If you watch Presidents Cup coverage, chances are you've heard Royal Melbourne mentioned alongside Augusta National.
Indeed, it shares the same architect as the Masters venue in Alister MacKenzie. The greens' severe undulations and speed are reminiscent of Augusta. However Royal Melbourne still retains much of its original design.
Augusta National has been tweaked so many times that it hardly resembles MacKenzie's layout.
Rees Jones, George Cobb and Robert Trent Jones have all made significant changes to Augusta over the years. The most obvious difference is the tighter and longer layout.
MacKenzie's unique bunker shapes have been replaced by plainer designs. The course no longer allows for running approach shots like you would see in links golf.
The opening holes of each course highlights the difference in philosophy.
At Royal Melbourne, you have countless options for your tee shot. The choice is made largely upon what distance and approach angle you are most comfortable with. There really isn't an ideal landing area. Very long hitters can try to hit the green.
At Augusta, there are essentially two options on the first tee shot. Lay up short of the fairway bunker and leave a long approach shot. Or you can try to squeeze to left of the bunker in a tight fairway.
The second choice, if executed well, is clearly left in a better position.
This difference in the courses appears over and over again. Augusta continually forces a specific tee shot while Royal Melbourne offers options. Continuously avoiding trouble off the tee is not an option at Augusta as you will give away too many strokes by laying up so short.
Royal Melbourne maintains the connection to links golf that Augusta National has lost. In calm conditions, a pro golfer should not find trouble off the tee unless a very risky shot is taken. The tee shot is determined more by setting up the second shot than anything else.
At both courses, it is imperative to hit approach shots that wind up below the hole. The severe slopes can be used to funnel the ball towards the hole instead of directly attacking it. Hitting the wrong part of the green can cause major problems.
Augusta, in my opinion, is the better tournament venue. It has proven to be a fair test of golf and has produced many all-time greats as winners.
Royal Melbourne with reasonable green speeds and pin locations is playable for nearly anyone. The same can't be said of Augusta National. Hitting a wayward tee shot or a thin approach shot is going to cost you a stroke.
Augusta National has evolved into a much different course than Royal Melbourne. The greens are similar, but virtually everything about getting there has changed. The course barely contains any features that defined the famous Alister MacKenzie.
Royal Melbourne retains the qualities initially envisioned for Augusta.