Article from Hacker Golf Magazine
By Garry Kennedy
It doesn’t matter to what corner of Victoria you are travelling, it doesn’t matter what direction you follow your nose looking for adventure. In this great state one thing’s for certain, if you have your golf clubs you will find a course to play!
Comparatively speaking, Victoria is a small state, covering a mere 227,000 sq kilometers. It might be hard to believe, but squeezed into this space are over 360 golf courses to play and enjoy. So it doesn’t matter to what part you head, you can get your golf fix.
To prove the point, I’ve looked at the eight main points of the compass, applied it to our wonderful state and seen what golf is on offer. There’s plenty of roads to take and good golfing no matter where you end up!
Head due north from Melbourne to the closest intersection with our northerly border and you’ll find yourself at Echuca – Australia’s largest inland port.
On our side of the border you can play the strangely named Echuca Back9 Golf Course for a quick fix. It’s a pleasant 9 holer with grass greens, set on the banks of the Campaspe River right in the middle of Echuca.
It faced extinction from the threat of developers a while back, but a white knight appeared in the form of the local community and YMCA, so locals (and visitors) can still enjoy this testing track.
Just on the other side of the Murray River is where some serious golfing can be had.
For many years, golf courses flanking the mighty river have been claimed as Victoria’s own because of two reasons. Geographically they are closer to Melbourne than Sydney and secondly they are more frequented by us Mexicans.
The Murray is a rich golfing playground. Courses grew on the back of the poker machine glory days of the 1970’s and 80’s, when the only place for Victorians to get some one arm bandit action was to travel to the other side of the border (I wish it was still that way!)
The dollars rolled in and the cashed up clubs didn’t know what to do with it all. Members kept getting better facilities, including great golf at incredibly cheap prices.
Rich River (pictured above) grew from this boom – an establishment that sprung up almost as quickly as the Murray River’s waterline in the days of rain.
An entire complex emerged. On course accommodation surrounded by lush gardens, a billabong style swimming pool, conference centre, huge Clubhouse with nightly entertainment, bistro and more. Rich River built two golf courses and they remain today as some of the border’s best.
In fact the main Club has just reopened its doors after extensive renovations to the Clubhouse. It enjoys new conference, function and dining facilities, a new lounge, sports bar and Al Fresco dining area.
The Old Course (West) has massive gums, tree lined fairways, lakes, large greens and more. The famed golf architect team of Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett lent their hand to the newer East Course, developing a different feel by simulating a links type layout. Distinctive bunkering and more open fairways give the golfer terrific variety.
Ouyen may possibly be the hottest town in Victoria. Often when watching the news, the day’s highest temperature will be awarded to this small community. However, there’s still golf played in these parts! Ouyen Golf Course, on the western edge of town, has a unique outback feature – sandscrapes. Also referred to as sand greens, sand mixed with an oily sludge provides the putting surface in parts of Australia that are water deprived. In some parts of the country golf courses only operate April – September when the weather is cooler and that’s the case in Ouyen. It’s a novel adventure playing for the first time on these small sand targets. A two sided rake allows the player to smooth out a path between the ball and the hole when putting.
If you happen to be north east of Melbourne out of golf season Ouyen way, there is a sensational golfing option just up the road, and it has real greens! Murray Downs Resort is another adopted Victorian course just on the NSW side of the border and has long been a personal favourite. The countryside all around can be as parched as the proverbial wooden god, but the fairways of this challenging and beatifically manicured course will always be in great shape. By the way, the on course accommodation and facilities (pool, clubhouse etc.) are first class!
Victoria’s west, near the South Australian border, is about as remote as you get in this state. Kilometer after kilometer of empty roads and desolate lands can be covered before respite from the barrenness.
In a geographical sense Kaniva is Victoria’s westerly township and they have golf – on grass greens too! It’s a short layout, not all that spectacular and you won’t find any bunkers, but all tees and green surrounds are watered. Simply to find grass greens at this compass point in the state is an achievement in itself!
Portland is tucked away in the left hand bottom corner of the state.
Naturally there’s a course here – located on the cliff tops with spectacular views that take in the Southern Ocean.
Over the past few years the Portland Golf Club has been the beneficiary of a arrangement with the Portland Aluminium Smelter. Benefits to the Club from this arrangement have included installation of an automatic fairway watering system, tee reconstructions, and major renovations to the clubhouse.
And when you are down in this corner of the State, it’s also worth ducking down the road to Port Fairy (pictured above). Apart from being one of the prettiest coastal towns, its authentic links course is one of the best in the country.
From Melbourne, fly due south over the bay and the last parcel of land before you hit the waters of Bass Strait is the Mornington Peninsula. It’s arguably Australia’s premier golfing playground and over the past 15 years course development has multiplied exponentially.
Cape Schanck Resort (pictured right) was one of the first high end public courses built. Renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones designed a wonderful course on wildly undulating land and the result is a spectacular golfing challenge.
Dramatic peaks and troughs in the topography lend exhilarating elevated tees from which to launch your ball into the distant blue yonder – often the sky line merges with the nearby wild waters of the coast. The fourth hole is a beauty! This par three drops steeply to a multi-tiered green below, but it’s the distant ocean view, the salty air and the hang time of your ball as it’s smacked out towards the heavens before a massive free fall to the green that is the attraction.
The course is now owned by the RACV and members enjoy a discounted green fee but the public is still welcome to play.
About 2 1\2 hours drive south west of Melbourne will find you at Yarram, slightly inland from the seaside Port Albert.
Yarram (pictured left) is a small farming town, but has access to so many attractions. There’s the 90 mile beach, Tarra Bulga National Park, the historic Port Albert and more.
It’s also home to a ripper little golf course.
This beautiful 18 hole course is one of noted golf writer Paul Daley’s favourites and it was recently rated number one in Australia for a course run and maintained by volunteers. It is a credit to everyone involved at the club.
The peace and tranquility as you walk the fairways is impossible to describe – it’s so isolated and you are engulfed with the sounds of nature.
You’ll see wallabies, bird life of all description, goannas and even a cuddly koala if you have a keen eye.
This hidden gem is well worth seeking out when in this corner of the world.
Due east of Melbourne, and almost as far away from her as you can get staying within the state’s boundary, is the little hamlet of Mallacoota. A magnet for recreational fishermen, you guessed it, it caters for the golfer too.
It features thick tea-tree lined fairways on the coastal holes and then tall stands of eucalypts on the inland holes – it’s a great contrast.
For nature lovers the place oozes with it – part of the National Park abuts the sea.
This is the last compass point of our geographical golfing rotation of Victoria (say that three times quickly!)
It brings us to the twin towns of Albury Wodonga. On both sides of the Murray there’s a course. Wodonga has undulating fairways, it’s fully watered with grass greens and presents as a nice challenge.
Albury, now owned by the Commercial Club, has had lots of money spent on it in recent times and it’s the pick of the two.
Apart from the well maintained 18 hole course, the newly renovated $1.5m clubhouse does just nicely for after match relaxing, dining and socialising.
In the old days there was a saying – “All roads lead to Rome” - now there’s another for Victoria, and they all lead to golf!
At a Glance
Echuca Back Nine Golf Course
(03) 5482 6110
Rich River Golf Club Resort
(03) 5481 3333 www.richriver.com.au
Ouyen Golf Course
(03) 5092 1068
Murray Downs Golf & Country Club
(03) 5033 1422 www.murraydownsresort.com.au
Kaniva (03) 5392 2337
Portland Golf Course
(03) 5323 2523
(03) 5568 2866 www.portfairygolf.com.au
RACV Cape Schanck Resort
(03) 5950 8100 www.racv.com.au
(03) 5182 5596
(03) 5158 0277
Commercial Golf Resort Albury
(02) 6041 7280 www.commclubalbury.com.au
Wodonga Country Club
(02) 6059 1813