"So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Waterford Valley."
Opened early in 2006, Waterford Valley fast became one of the better pay for play courses in Melbourne. It is located 40mins east of the CBD off Ferntree Gully Road in Rowville. It’s a par 72 that plays just over 6500m off the championship tees. The team have played Waterford Valley a lot and we always enjoy our day. A nice weekend in the middle of summer can mean a longer than usual round as Waterford Valley is a very popular public course.
It is a relatively easy walk with no big changes in elevation as it was built on flat land. Rolling fairways with bumps and swales is the design style, well placed fairway bunkers on most of the longer holes and plenty of water and red stakes will swallow anything astray.
We played in overcast, windy conditions with intermittent rain, this on the back of wet week, so the usually quick greens were a little soft and slow, but as always they rolled true. The team was joined by two self-confessed golf nuts! Stu had joined us before but the big fella from QLD was a first timer and a little nervous I might add! Especially after the start Carl had.
The 1st is a gentle opener - a straight, short par four with a generous fairway, the left side off the tee is preferable as bunkers protect a large green short and right. Didn’t bother Carl though has he played a ripper from the right side over the bunkers to about 3 feet and calmly rolled the putt home.
Off the back of the first and around the path the second awaits and if you’re still a bit “tight”, take plenty of club. Playing 179m off the tips and a water carry for most of the trip, this hole tests you early – anything short and right is wet and there’s sand long and left. Three out of the four….wet. The 3rd is a short par 4 with water down the left most of the way and missing right makes for a tougher second, fairway wood or even an iron is sufficient. The green is well protected by bunkers and mounding and can be tricky if putting from either side to the other.
The fourth fairway is very wide, but the further left you go the harder you make the hole – three wood off the tee at the left edge of the right side fairway bunkers is the play for two reasons: three wood takes the bunkers out of play “unless you’re long like the lama”, and second it allows you to play a full shot to probably the most difficult green on the course. Four is a good score especially if you two putt from long range.
Five is a short par three with a large green, that feels like an add on that’s fairly mundane. Actually, the 4th used to be a long par 5 and the 6th a shortish par 3 over water, but apparently the residents were a little too close to the action and the holes were changed (for the worse if you ask me). As you walk from 5 to 6 you can still see the “remains” of the 6th. The “new” 6th is the first of the par fives and depending on the tees, the wind and where you hit your drive, you’re a real chance to get home in two. You need to be right side to be in the go zone, if not aim your second left side of the fairway bunkers on the corner for a short iron into the green.
The 7th is a difficult driving hole, water and sand left and sand on the right, so either take fairway wood or make sure your drive is straight. A miss short and right on approach, will give you a simple chip up the green. Its index doesn’t really reflect the difficulty of the hole as your second always feels longer than it should be. Probably because there’s a slight elevation to the green.
The second par five on the front nine, the 8th requires a solid blow off the tee and a favorable wind if you’re thinking about getting home in two. Off the tips and into the wind is a longish carry over a creek but the fairway is wide and gets even wider as the holes turns to the right. Left side is safer but longer, right side fairway traps and water lurk but you get a better angle at the green. The green is shallow but wide and putts from one side to the other can be tricky.
On the tee, the 9th looks straightforward, 351m off the back to a wide fairway and your second at a large green, what could go wrong? Miss your tee shot right and you need to get lucky to avoid sand, water or a dodgy lie. Centre left off the tee gives you a great angle at a deep green.
You don’t necessarily need to be long off the tee on the 10th, just accurate. Number 10 is a solid hole requiring position off the tee. Off the tips it’s 371m with a sharp dogleg left to the green, right is safer but leaves you with a longer second, too far left and not long enough doesn’t leave you with enough space to clear the trees on the corner. A well placed hybrid or fairway wood will serve you best for an attack on a well bunkered undulating green. I think this is one of Waterford Valley’s better holes; a four here is well earnt.
The 11th is a 552m par 5 where left edge of the right side fairway bunkers is your line off the tee. Try to stay right again with your second if you’re not going for the green as this allows you to fire “down” the length of the green. Left you’ll find trouble the length of the fairway, best avoided!
Although the 12th is supposedly the easiest hole on the course, it can be tricky. If played off the tips it measures 376m, not short. In all my rounds here I have never played this hole off the back marks. Staying left off the tee gives you the best angle at the green, but missing left – the rough is not long but it’s difficult and very dicey as to the lie you’ll get. Its not difficult to rack up a 5….or more!
The par 3, 13th is my favorite hole on the course, at 217m with water all down the right and bunkers short left and right, this is a ripper. Judge Smails who “never slices” doesn’t fear this hole unlike 90% of golfers who do. When the wind does blow you can hit three wood occasionally even driver, making this a very dangerous and difficult par 3.
The second of the back nine par 5’s the 14th is gettable for the longer hitters but it will take two solid shots. Otherwise play to the middle off the tee and again with your second to set yourself up with a short iron to bowl like green. There are a few like this at Waterford giving you a chance if you miss to feed back onto the green.
15, 16, 17, and 18 are good closing holes, all very different in character and strategy.
The 15th is a short par 4 that can tempt you to have a crack off the tee. Hybrid or fairway wood is the smart play as you get to aim at the widest part of the fairway leaving only a wedge from the dogleg. Try to leave yourself under the hole, as the green slopes from back to front.
Grab your driver on 16 and aim just right of the tree in the fairway for ideal and ideal angle at the raised green. Make sure you have enough club as a lateral water hazard crossing the fairway just short of the green and bunkers left will catch anything not up.
Rated the 10th hardest hole on the course, 17 can be a difficult prospect into the prevailing wind. Measuring 177m, the green is protected by plenty of sand short left and long right and requires you to thread your shot between the trouble and a three is well earnt.
The 18th is rated the hardest hole on the course and deservedly so. Into the prevailing wind, your drive needs to be strong and to the right side avoiding the left fairway bunker and water. Decision time – your target is an island green protected by not only water but plenty of sand – and if you’re into the wind you could still be left with 180m plus to the pin. Even laying up is fraught with danger if you over club as the fairway slopes towards the water as does the front edge of the green, so any approach shots that come up short will feed back to water. It is a great hole and four feels like a birdie!
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Waterford Valley is a good test and green fees are very reasonable. $45 during the week and $50 on the weekend. Carts are available and the course always presents well considering the amount of traffic it gets. The course does suffer a little in the winter months as it does lie in a rain belt on low lying ground. The ground staff do a great job of keeping it playable all year round. The 19th hole is a little small if you’re in a big group, it could become a little crowded. Go play it!