“So I jump ship in Hong Kong, make my way over to Lang Lang.”
An hour south east of Melbourne’s CBD lies a course designed by former Australian Open Champion George Naismith and built by its members and volunteers. Golf in Lang Lang dates back to the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until the early 60’s that the members secured a lease from the government and work started on the course we see today. Local farmers apparently spent their weekends moving dirt and collecting rubbish with their tractors and trucks and over the next few years, the Lang Lang golf course emerged from the bush.
Lang Lang, built by golfers for golfers – get dressed Spalding, you’re playing golf!
This was the first time the Daddyshack crew had visited Lang Lang and we were really looking forward to our day. It’s amazing how different people see different courses and more often than not, how these people score and/or play has a bearing on whether they liked the course. “Gee it’s tight” – “it’s nice but a bit rough around the edges” – “I really rate it highly”, were just a few of the comments we had heard. From the minute we stepped out of the car we knew this was a country course with a relaxed feel to it. I had called the day before to ask whether we needed to book a tee time, “nah, you’ll be right, Friday’s aren’t that busy here” was the reply…. perfect.
With very reasonably priced green fees paid and the obligatory “how’s the course playing” type banter with the pro shop guy who was also the bartender, it was out for a couple of putts. The practise green was fast. A few short ones and a dozen longer putts for speed and I was ready.
The first hole plays downhill away from the clubhouse to an inviting fairway. Apart from the fact it was the widest fairway on the course, the first is a very good indicator as to what lies ahead. Like any hole there is an ideal place you want your drive to finish, but at Lang Lang this proved to be even more crucial. It is a mid-length par 4, but finish on the right-hand side of the fairway and your approach becomes a lot tougher as you have to fire your second over or around a large gum tree to a smallish green. Hit the fairway though (any of the fairways) and your lie is almost certain to be perfect. We rated the fairways here quite highly, whilst not wide by any means, they were in excellent condition. Further, being sand based they drain very well.
Lang Lang doesn’t give you much chance to ease into the round as the second is index 1 – a long and very narrow par 4 requiring pin point accuracy off the tee. If you can hit your driver with a RELIABLE high draw, by all means have a crack – otherwise take your fairway wood or hybrid. If you do go with the safer option, you will leave yourself with a lengthy second to a raised green – good luck!
The 3rd was one of my favourite holes on the course, a beautiful short par 4. We were tempted to have a go here, but the laser told us anything left was a 250 carry over the pond – wiser heads prevailed, four iron wedge to a tricky green. No respite on the 4th, another longish narrow par four, again requiring pinpoint accuracy off the tee. At 126m the 5th is the shortest hole on the course, though it is no snack. Avoid the deep bunkers and leave your tee shot under the hole.
Standing on the 6th, I turned and said to Carl, “It’s like playing down a hallway here, except there is trouble not walls on either side. You guessed it, another narrow par 4, this time a slight dog leg to the right. The 7th is the first par 5 and whilst not overly long, you need to very good shots to get home. Three well placed shots will have you putting for birdie.
The 8th is a ripper, but beware! Take driver and bite off as much as you dare, but stay right of the fairway bunker otherwise you will overshoot and make par difficult. Staring down the green can be daunting as four bunkers will catch anything off line – this hole deserves its index 2! The 9th is a great little par three back to the clubhouse, but with bunkers front, right and left and mounds behind the green, a three is a good score.
The back nine opens with four testing holes, so if you’ve had a good front nine now isn’t the time to relax. Three solid par 4’s and a longish 3 lie ahead, all requiring solid, accurate tee shots. The par three 12th is indexed 10 but with OOB along the right and a difficult two tier green, it plays harder. 14 is another nice short par 4, requiring 4/5 iron off the tee and a wedge to a flat green. I was having an OK day with my driver and I have a natural right to left shape, so I was tempted here – but beware, you have to hit a high, and I mean high draw!!
The 15th is a straightforward par 3, but two big bunkers left and right guard the green, short a right is the miss here. At 16 you step back into the hallway and have to fire your tee shot through a very narrow chute, though once successfully negotiated, the fairway opens up generously. Once again, leave your approach below the hole, as a downhiller can get away from you.
Hole 17 is a short par 5 and ranked the easiest hole on the course – don’t let this deceive you. I found driver was not required here, it was a well-placed 3 wood. But don’t go left or right…or long even. If you do, you will more than likely find your ball but you will be dead with very few options – I am speaking from experience!! The 18th is an interesting finish, and not what I expected. A high fade off the tee starting left and moving back to the centre of the fairway would have been ideal….would have been! A short par 4 with the shot to the green quite demanding as you need to leave it under the hole. I draw the ball so I was left off the tee and short with my second, but made a nice chip to about 3 feet and rolled it in to finish with a par.
This surprising golf course is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. In fact, we commented on more than one occasion as we wandered along the fairway, "You could almost believe you were on a famous sand belt course"
If you are proficient enough to be able to move the ball both ways off the tee, you have a distinct advantage as the course sets up for both draws and fades. Don’t be put off by this though, take your 3 wood, hybrid or iron off the tee. In fact, Lang Lang requires you to think about your options as you stand on the tee box – beware, don’t just reach for your driver – you don’t need it!
If you do happen to stray offline, finding your ball is generally not a problem, a clear shot to the green might be though. More often than not its medicine time, but again you have to be mindful of where you leave your chip to give you a clear shot to the green. The greens fast and true, though try to leave your approach shots under the pin, as the downhill putts can get away from you. The greens break to the bottom of the course, it doesn’t make them any easier to putt on, but at least you can generally figure out where the ball will break to. The bunkers were consistent hole to hole – neither hard nor too soft – and they were relatively easy to extract yourself from. The sandy wastes in the rough around the greens were even soft enough to blast out of and not hard and bare.
Another standout for us - it took until the 17th green before we found one, yes one unrepaired plug mark - the members and guests who play here take pride in the course. If you had to be critical of anything, Lang Lang lacks the “polish” of its more well-known Melbourne Sand belt cousins, take nothing away from the condition of the course and its general playability, it’s fantastic. A lot of people drive further and pay more to play a course that is not as good as Lang Lang.
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Green fees are $25 During the week and $32 on weekends. It’s the best little golfing secret in Victoria. It’s a fantastic golf course and it’s cheap as chips. Go play it!