THE WANDERING GOLFER: BRENDAN MOLONEY
AFTER achieving the dream of many golfers and building his own course, Greg Carter has put his Cockatoo Rise property near Bairnsdale in Victoria on the market.
The retired photographer and Vietnam veteran says the approach of his 68th birthday made him realise that the maintenance of the nine-hole layout was starting to catch up with him and he is prepared to part with it for a price above $2.5 million.
The prospect of living on your own golf course brings to mind Alister MacKenzie who built a house on the course he designed at Pasatiempo in California so he could “play nine holes before breakfast in his pyjamas”.
Both Cockatoo Rise and Pasatiempo sit on hills overlooking water – the Gippsland Lakes and Monterey Bay respectively – but there the similarity ends. Carter’s course is just nine holes and measures a mere 1,397 metres with a par of 32 on pleasantly undulating terrain. In the winter it also enjoys views of snow-capped mountains.
Inspiration for the course flowed from a bottle of wine with his wife, Annie, about 12 years ago. “We were sitting outside with a glass of red and enjoying the view when Annie suggested building one hole,” he said. “I built a green about 100 metres from the house and it was nice.
“Then I could find no reason not to put a 180-metre par-3 across our little valley. It grew from there. For a start I used a slasher on the pasture grasses to make the fairways and planted some trees. It became a place where our friends could come to have some fun. “I got crazy on the mower and we had 27 holes at one stage but it was totally unmanageable. We had 18 for a few years and now it is nine. We are fortunate to have a neighbour who was on the ground staff at Huntingdale and other clubs in Melbourne. He now looks after the fairways, I do the greens and Annie helps out with working bees when things need doing.
“It is immensely satisfying to have your own course. A preferred lie here is anything up to 10 metres. The main thing is to have fun. Golf is far too complicated with too many rules. It is a great game but the majority of players are not on low handicaps.”
The Carters first looked at land in the state’s west for their retirement project and were ready to buy when he played in a veterans’ comp at Warrnambool.
“I asked a farmer there when the wind was at its worst,” Carter said. “He told me from the end of March to the first week of December. Annie hates the wind, so as much as we liked the area that was the end of it. We came here and fell in love with it.”
Leaving will be a wrench, he said, getting some sympathy from Graham Mills, who built a nine-hole course on his historic property, Barunah Plains, west of Geelong in the mid-1980s. I intended to play nine holes there in my pyjamas before breakfast but he got an offer he could not refuse for the farm and sold in 2001. The course where American pro Hank Baran used to teach was let go and sheep again graze there. Mills has retired to the Bairnsdale area and anyone who played at Barunah Plains – especially the 1995 drought relief tournament he organised with Baran during which two inches of rain fell – will be pleased to hear is back playing at Lakes Entrance after a knee transplant. It’s a small world. Carter photographed a wedding at Barunah Plains back in the days when he had nine snappers working for him.
In addition to the golf course, which occupies 14 hectares, the property has another 15 hectares given over to paddocks for Annie’s horses, some outbuildings and a luxurious, modern home of 409 square metres. Carter accepts that the new owner may not keep the course because the land has potential as an equestrian centre but for golfers, he says, the hard work is done. The course is beautifully maintained and the ex-Huntingdale groundsman is happy to talk about staying on.
As for this golfing vendor, he hopes to find a smaller place in the area and continue his work with fellow Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They stay free of charge for as long as they like and he says the peace and quiet, along with the ability to talk to other PTSD sufferers often gets better results than drugs and psychiatric treatment.
In terms of golf, the former Huntingdale member who got his handicap down to five and won the 1986 Rotary Club International Championship at Sun Valley, Idaho, says he will “strictly limit the number of new holes to two and certainly no more than 10”.
AS FOR THIS GOLFING VENDOR, HE HOPES TO FIND A SMALLER PLACE IN THE AREA AND CONTINUE HIS WORK WITH FELLOW VIETNAM VETERANS SUFFERING FROM POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.