The 13th Beach links are always a challenge for the players at the ISPS Handa Vic Open, with their undulating greens built over rolling sand dunes, and the stiff southerly breezes that whip off the ocean.
But in 2019 with the European Tour (men’s) and LPGA Tour (women’s) co-sanctioning the tournament, it has been strengthened even further.
In particular the women’s tees have been pushed back a total of 226 metres on the Beach course, and 281 metres on the Creek course, compared with the 2018 yardages. The Beach will play at 5925 metres and the Creek at 6010 metres this year.
Not only that; the 14th hole on the Beach course has been reduced from a par-five to a par-four at 368 metres, making the course a par 72 after it was previously a par 73.
The men’s yardages are virtually identical to last year at 6214 metres (Beach) and 6346 metres (Creek).
The women who played the Beach course last year will find that the par-four eighth hole is 46 metres longer, and the par-four 13th hole 59 metres longer. The par-five 18th hole on the Beach, which turns left alongside a swampy wasteland, will play 39 metres longer for women at 448 metres, still reachable with no wind but difficult to reach into the prevailing wind.
Golf Australia’s championships director Trevor Herden said the increased yardages reflected the presence of better, stronger players at 13th Beach this year on the women’s side of the tournament.
“I’d say it’s been strengthened,’’ said Herden today. “Some of the bunkering was out of play and we needed to do something that reflected the quality of the field. We’ve got better players who hit the ball further.’’
The 14th hole on the Beach course, which plays back to the clubhouse, was an easy par-five previously. Now it plays as a tougher par-four for women, albeit that the tee is 50 metres forward of where it was last year.
Herden said the new yardages were consistent with what the best women play week-by-week on the LPGA Tour around the world. He added that for perspective, The Grange’s west course in Adelaide, host of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open next week, will play at 6082 metres – 157 metres longer than the Beach course here and the 72 metres longer than the Creek course.
Australia’s Minjee Lee shot 13-under par 279 last year and Melissa Reid 16-under 276 the year before to win the Vic Open women’s tournament. With both those players along with some of the world’s best in the field this year, the women’s winner will certainly need to be in red numbers but perhaps not in double digits.
It all depends on the wind, of course.
The winner Simon Hawkes was 14-under par on the men’s side last year, but both Richard Green (2015) and Dimi Papadatos (2017) reached 16-under to win at 13th Beach.
Green speeds are set to be around 10.5 on the stimpmeter, with Herden pointing out a forecast for strong winds later in the week making him cautious with the putting surfaces.
Both courses are in pristine condition. “It’s a credit to the superintendent and his staff that it’s so good when we’ve had dry conditions,’’ said Herden. “This is a great tournament venue. It’s got terrific facilities, the course is important in all that and there’s plenty of room. It’s got an excellent driving range and good short-game areas and they’re good courses for spectators to view the golf. It’s an outstanding all-round venue.”