built, MacKenzie suggested they build one of the short holes in the new layout while he was on site:  the now-famous par-3 5th.  So, as Tom was keenly aware, he and Brian were working on the only green out of all his famous contributions to golf in Australia that Dr. MacKenzie personally oversaw from start to finish.

  All of the work to the 5th was done by hand with shovels, by about fifteen of the Royal Melbourne greens crew under the direction of superintendent Richard Forsyth.  Greenside bunker lips were lowered by as much as eight inches of sand buildup, with the work tapering into the green some ten feet along either edge.  In addition, hole locations in the front center and the back left-center were bowled out a bit, in keeping with historical topo maps of the green surveyed by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and with the recollections of club historian John Green, whose home is just 100 yards from the 5th tee.  Sod was re-laid three days after it was taken up, and the green back in play four weeks hence.

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