Date: January 25, 2008

Kingston Heath: 9 key holes

Kingston Heath is such a small intricate golf course that the holes can be played in a number of different combinations. The routing and order was set by architect Dan Soutar in the 1920&aposs but for this year s MFS Women&aposs Australian Open, the course has been reordered so the five finishing holes are all within short walking distance of the clubhouse. The fine little 10th hole is eliminated from the Open course, replaced by the new 19th hole, built in the spare ground behind the opening hole. From the green of the tournament&aposs second hole, players take the short walk behind the normal second tee to the 12th tee and that wonderful par five plays as the 3rd. The holes that will influence the MFS Women&aposs Australian Open: 1st – 395 metre par-4 Everybody is a little anxious on the opening tee of a big championship and here they confront possibly the most difficult starting hole in the country. Longer hitters can carry the peak of the hill a couple of hundred meters from the tee and catch the extra run off the down slope. The green is protected by bunkers on the right and they definitely suggest the left half of the fairway is the ideal place to drive. There is a golfing convention that says the opening hole should be one of the easier tests but for every standard there is a great course that breaks the rule and at Kingston Heath players need to be well-prepared right from the start of their rounds. 3rd – 480 metre par-5 This is one of the most interesting flat par fives in golf and it earns its credits because of its perfectly placed bunkers and well orientated green. From the tee players must decide whether to play left or right of the bunkers set in the middle of the fairway or simply carry tee shots all of two-hundred meters across the sand. Bunkers further down of the left of the fairway threaten the hooked second shot but the green is best approached from the left and that makes it worth challenging the dangerous left side of second half of the hole. 5th – 430 metre par-5 The long 5th, like the 3rd, heads to the south but unlike the 3rd it is played over a significant sand dune set half-way between tee and green. Deep bunkers are embedded into the side of the hill and whilst they are visually intimidating they threaten neither the drive nor the second shot. The relevant bunkers are the ones that begin 80 meters short of the green on the left and unless the green is reachable with a long wood it is best to play back with a club that guarantees not reaching the sand and pitching from there. 6th – 135 metre par-3 Great uphill par three holes are a rarity in golf but this one might be the best. The 11th at Shinnecock Hill is in the same mould but not even that terrific hole measures up to Alister MacKenzie s beauty at Kingston Heath. Fearsome bunkers protect both left and right sides of the green and Ted Ball once took six shots to escape Big Bertha on the left in a 1960&aposs Victorian Open. This is recognised as a brilliant hole but one is forced to wonder how popular such a severe, penal, demanding hole would be if it was built today. Bunker shots have never been easier because of the lofted clubs available to the modern golfer but players have never complained more about difficult bunker shots and the suspicion is many have forgotten they are supposed to be hazards . 8th – 418 metre par-5 Blind holes are often targeted by critics as poor ones and golfers generally fear the prospect of hitting to an unseen target but this hole with its green set sixty or seventy meters past the top of the hill is a terrific long two-shotter. Played as a par five in the championship it will be reachable in with two strong shots especially as the ground short of the green slopes down to the cup. The drive is quite open but the space to the right invites players to drive safely away from the bunkers and that makes the hole longer than it needs to be. 13th – 335 metre par-4 Golfer s attitudes toward bunkers generally fall into two distinct camps. Amongst the first group are players who see them as things designed to make the game a misery and they are to be feared and avoided at all costs. Most of those included in this group insist on employing poor grips and as a consequence, a closed clubfaces and there is little hope of redemption for those who insist on using a technique even Karrie Webb would be unable to make work. The second group consists of those who have a better understanding of the technique and the role well-positioned bunkers play in the game and embrace the challenge they present and the strategic options they create. Here there is a bunker right in the centre of the fairway that determines all players must confront its challenge. Some will play over, others opt for staying short and there is always the option of flying down the right into the narrow strip of fairway between sand and ti tree. In the 2000 men’s Open Aaron Baddeley flew the sand, pitched to the green and made an easy four whilst his pursuer, Robert Allenby played back, flew a long difficult second over the small green and made a six. Love or hate the bunker, it had played a crucial role in determining that championship. 15th – 269 metre par-4 Some of the best holes on the Melbourne sandbelt are the short par fours that tempt and confuse, especially at the end of an event when players are more desperate to make birdies and more likely to either make a catastrophic mistake or pull off the hero shot. The 15th is a strategically pure hole where the left-hand fairway bunker and the left-to- right orientation of the green determine the left side of the fairway is the place to drive. The question is how far along the fairway are you game to venture? Some will drive from the tee and others will play back with long or even medium irons but the fun comes on Sunday when the discipline of sticking to a pre-determined plan will be challenged. 17th – 170 metre par-3 Kingston Heath has a collection of fine short holes and this one playing close to 170 metres will ask a simple question that can only be answered with a good straight hit with the right club. It sound quite simple but at the end of a championship nothing is easy and missing in the left bunker especially when the pin is left is a guaranteed a bogey. 18th – 375 metre par-4 This hole plays back alongside the 1st to the clubhouse and they share a nest of fairway bunkers that catch anything flared to the right. This is a big strong par four with a downhill second to an undulating green best approached from the right especially if the pin is in the back left corner or the green. Make sure you are part of the action at Kingston Heath! Tickets will be available for purchase at the gate, but you can pre-order through Ticketmaster. Click here to book your tickets to the 2008 MFS Women&aposs Australian Open!