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Sandringham Golf Links: Public Course, Private Pedigree

Tuesday 16, Feb 2021

Opening in November, the new-look Sandringham Golf Links is the centre of attention in more ways than one.  Royal Melbourne director of courses Richard Forsyth looks at the redevelopment of the public access course which is forms part of the new home of Australian golf in the heart of Melbourne’s famed Sandbelt.

The opening of the new 18-hole Sandringham Golf Links on 24 November 2020 was a significant milestone in the Victorian Government-backed Australian Golf Centre development.  The redevelopment of the Sandringham public course, which sits adjacent to Royal Melbourne Golf Club, started back in May 2019 and is part of an $18.8 million redevelopment of the site which will see it transform into the new home for golf in Australia, with both Golf Australia and the PGA of Australia to be headquartered there once finished.

Reconstruction of the golf course was completed over the past 18 months with the first stage encompassing the most work.  That stage consisted of nine holes of the golf course, a new irrigation system, increased irrigation water storage, a 350-metre driving range with target greens and Golf Australia’s high-performance tee, short game and target green zones.  The Stage 1 nine holes opened for play in January 2020 with the second nine-hole reconstruction then beginning. 

The construction of the building component is due to be completed by June 2021.  This will include office and administration space for both golfing bodies, a café/golf operations facility, gymnasium, putting lab, three teaching labs, physio treatment rooms, lecture theatre and 30-bay undercover driving range with public access.  Once building works are closer to completion, a 3500m2 ‘Himalayas style’ putting green will also be finalised.  Located at the entry to the Australian Golf Centre, it will provide a unique setting as people come into the facility.

Unique project, unique design

Since 2010, Royal Melbourne Golf Club (RMGC) has held the head lease agreement for the Sandringham property from Bayside Council and been responsible for maintenance of the course. The operation was initially run separately, with some hiring of maintenance equipment from the RMGC fleet.  Following completion of the new RMGC maintenance facility in 2016 and the need to upgrade compliance of the facility at Sandringham, it was decided to integrate the operation into the RMGC facility. 

As part of the Australian Golf Centre project, RMGC has had the unusual circumstance of being both a client and a contractor to the project.  As the operator of the course and facilities, the club was a client of the project, but as a provider of services for the construction of the golf course it was also a contractor. 

Ogilvy, Cocking and Mead (OCM) provided design and construction services, but RMGC were contracted to complete tree removal, final preparation works, grassing and grow-in.  Initially a price was given to provide labour, equipment and grassing services to complete the 18-hole development.  This was in the form of a fixed price contract, with provisional amounts for irrigation water and drainage, charged to the project monthly upon percentage completion. 

Early in 2018 and with the project start imminent, Nicholas Staff was appointed from the RMGC links team as construction superintendent and all staff were appointed under the RMGC banner.  Labour was charged back to the Sandringham operation, or in the case of construction work, charged back to the project.  This created a need to accurately track labour allocations across all three courses and the development project.  The task tracker system has proved very helpful in allocating and tracking resources and charging to the relevant cost centre. 

To achieve a modern driving range length and width requires a significant area of land which basically encompassed the footprint of the 1st and 9th holes of the original Sandringham layout.  Mike Cocking was the lead architect from OCM and developed a new layout to achieve the desired 18-hole format on the remainder of the site available.  The end result is a par 65 layout measuring 4875 metres off the back tees and 4290metres off the front tees.

CLICK HERE to read more about the reconstruction of Sandringham Golf Links.

This article originally appeared in Volume 22.6 Nov-Dec 2020 of the Australian Turfgrass Management Journal. Photos: Gary Lisbon.