Golf History and Nostalgia Inside the Royal Melbourne Clubhouse

Golf History and Nostalgia Inside the Royal Melbourne Clubhouse

October 25, 2023
Royal Melbourne Memorabilia Treasure Trove

Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the host venue of this week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC), is not the oldest golf club in Australia, but it is considered the oldest ‘uninterrupted’ one Down Under.

Established in 1891 in Caulfield, it moved some 11 kilometers south to its present location in 1931, but members have been able to tee off every day over the past 132 years.

The history of the club, which rates as one of the finest in the world, is also intrinsically related to the history of Australian golf. The Australian Amateurs, one of the oldest championships in the world, was instituted by Royal Melbourne Golf Club as ‘The Victoria Cup’ in 1894. 

Major Champion Feels

Some of the greatest golfers in the country have either been members here, like five-time Open champion Peter Thomson, or have been given honorary membership because of their achievements, including Adam Scott and Karrie Webb. 

The moment one walks into the warm interiors of Royal Melbourne’s unimposing clubhouse, it is impossible not to get steeped in the glorious history of the sport. The two lounges that face a visitor from the entrance are a good starting point and named after Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the course designer and Alex Russell, the 1924 Australian Open champion and a club member, who was chosen by MacKenzie to oversee the construction. 

The MacKenzie Room and the Russell Room are a treasure trove of old pictures, drawings, documents and intricately carved trophies. One of them, which was handed over last Sunday, is the stunning 131-year-old Club Championship trophy.

Here are some of the must-see displays at Royal Melbourne Golf Club:

Adam Scott’s golf set from 2013 Masters win: Scott’s Masters win was the first by an Australian golfer at Augusta National Golf Club. Tony Rule, the Captain of Royal Melbourne, asked Adam’s father, Phil, if he could donate the putter from his son’s winning bag to become a part of the club’s putter display. Adam and Phil decided to send the entire bag of clubs, including his headcovers.  

Aerial picture of Royal Melbourne from 1932: A stunning picture from above, encompassing both the West and East courses. It has become the main reference point as the club has steadfastly tried to remain true to the original design of Dr. MacKenzie through their renovations and refurbishments.

Horse-drawn plough and scoop from 1929: With all the modern-day equipment, including the use of drones, GPS-locked shapers and heavy earth-moving machinery, the horse-drawn plough and scoop that was used by Dr. MacKenzie, Russell and then Head Greenkeeper Michael Morcom, displayed outside the main foyer of the club, is guaranteed to fill you with awe.

Charcoal portrait of Dr. MacKenzie and his original blueprint: Very appropriately, the MacKenzie Room has a beautiful charcoal portrait of Dr. Alister MacKenzie, by an artist called I. Nuttman. Below the portrait is the master architect’s original blueprint for the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

Old Tom Morris clubs: It is a most revered part of the clubhouse. A display of clubs used by Old Tom Morris, the four-time Open champion, who won the Claret Jug in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1867. The collection, donated by Noel Terry, includes his long spoon from 1865, cleek from 1890, dished faced niblick from 1893 and musselback cleek from 1895, among others.

The putter collection: This is a fascinating display of putters used over the years by renowned members and honorary members of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. It starts with the ones used by five-time Australian Open champion Ivo Whitton from the 1900s, to the Acushnet Bullseye bronze blade used by Kel Nagle in winning the 1960 Open Championship, Adam Scott’s Scotty Cameron broomstick putter that he used in the 2013 Masters triumph.