A hole-by-hole look at Royal Melbourne

No. 18 on Royal Melbourne's East Course, a hole that will play as No. 16 on the Composite Course for the Presidents Cup.

MELBOURNE — Peter Thomson of Australia, a five-time British Open champion and the only International captain to win a Presidents Cup — at Royal Melbourne in 1998 — offers this hole-by-hole description of the composite course at Royal Melbourne, where the ninth Presidents Cup matches will be played Nov. 17-20.

Also, check out Brad Klein's preview of the course that will host the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Adam Scott by clicking here.

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No. 1, 354 yards, par 4: The opening hole is the 3rd West to those familiar with Royal Melbourne. It is no easy exercise and it's rarely given enough respect, often being referred to as a "drive-and-pitch." But the original constructors left a medium-sized green that slopes quite steeply from front to back. Also, the corner of the green nearest the striker presents a virtual apex to pitch to. The modern balls and equipment, which allow the golfer to impart astonishing backspin to wedge shots, has largely defeated the green's characteristic. Even so, the hole demands considerable skill. Birdies are not that common.

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No. 2, 521 yards, par 5: This spectacular hole retains an ancient "sandblow" bunker on the skyline crest of the first half of the hole, hemmed in by a tea tree that allows no short cuts forward. It's a daunting drive over the danger to an unsighted fairway. This bellows out to a comfortable width and flatness for the second shot, the most inspiring approach shot of the whole course. Marked as a par 5, it's more like a 4.5 as birdies are plentiful enough to the competent player who can steer his approach through a narrow gateway onto the green.

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The 176-yard, par-3 3rd hole at Royal Melbourne (normally the fifth hole on the West Course).

No. 3, 176 yards, par 3: Early in the round comes this famous and much-photographed hole, a mid-iron shot across a valley to a steeply sloping green, mercifully higher at the back than the front. Surrounded by deep natural bunkers, there's no escaping its demand for a superior shot. Tactics teach the player to ensure he doesn't overhit, as the downhill putts have to be slow dribbles.

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No. 4, 439 yards, par 4: A spectacular drive here across a wilderness of local, low-height indigenous plants that hide wayward tee shots. Yet the modern players have little trouble carrying all that to the safety of a broad fairway. Too much oomph can send a shot into the rough beyond. From there the second shot is to a deceptively higher level of green made up of another steep slope that has baffled the greats over the years. In previous eras, three- and even four-putts were common.

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The green on the 148-yard par-3 5th hole at Royal Melbourne (normally the 7th hole on the West course).

No. 5, 148 yards, par 3: Another par 3, shorter but with a tiny green elevated above tee level, an aspect that could deceive those who calculate strictly in distances. Added to that, wind from the southwest blows at the green but not from the sheltered tee — hardly by design, but nature at its most devilish. This is a hole that often produces a decision one way or another. Recovery from the surrounding deep bunkers is never an automatic "down-in-two."

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No. 6, 312 yards, par 4: The start of a succession of eight par-4s of varying length and direction, the make-or-break stretch that most courses lack. In the time of the course's opening, several of these holes were rated as Standard Scratch fours. Balls didn't fly as far then, but now each and every one is vulnerable. They are therefore ideal holes for match play and the Presidents Cup. This sixth hole is the shortest of them and tempts strong men who think all-out attack is the best tactic. They forget that this green is a tiny target even for a wedge shot, sited as it is among indigenous vegetation and a great sandblow of a bunker, to carry from the tee, and there's a precipitous drop-off behind. There is seldom a reward to anyone taking on the impossible.

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No. 7, 455 yards, par 4: This hole is a contrast to the previous one — first descending gently before a stretched rise to an unusual manmade ridge green. The most enjoyable aspect of the Royal Melbourne courses (East and West) is that most of the greens are open at the front, with the sentinel bunkers off to the sides. This might be seen as a "Members" indulgence, but it is classic golf at its very best. This green is a perfect example — it can be approached with a running shot with a straight-faced iron, a golf shot that is fast disappearing. Putting rounds it out. The whole green is sloping forward — nowhere is entirely flat. It is altogether a dangerous, slippery green.

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The 476-yard, par-5 8th hole at Royal Melbourne (normally the 12th hole on the West Course).

No. 8, 476 yards, par 4: Here is another powerful hole. Originally, the green was in place to the right of where it's now situated, which softens the demands, but in the 1940s the opportunity to stretch the hole was apparently irresistible, and the green went West. The second shot must be played across an extensive patch of indigenous plants. Bunkering from the tee can be easily avoided, allowing the hole to be attacked.

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The 438-yard, par-5 9th hole at Royal Melbourne (normally the 17th hole on the West Course).

No. 9, 439 yards, par 4: In many ways, this hole epitomizes Royal Melbourne. Length, generous width and a large green open at the front, it doglegs gently to the left as it abuts the 7th hole. The tee shot is inhibited by two nasty deep bunkers at the left bend in the fairway, and another crater edging the green. One of Claude Crockford's islands in the sea of sand, combating wind erosion, this device adds to the hole's charm — and its difficulty. To get snarled on the island is costly.

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No. 10, 433 yards, par 4: To bring us back to the clubhouse, in members' play, the 18th West, a superb dogleg turning right, this hole allows players at this level to shorten their tee shots lest they run out of territory. After that, anything down to a wedge will reach the green pitched left down to right, without much to bring on any trembles. Birdies are therefore invited, but never guaranteed.

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No. 11, 332 yards, par 4: This hole is the essence of Alex Russell's effort with the East Course, which came soon after the opening of the West. Crammed into a short space between the clubhouse and the south boundary, No. 11 for the Presidents Cup is a masterpiece of land use. Though it's drivable by today's golfers and the invitation to try is worth the gamble, the reward is mostly not worth it. Too much happens at the green, which sits on a steep level on the last rise before the land runs out. It might have been beautiful had there been 50 yards more to be had. Yet, it survives the onslaught of the modern game with the aid and companionship of three greenside bunkers. The green is on two levels, robbing it of more cup spots than two, but this enlivens the putting. This hole I could watch all day. It intrigues.

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A view from behind the green on the 439-yard 12th hole (normally the 2nd hole on the East Course).

No. 12, 440 yards, par 4: We are in sequence by now, passing through the five holes that the East Course contributes to the Composite. The second of the East makes the 12th of our Presidents Cup journey. This is a worrying hole for aggressive players — a tight fairway between unplayable rough country. Again, we see a dogleg right that starts downward until, at the turning point, it changes direction and climbs the full slope to a well-guarded green. The second shot is therefore a longer one than pure yardage suggests. But too much boldness will send a ball into oblivion as everything falls away beyond. This is a powerful par 4 in anyone's language.

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No. 13, 383 yards, par 4: This is a most clever hole! It follows the natural slope, sliding away to the downhill right until it fills the space in that corner of the property. The slope is a clever complication that gives the hole its character. Allowance must be made for the run-off of the tee shot without leaving it stuck behind an overhanging gum tree. There is a small "gateway" to the last 50 yards of the fairway. A flat apron to the green lends comfort to a victim of the slope. The green has a pronounced ridge that divides it in two and a sharp dropoff at the rear.

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The 186-yard, par-3 14th hole at Royal Melbourne Golf Club (normally the 16th hole on the East Course).

No. 14, 186 yards, par 3: This tidy little par 3 is a newcomer to the Composite, sacrificing the previous mighty 4th East because of the tightness of space in the immediate area. Spectators will race ahead for a close look at this new hole, which fits into the East Course as No. 16. An attractive hole of a reasonably flat and sizable green in a sea of sand, it should see plenty of 2s and no 5s from these world-class players. Modern tournament bunkers are always raked to ensure wayward shots fall back to the flat of the sand, making escape a relatively easy proposition. There should be a multitude of "down-in-two" on this hole.

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No. 15, 569 yards, par 5: The longest hole the Composite course offers, but it should be no great slog to get the second shots home on the green or thereabouts. In fact, it will be a delightful vision to watch them do it. It is not plain sailing as there are some cross-bunkers in the approach to the green. The green has enough of a deceptive slope to give putting a twist, but par 5s of whatever length generally offer a free lunch to today's top golfers. Still, it should bring out the best in them.

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The 448-yard, par-4 16th hole at Royal Melbourne Golf Club (normally the 18th on the East Course).

No. 16, 448 yards, par 4: This is the famous ending hole. In its usual function, it is a magnificent par 4 with all the attributes and complexities a final hole should display. But most high-standard matches such as the Presidents Cup statistically finish by the 16th hole and this one would go unappreciated were it slotted later. A score of four is an achievement no matter what the day serves up as weather. It's normally played into a strong southwesterly wind, so that it's almost the length of a par 5, even for long drivers. It's worth watching on any occasion.

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No. 17, 429 yards, par 4: This hole is normally the Club No. 1 West, and a good opening hole it is, too, with a fairway of enormous width and length. These Presidents Cup golfers don't play the course in match play. They play each other, and this hole, coming as a 17th, is at their mercy. It has a plain green, nearly flat and virtually unguarded, as the one bunker on the right edge would seem to be asleep on the job. Look for birdies.

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No. 18, 458 yards, par 4: A very short par 5 that plays more like a par 4, wind or no wind. The Sahara-like bunker immediately ahead is of minimum concern, so that the tee shots fly over it as far as the striker wishes. That sets the scene for a long iron approach to another steeply sloped green calling for care and attention. If the 16th hole didn't settle the matter, this 18th will.

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