Great golfing weekend: Victorian Goldfields

by admin
Great golfing weekend: Victorian Goldfields

The legacy of the mad scramble for quartz across Victoria which began back in the 1850s is still visible across the breadth of the state’s Goldfields district, whether it’s a cosy, tree-lined boulevard, botanic gardens or stunning architecture found within its charming, historic towns.

The discovery of gold way back then brought people from across the world to Ballarat, the majority being English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Cornish. And you’d assume once they discover the area has some top-quality layouts, their great-great-grandchildren will be back on their behalf … if they happen to like golf.

Most golfing expeditions around these parts start at Ballarat Golf Club, which has a long and proud history spanning back to 1895 as Australia’s oldest continually played golf course. The championship course has been redesigned by Peter Thomson and Ross Perret and provides an outstanding experience for golfers of all levels.

The course has been ranked among the top 100 public access courses in Australia by Golf Australia magazine and is fast becoming known as one of the best courses in regional Victoria.

Thomson and Perrett’s work at Ballarat certainly gets a big tick for being a fun, yet challenging layout for players of all abilities.

This is not a long course by modern standards. It stretches to 6,283m from the back pegs (5,817 from the members’ tees), but Thomson and Perrett ensured every club in the bag will get a run during the round and good scores will be born out of thinking smart from tee to green.

Ballarat is a fun, yet challenging layout for players of all abilities. (PHOTO: Brendan James / Golf Australia)

The designers haven’t taken the driver completely out of the hands of players but – with the strategic positioning of bunkers, rough and water – they leave you open to the suggestion of a better option.

Of note on the Ballarat GC layout is the great collection of short par-4 holes. The first of which is the 319m par-4 3rd, which plays slightly downhill from the tee and is flanked by out-of-bounds to the left for its entire length. The rough-covered mounds down the right cut into the fairway, creating a wide tongue of rough which has been filled with a bunker, about 240 metres from the back tee.

The following hole, a 358-metre par-4, is also worthy of mention here. It only plays about 40 metres longer than the 3rd hole but it is a far more demanding offering with water, sand and two majestic gum trees waiting for you to test your bravery.

Blessed with a stunning natural landscape, more gold rush architecture, hip shops and plenty of food and drink options, the Castlemaine, Maldon and surrounds region is one of the most exciting tourist destinations in Australia. Located between Bendigo and Melbourne, the district has hung onto its gold rush charms – while welcoming a whole new generation of creative residents and visitors who have added fresh life to an area already blessed with natural beauty and history.

It is a big year for Castlemaine Golf Club, which has turned a ripe-old 125 in 2024.

“We talk a lot about ‘goldfields golf’ or ‘Golf in the Goldfields’ here,” says club captain Ross Bottomley. No rank and file at this place – the club’s only staffer is the greenkeeper, with the rest of the toil coming from volunteer labour. “We’re right in the middle of it all. Castlemaine was a key player in Australia’s gold industry and the land tells us it was, having been known as ‘upside down’ country; miners literally turned the land upside down in search of gold.”

Castlemaine’s current layout dates back to 1941. (PHOTO: Supplied by Castlemaine GC)

The club has been trying to further highlight many of the giant gumtrees over the last few years by pulling out the undergrowth under them. Overall, the course is reasonably flat.

“It’s a good design, as confirmed by Mike Clayton in the last year. It is what he would probably say is of a typical design of the time it was originally marked out, back in 1941 when the club relocated. Very few changes have been made to the current design’s layout,” says Ross.

“Of course we improve the property as a whole, but we don’t change the routing of it. There was one change made for two holes, which was necessary. The other 16 are pretty much intact, while being improved on by tree maintenance, hazards and playing surfaces.”

Thirteen is the club’s feature hole. There’s a bit of a roll off the side of the hills and some nice trees overhanging, as well as creek to the right which can gobble you up.

Meanwhile the 17th has been laid with Santa Ana in the last 12 months, with the club about halfway through a returfing program. It is heavily wooded on the left, requiring an accurate drive, thus making it unpopular with slice-prone left-handers.

Castlemaine boasts some, as quickly noticed by a glance at their card, quite lengthy par-4s; the third is 410m and the 14th 395m. Off the blues, it’s 6,025m in length, which Ross describes as “a fair walk”.

Off the blues, Castlemaine is 6,025m in length, making it “a fair walk”. (PHOTO: Supplied by Castlemaine GC)

Widely regarded as the best course in the Mt Macedon Ranges region, about 40 minutes’ drive north west of Melbourne’s outskirts sits Gisborne Golf Club. Designed by Vern Morcom in the late 1940s, much of his original work remains, with only slight alterations made at various times during recent decades.

Word has likely spread by now of the club losing its treasured clubhouse in mid-April, a key structure beloved by the entire community. “We will rebuild the club to something our members and the community can still benefit from and be proud of,” general manager Brett Campbell says. “Our clubhouse was used a lot of people in the local community.”

“The clubhouse was totally destroyed. At about 2.30am the club received a call to report the clubhouse was on fire. Within 15 minutes of people getting there, the whole thing was totally up in flames. That happened on the Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning the firies were still putting it out and on  Thursday morning we had 145 people playing golf.

“It wasn’t just our hospitality and changerooms which have been impacted; we also lost 103 years of history and memorabilia. Hopefully within the next three to four weeks we’ll have that sorted out. We are working on what sort of temporary structure we can put there where we  don’t have to apply for permits and all that sort of thing.

“Without a doubt it’s the best laid-out and probably the best-condition course in the region. We have a full 10-bay undercover driving range with a teaching studio at one end which we have just built in the last 18 months. We have also just commenced a $1.5 million irrigation project to relay 21km of pipe to double the amount of sprinklers on the golf course. Hopefully that will be completed by the end of August.”

You may recognise the fourth hole and signature of the club; a short par-3 which features on Drummond Golf’s television ads. “And then the 16th is a 145m carry over a dam with bunkers around the green and Mt Macedo behind it as well. On a nice, clean day they’re both just stunning holes,” beams Campbell.

The simply stunning Gisborne Golf Club. (PHOTO: Brendan James / Golf Australia magazine)

“And then there’s the wildlife. We have 400-odd kangaroos here – we actually conduct kangaroo tours. We have countless birds, including endangered Black Cockatoos. We are going through the process of putting up 30 nesting boxes for the Black Cockatoos and Kookaburras and Rosellas, so the course is a very large wildlife haven as well.”

With a number of the courses on this particular Victorian Goldfields road trip already well spread-out from each other, if you happen to have based yourself in Ballarat and feel like a proper drive, then we advise making your next day’s the round at Horsham Golf Club.

Situated almost halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, Horsham is an 18-hole layout with a 124 slope rating, designed by Sam Berriman (who also drew up Huntingdale, Cranbourne, Southern, LaTrobe and Keysborough). While we’re dropping name bombs, of Horsham the great Mike Clayton once said, “Ellerston Golf Club aside – a course almost no one can play – Horsham, Royal Canberra and Cathedral Lodge are the best Australian courses built far from the sea.”

The 8th, Horsham’s signature hole, and known as “The Sahara”, is a short, challenging par-3 featuring a large natural sandy bunker just in front of the tee box, while the green is protected with bunkers both left and right. With the tee sitting above the green, your launch is usually affected by the wind, making that green even harder to hit.

The 10th is a fantastic hole of 302m. With a fairway bunker on the right and two more on the left, along with a decorative dam edged with tall gums, the opening tee shot can be a nervous one. With such a small landing area, one option is to lay up, leaving a short iron up the hill and dogleg right to a green protected the length of its right side by a deep bunker. A relatively narrow flat green sits atop the hill and is angled slightly away so that any pin on the right requires you to flirt with the bunker to get close. Miss the green short or left and par can still be made.

The 11th Hole – the third of Horsham’s par-3s, is a tough initiation. At 167m uphill, protected by four bunkers and with a green angled slightly away from the golfer, this hole demands an accurate shot to find the putting surface. On such a heavily back-to -front sloping green, there are no easy putts to be had. Walking off the 11th with a par is certainly considered a win.

Horsham’s bunkering is crisp and strategic and there is a nice mix of long and short holes. (PHOTO: Supplied by Horsham Golf Club)

Meanwhile the 5th – the first of two consecutive par 5s – offers the chance of a birdie … if you can negotiate the fairway and green-side bunkers. Off the tee, the long fairway bunker on the left is a constant danger, too, covering all lengths of hitters. Your second shot must then avoid the two fairway bunkers on top of the hill to the right, which start around 120m out from the green. Longer hitters can reach the 5th in two shots, but must thread the needle and avoid the deep green-side traps.

In his notes on Horsham while judging for Golf Australia’s Top 100 Public Access Courses for 2023, Craig Smart wrote the course “has improved noticeably during the past few years and it must now be considered as offering one of the best value-for-money rounds in the country.”

Meanwhile, Peter Wood of Travelling Golfer fame has said “the course is in astoundingly good shape, with all playing surfaces pristine. The sandy base no doubt helps, and the course plays like a true links. The bunkering is crisp and strategic and there is a nice mix of long and short holes. Overall, it is not a long course and could be overpowered by the longer hitters, but for most is challenging enough.”

If it’s the thrill of playing in front of a crowd you’re after, you simply can’t go past Hepburn Golf.

“You’ll have plenty of spectators, with so many kangaroos around,” says Golf Services Management (GSM) director Ian Denny. “I am looking out here now and there are about 20 on the 16th fairway.”

The course’s new owners and operators, GSM, who have a history of turning private clubs around into successful public venues, have exciting plans for Hepburn, which will soon feature upgrades throughout its entire facility, beginning with enhancements to the existing clubhouse building and services on offer to attract a much wider market.

A fly-over view of Horsham golf club. (PHOTO: Supplied by Horsham Golf Club)

“There has already been money spent on the golf course, with the cart paths upgraded and additional drainage – unfortunately it gets wet up here; that is the nature of where we are,” says Denny.

“But the main aspects and focus going forward are the upgrades to the clubhouse, which is now going to be now open to everyone, seven days a week. Like so many places, a lot of people here who work on running the club have been volunteers; as well, clubhouses have been closed and have only been opening a couple of days a week. So now we are fully staffed.”

Hepburn is a delight to play, with a composition of holes which are simultaneously approachable for the casual player, while still offering plenty of challenges for more discerning golfers on couched fairways and wonderfully manicured greens and bunkers. “Unlike the other courses in the area, it’s fully couched,” Denny says.

While short in length, being a par 66, the key holes on the layout are 1, 12 and 16. The first, with its tree-lined fairway, is a wonderful opening hole.

“The 16th is the key feature-hole; very challenging at 400m long and offering a magnificent backdrop of the clubhouse coming up the hill,” says Denny.

“The fairways are always striped up and the bunkers are well-maintained. The course is fully irrigated, which means the fairways are always nice and lush.

“It is all about fun for us. Our course isn’t a championship course, it is just a very fun golf course to play. We also have some innovative green fees on offer, which encourage people to choose five and 10-hole rounds if they wish. We are in the middle of a tourism area up here in Daylesford and five-hole golf is going to be a big thing here.”

Hepburn is a delight to play for the casual golfer. (PHOTO: Supplied by Hepburn Golf)

Golf Australia magazine Architecture Editor Mike Clayton visited Trentham Golf Club last year and later described the course’s greens as the “best I’ve played all year”.

Trentham has rebuilt all of its 18 greens, with bentgrass surfaces, to USGA standards during the past few years, making them regarded as some of the best to be found in regional Victoria.

The club occupies just under 100 acres on the northern edge of the small township, about 100km northwest of Melbourne. Stony Creek meanders along the club’s eastern boundary, shortly after which it joins the Coliban River and plunges over the famous Trentham Falls, Victoria’s highest single-drop waterfall.

The golf course was farmland from the 1850s, with the original titles showing five crown allotments of 19-20 acres each.

There was some goldmining near the creek, and a depression to the left of the 15th hole, known as “Tin Pan Alley”, was originally an old mining slug.

In April 1926, the titles were purchased by the Trentham Co-operative Society and they commenced operation of a slaughterhouse, with associated yards and paddocks.

Being quite some distance from the nearest course at Kyneton, Trentham townsfolk were keen to establish golf in the district, and the Trentham Golf Club was officially established in 1937.

An agreement was made to lease land from the Co-operative, and a nine-hole sand green course was constructed, which wandered its way around and through the Co-op’s operations. Golfers crossed the fences using steps and ladders.

You begin your round at Trentham with a straight-forward starting hole, a 353m par-4. The fairway is generously wide, but some trees on the left will block an approach hit too far up the left side. The slightly elevated green is only protected by a small bunker on the right hand side. Be warned, though. It is hard to recover from an approach shot over the back.

Later in the day, you’ll enjoy a picturesque finish on the 305m par-4 18th hole which rewards the straight hitter. A good drive finishing on the right side will take the bunker on the front left of the green out of play. A well-hit mid-to short-iron approach will leave your ball on a long green which slopes towards the lake … ahead of a long drive home after a busy few days searching for golfing gold. 



Visit Sovereign Hill
Sovereign Hill is a living museum presenting the story of Ballarat as a gold rush boomtown. Gold was discovered here in 1851, triggering the greatest alluvial gold rush the world has ever known. This isn’t the history lesson you were given at school – Sovereign Hill puts you at the heart of the action.

Head to the Old Mill
Discover the unexpected around every corner at The Mill Castlemaine – home to more than 40 small businesses set in a reimagined 1870s woollen mill. Experience Viennese opulence at Das Kaffeehaus, where lovingly prepared sausages, schnitzels and strudels are partnered with rich brews, whipped up using beans from the on-site roastery.

The Goldfields’ Scenic lookouts
By now you’ve guessed the region is known for its rocks, especially gold-bearing quartz. However, the landscape is also littered with outcrops of granite, rising high over the plains. As such, you’re never far from a great view. The best places to start are Mount Moorul, overlooking the little town of Maldon, Mount Warrenhelp, Tipperary Hill, Mount Buninyong, and Mount Egbert, known locally as “The Granites”.

Reboot at Hepburn Springs
Rest and rejuvenate in the enriching natural waters of Hepburn Springs – on the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. In the middle of Australia’s largest concentration of mineral springs, they’re full of health-giving qualities. Sample the bounty of the early Swiss Italian migrants and discover a vibrant community of artists, healers, gardeners, writers and musicians.

Marvel at Trentham Falls
Stunning Trentham Falls is one of the longest single-drop waterfalls in Victoria, plunging some 32 metres over ancient basalt columns. It is particularly impressive in winter, when rain creates the strongest flow. Pack a basket and enjoy the picnic area in bush surroundings, a short walk from the carpark and viewing area.

Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre
The Sanctuary is a unique conservation establishment set on 40 acres in the picturesque foothills of the Macedon Ranges. It is situated only 35 minutes from the CBD to Melbourne’s north-west, in the City of Melton, abutting the Pyrite State Forest, and only 30 minutes from Melbourne Airport.

Horsham Town Hall and Regional Art Gallery
The Horsham Town Hall and Horsham Regional Art Gallery complex provides world-class performance, visual arts and conferencing facilities and allows the local and regional visitors a place to enjoy the highest-quality international, national and locally produced exhibitions, events and performances.


Horsham Golf Club; (03) 5382 1652

Gisborne Golf Club; (03) 5428 2493

Trentham Golf Club; (03) 5424 1046

Hepburn Golf;  (03) 5348 2185

Castlemaine Golf Club; (03) 5472 1682

© Golf Australia. All rights reserved.

Source link

You may also like

Are you sure want to unlock this post?
Unlock left : 0
Are you sure want to cancel subscription?
Update Required Flash plugin