Victoria in top shape for JBWere Masters

The Australian Masters returns to Victoria Golf Club this month – a club intent on continuing its resurgence as a major tournament venue.

Last year’s event was the first time Victoria Golf Club had hosted a professional tournament since the farcical 2002 Australian Open which was marred by unplayable putting surfaces in the opening round.

Greg Chalmers Greg Chalmers eyes off an Aussie three-peat (Credit: Anthony Powter)

But eight years later and 2010 proved a great success, with large crowds stepping on to what was a much greener and softer layout.

Course superintendent Ian Todd said preparations have been smoother than the lead-up to last year.

“With the tournament being another four weeks after the date last year, you would suspect we’re going to get some better weather leading into the tournament, which we’re banking on anyway,” Todd said.

“The course is in much better shape this year than it was at the same time last year. If you can remember last year we had a pretty wet summer all the way through so early this year we started doing a bit of drainage work to get the course in better shape.

Victoria Golf Club has been kept in pristine order since the week before the Presidents Cup to make use of the influx of interstate and international visitors to the sandbelt region.

Todd said that has aided preparations for the Masters: “We can do a couple of dummy runs and get our programs in order. It’s a good thing.”

“You don’t sort of maintain that intensity type maintenance all the way through. You just have a look around, see what works, see what doesn’t work and make some fine-tuning along the way.”

Todd is aiming for a slightly browner tinge to the course this year.

“At the moment, we have pretty green growing fairways. The greens are, I wouldn’t say rock hard, but they’re not too bad. With the warmer weather in early December, we’re hoping we’re going to get some hot days to sort of bake the course out a bit and lose a bit of that colour and lushness.”

With such a fine line between the trademark brown tinge of the Melbourne sandbelt, Todd will again be careful with the speed of the greens.

“They won’t be any quicker than they were last year. They were running about 10.5 to 11. That’s a pretty fair speed around here,” he said.

Fans can also expect to see similar pin and tee positions this year.

“I don’t see any need for any wholesale changes. I think they (IMG) were pretty happy with how the tournament was run last year. The players enjoyed coming here and it will be more of the same this year,” Todd said.

With the December date, the Masters has drawn the short straw in terms of scheduling.

Last month’s Australian Open – held the week before the Presidents Cup – lured a bevvy of American stars.

That’s threatened the Australian Masters’ standing as the premier strokeplay event in Australian golf, though not according to Todd.

“IMG has really built this tournament up over the past few years. We don’t see that’s going to change at all. I know it’s the week before Christmas, which isn’t ideal. People have a lot of things on but as far as exposure goes, it’s still going to be a world-class event,” he said.

“If it’s going to be a few less people coming out this year, it doesn’t really matter to us. We’re just going to present the course the best we can.”