Forty years ago American David Foster ran the Colgate Company and he determined sponsoring women’s golf was a particularly good way of selling toothpaste. He bought to the Victoria club the Colgate Far-East championship and with it nearly all of the best women golfers in the world including Jo Ann Carner, Kathy Whitworth, Judy Rankin and Sandra Palmer. If the world ranking of the players was the measure of the quality of the field perhaps only the men’s one-off 1988 Bi-Centennial Classic at Royal Melbourne was a match. This week at Victoria the field for the Women’s Open comes close to matching those Foster promoted so long ago. There are a few not here including Inbee Park who won three of the five major championships last season and her compatriot So Yeon Ryu. Lydia Ko, second a year ago at Royal Canberra, and arguably the game s most remarkable teenager since Bobby Jones is playing and perhaps she is the most likely winner. Already she has won the Canadian championship twice, the first one against nineteen of the top twenty players in the world. Not even Bobby Jones was pulling off stunts matching Ko s play in Canada. The course this week though is much different from the typical North American tree-lined parkland test where straight driving down narrow fairways and hitting irons into soft greens is the measure of the golf. Victoria, whilst not as wide from the tee as the two courses just across the street at Royal Melbourne, is generous from the tee but the middle of the fairway is rarely the best line into the greens. In the fashion of Royal Melbourne and the rest of the sandbelt courses the flags are best approached from the edges of the fairways and finding those ideal edges requires the player to recognize it for a start and then to find them. There is no need to fly so close to the sun on every hole but the reward is there for those who can drive, not necessarily straight, but accurately. Straight hitting is for narrow courses. Accurate hitting is for wide, strategic courses and surely it is much more fun playing that way? Unusually the last difficult par four comes at the 13th hole but even there the fast running fairway will turn what is a par five for the women members into a drive and a short iron. From there the 14th is a steeply uphill par three followed by perhaps the critical hole, the short par four 15th. There are more dramatic looking holes under 300 meters close by including the 10th at Royal Melbourne and the 2nd at St Andrews Beach but this one asks the most vexing questions of them all. Drive just too far left and more make bogeys than par from the bunkers. Drive just a little far right and you finish with a fifty-metre bunker shot from a horrible angle. The safest shot comes up just short of the left bunkers leaving a pitch from around a hundred meters. It isn t particularly difficult nowhere near as difficult as the same length shot into the 3rd holes at Woodlands or Kingston Heath but who isn t tempted by talking more club from the tee and getting within fifty-meters? On Sunday the leaders will come to the 15th tee and whilst the question is simple the one who picks the right answer may be the winner. There are few holes in the game where there are five or six possible answers and that is at the heart of the greatness of Victoria s 15th hole.
Author: Mike Clayton / www.golf.org.au