Tom Doak on Royal Melbourne, Alister MacKenzie and the best winter golf destination in the world


Earlier this year, Tom Doak was appointed as a consulting architect to President's Cup host Royal Melbourne, where he will help oversee updates to the famed Alister MacKenzie design.

Golf course architect Tom Doak has high praise for Melbourne, the host city of this week's President's Cup in Australia.

'Between November and March,' said Doak. 'When the courses in the northeastern U.S. are closed and the links of the UK are pretty raw, Melbourne is the best golf destination in the world.' 

Royal Melbourne highlights one of the world's most concentrated areas of great courses, which also includes Victoria, Woodlands, Kingston HeathYarra Yarra and Commonwealth.  

'They're all within 10 miles of each other and all of them are world class,' said Doak.

Doak will be watching this week's President's Cup action Down Under with an especially keen eye. Earlier this year, he was appointed as consulting architect to Royal Melbourne, the 36-hole Alister MacKenzie-designed courses (The club's Composite Course, which is used for the President's Cup and other top events, features 12 holes from the West Course and six from the East Course). In December, the club will get to work re-grassing the remaining holes not used on the Composite Course. 

Royal Melbourne and the President's Cup: What to watch

Doak's knowledge of MacKenzie's portfolio includes his book, 'The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie.' He has also helped restore such MacKenzie courses as Pasatiempo Golf Club in California.

As for how Royal Melbourne will challenge President's Cup matches, Doak says the severity of the greens on the Composite Course will punish players who miss in the wrong spots.

'They're not as severe as Augusta National,' said Doak. 'But there is nothing to stop the ball from getting away from you on the far side of the hole if you are above the hole, not even a fringe cut to keep your ball out of the bunker.

'My guess is you'll see some short shots that make the players look foolish, but it's all because they are out of position and playing past the pin on a downslope.'

Doak says the most notable difference to MacKenzie's effort here compared to his collection of U.S. designs is largely climate-related. On the southern coast of Australia, Melbourne has a rare mix of bermuda grass and sandy soil. The soil is also a reason why golf courses in Melbourne tend to feature steep, bunker lips.

'Fairways are wide at Royal Melbourne,' said Doak. 'Much like courses in the 1920s were in the northern U.S. until costs got in the way, which caused the fairways at many courses to narrow. The dry climate also enables Royal Melbourne to maintain short grass around the greens and have the balls scoot away from greens into trouble.'

While stakes will be high on the back nine, Doak says some of the course's finest holes come right away.

'Those first five holes of the Composite Course (Nos. 3-7 of the West Course), are all terrific holes, which will start off the matches with a bang,' said Doak. 'Tune in early!'