The Sandbelt Invitational – the finest multi-course tournament in the world?

By Paul Prendergast.

Photo: Mark Wilson – Golfplus Media.

Turning our visions into reality is a challenge most of us face on a regular, if not daily, basis. For long-time friends and former course design colleagues, Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Clayton, next week’s inaugural Sandbelt Invitational will be a realisation of such a dream borne out of a desire to enhance the aspirations of others whilst showcasing four of the world’s greatest courses on the Melbourne Sandbelt.

The concept will become reality as a collective of players from all points on the experience spectrum, including former U.S. Open champion Ogilvy and recent DP World and PGA TOUR winner Lucas Herbert, will tee up at a quartet of Melbourne courses that few cities around the world can match for sheer quality and gravitas.

Host courses Royal Melbourne (West), Kingston Heath, Yarra Yarra and Peninsula Kingswood (South) combine to ensure the Sandbelt Invitational will be regarded by many as the finest multi-course tournament in the world of golf.  

A big call when you consider the Dunhill event in Scotland includes The Old Course at St Andrews and Carnoustie and the Pebble Beach tour event includes, well, Pebble Beach in their triumvirate of courses.  However, from a world ranking standpoint alone, from top to bottom, the Sandbelt Invitational surely wins out.

It’s would be premature to start blustering about how prestigious an event it could develop into but the ability to dream is a luxury bestowed upon us all. Given the debilitations rendered by the pandemic this year, the invitational field will be very ‘Victoria-centric’ with limited spectator access, however the groundswell of support from players around the globe when the tournament was announced will be heartening to the likes of Ogilvy and Clayton moving forward.

Both have been lifelong proponents of the many intriguing splendours of sandbelt golf and through Ogilvy’s Foundation, have been active in providing opportunities for emerging players at grass root and elite amateur levels to enhance their experience over these challenging past few years. The Sandbelt Invitational field will be a reflection of that commitment and desire to expose young players with a vision to the realities of life at an elite standard.

In 1934, the Augusta National Invitational Tournament was staged after Bobby Jones had petitioned and been denied the opportunity for the club to host a U.S. Open. That tournament was the foundation of what we now know to be The Masters and was played with few spectators and a field of Jones’ choosing. Sound familiar?

The invitational, small scale nature of each inaugural event are similar even if the motivations that led to their creation may differ. 

For an untelevised event few of us will be able to be present at to witness, the inaugural Sandbelt Invitational will be ‘fascinating viewing’ and a ‘Christmas has come early’ experience for the players invited to participate.

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