Royal Melbourne Legacy
Royal Melbourne Country Club’s history is the legacy of parallel golf movements on two continents thousands of miles from the Scottish birthplace of the game originally called “chole.” A derivative of hockey played in Flanders, golf was outlawed in 1457 by the Scots parliament of James II because it interfered with the war against England!
Formation of Royal Melbourne Country Club in Australia
The year 1892, exactly 100 years before our Royal Melbourne Country Club was founded, was a very significant golf year, both in America and Australia. Here Scottish designer C. B. MacDonald finished the Chicago Golf Club, the first 18-hole golf course in the United States. (In fact, CGC along with four other clubs including The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, were the five charter clubs of the USGA. The Club has since hosted three U.S. Opens and four U.S. Amateurs). Meanwhile “Down Under”, The Melbourne Golf Club was formed at Caulfield. The privilege of adding the term “Royal” to the club’s name was granted by Queen Victoria in 1895. The course was laid out by three members from St. Andrews and two others from Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Royal Melbourne Golf Club has moved twice since the original course was inaugurated at Caulfield. The second course and clubhouse were built in Sandringham in 1901, and the third and present club was established at Black Rock in 1931. Black Rock, designed by famed Scottish architect Alister Mackenzie of the Royal & Ancient at St. Andrews, is the favorite course of Greg Norman.
Norman’s association with the new Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove, Illinois culminated in 1992, exactly one hundred years after the founding of Royal Melbourne Golf Club and the Chicago Golf Club. Working with California golf architect Ted Robinson and KemperSports designer Bob Spence, the new course incorporated essentials that Mackenzie espoused: two loops with different wind conditions; long par 4’s with shorter, tough par 4’s calling for an infinite variety of shots; greens and fairways very undulating, but not severe; minimal blind shots; natural beauty not contrived by man; minimal annoyance due to lost balls; maintenance of excellent course conditions; no overpowering bunkering; and camouflage, where on the 18th the bunker is 40 yards out from the green. Mackenzie would have been proud of the young PGA superstar who was designing only his second golf course, his first in the Continental United States. Certainly, he made James S. Kemper, Jr., KemperSports’ founder, a happy man.
Combining three natural elements, the course was divided into three 6-hole segments. Six were set in a heavily wooded area with mature oak trees, six in a designated prairie-wetlands conservancy, and six around nine ponds attracting native wildlife.
The Story of Our Club
Norman tried out his new layout for the first time on June 30, 1992, playing in the inaugural round. He reached the 565-yard, par-5 17th, a double dogleg, with a 325-yard drive and a 2-iron that cleared the towering oaks from 235 yards out. The shot stopped 15 feet from the pin - - an eagle was recorded on #17 the first day it was played. A plate in the fairway attests to the feat witnessed by a gallery of 700.
The Club formally opened on Saturday, September 19, 1992 with a dinner party attended by most of the 225 founding members. In the intervening years, the membership has grown to 325 golf member families and 75 social member families. A mecca for social occasions as well as for golf, tennis and aquatics, Royal Melbourne Country Club has become the club of choice for weddings, holiday parties, charity outings, family gatherings, and concerts.
Among our guests have been celebrities from the worlds of sport, cinema, politics and business. Professional golfers have also enjoyed the hospitality of the Royal Melbourne CC membership and staff, including Ken Venturi, Lee Elder, Bruce Fleischer, Tom Purtzer, Lee Trevino, Dave Stockton, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Ray Floyd, Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw, Dale Douglass, Bob Murphy, Andy North, Jay Sigel, Charles Coody and Bob Charles. Sports celebrities within the membership include superstar Michael Jordan and 1986 Super Bowl MVP Richard Dent.
Tiger Woods has tangled with Royal Melbourne Country Club’s tough 18-hole layout, the first time in the 1994 Windon Memorial Classic collegiate event when he shot 72-75 at Royal Melbourne CC followed by 67 at Kemper Lakes in the 54-hole event. In classic “Tiger” fashion, he showed strength in the final round, but not enough to overtake Josh McCumber who won the tournament, succeeding the defending champion, Casey Martin.