COURSE REVIEW: YARRAWONGA MULWALA GOLF CLUB

GOLF CLUB RE­SORT This Mur­ray River golf­ing haven is not rest­ing on 90 years of his­tory as it con­tin­ues to go from strength-to-strength, on and o the course.

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY BRENDAN JAMES

One of the Mur­ray River’s ‘must visit’ des­ti­na­tions seems to just keep get­ting bet­ter, writes Brendan James.

The roar­ing ‘20s marked the start of a boom in golf’s pop­u­lar­ity with new courses be­ing built here and over­seas, while some of the big­gest names in the his­tory of the game were be­ing feted as su­per­stars.

In 1927, Bobby Jones won his sec­ond suc­ces­sive Bri­tish Open ti­tle and Wal­ter Ha­gen was vic­to­ri­ous for a fourth con­sec­u­tive time at the US PGA Cham­pi­onship.

Here in Australia, new lay­outs were tak­ing shape in the Mel­bourne Sand­belt and the de­mand for new courses in re­gional Australia was keep­ing a small band of lo­cal course de­sign­ers busy. In Yarrawonga, on the banks of the beau­ti­ful Mur­ray River, a group of lo­cal golfers were plan­ning a move of their own.

Led by lo­cal iden­tity Thomas Bail­lie, the group had its sights set on 110 acres of dairy farm land just across the river into NSW. At a cost of eight pounds per acre, the land was pur­chased and Yarrawonga had a nine hole course within a year. Since 1886, the golfers of Yarrawonga had grad­u­ated from a three-hole course right in the cen­tre of town, to a nine-hole course laid out around the race­course to a dairy farm at Mulwala.

In the 90 years since mov­ing to Mulwala, the Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Re­sort has grown to be­come the largest pub­lic ac­cess golf re­sort in Australia. A first class club­house – boast­ing a health and fit­ness cen­tre, bistro, bar, movie the­atre and mas­sage fa­cil­i­ties – now stands where the dairy farm home­stead once presided over the sur­round­ing pad­docks.

Hav­ing started as nine holes on the present site, the course was ex­tended to 18 holes over the fol­low­ing two decades and it has been grow­ing ever since.

In 1957, course ar­chi­tect Sam Ber­ri­man, who cre­ated well-re­garded lay­outs like Hor­sham and Keys­bor­ough, was com­mis­sioned to de­sign a new 18-hole lay­out. Nearly 25 years later, de­sign­ers Peter Thomson and Mike Wolveridge added an­other nine be­fore com­plet­ing a fur­ther 18 holes five years later. To­day, Yarrawonga Mulwala has 45 holes – the Lake and Mur­ray courses as well as a shorter nine-hole lay­out known as the Ex­ec­u­tive course. Both 18-hole lay­outs are well en­trenched in the Top-100 Pub­lic Ac­cess Courses in Australia as ranked by Golf Australia mag­a­zine. The Mur­ray course, designed by Thomson and Wolveridge, is, in my opinion, one of the best lay­outs you will find anywhere along the Mur­ray. Huge river gums dom­i­nate the flood basin land­scape and nat­u­ral la­goons bor­der many of the fair­ways.

This par-72 has been highly ac­claimed for many years but the man­age­ment and course main­te­nance teams at Yarrawonga have not rested on their lau­rels and are al­ways look­ing for ways to im­prove the lay­out. In the past decade, sev­eral greens have been mod­ernised, bunkers have been re­done and the over­all pre­sen­ta­tion has been con­sis­tently very good.

More re­cently, the 352-me­tre par-4 3rd has un­der­gone some ma­jor changes. What was a rel­a­tively straight hole be­tween tall stands of trees left and right, has been al­tered with the in­tro­duc­tion of a wet­land cut­ting into the left of the fair­way, cre­at­ing a slight dog­leg around the wa­ter. The green and bunker­ing here has also been up­graded with a larger, an­gled putting sur­face now in play.

The up­graded 3rd has added to the chal­lenge of the open­ing quar­tet of holes that lead you to the north bank of the river and an ex­cel­lent sequence of holes. Com­ing hot on the heels of the 3rd is the 347-me­tre 4th. It is a good short par-4 with the nar­row and slightly dog­leg right lined ei­ther side by very large river gums. The fur­ther you hit your drive here the tighter the fair­way be­comes. The cor­rect mid- or short-iron has to be se­lected for the sec­ond shot to find the kid­ney-shaped green, which is raised slightly above the fair­way. The fol­low­ing hole is also a high­light of the Mur­ray course. On the 5th tee there is no miss­ing the flow­ing wa­ters of the Mur­ray o˜ to your left. The 470-me­tre par-5

THE MUR­RAY COURSE, DESIGNED BY THOMSON AND WOLVERIDGE, IS, IN MY OPINION, ONE OF THE BEST LAY­OUTS YOU WILL FIND ANYWHERE ALONG THE MUR­RAY.

runs along the river­bank with only a row of river gums and wat­tles as well as a deep gully sep­a­rat­ing the left of the fair­way from the wa­ter. The fair­way ebbs and flows like a rag­ing tor­rent, to­ward a slightly el­e­vated green guarded by an enor­mous gum tree and a small bunker front left. By the time you reach the 6th green you will have a good feel for the course as it con­tin­ues to wind its way through huge river gums.

On the lower stretches of the lay­out, through a flood basin, many holes are bor­dered by nat­u­ral la­goons. One such hole is one of my favourites at Yarrawonga. The 184-me­tre par-3 13th is an ab­so­lute gem with wa­ter all down the left side of the hole and short of the putting sur­face, which fea­tures sub­tle slopes. The real chal­lenge here is to se­lect the right club to make the dis­tance from tee to green and to keep your ball dry.

The Lake course is very di er­ent in de­sign to the Mur­ray course. It is more open but still fea­tures some big gums, lakes and plenty of bunkers. This course in­cor­po­rates some older-style de­sign holes with newer holes cre­ated by Thomson and Wolveridge. It is one of the old Ber­ri­man-designed holes that will get your heart rac­ing as you near the turn. The 283-me­tre par-4 8th is a pic­turesque hole that is dom­i­nated by a lake that is eas­ily reach­able from the el­e­vated tee. This pretty haz­ard also comes into play for the wedge ap­proach to a small green.

Wa­ter also comes into play on two of the best holes on the back nine – the 531-me­tre par-5 13th and the 156-me­tre par-3 14th. The par-5 twists and turns right and then left with out-of-bounds not far from the left edge of the fair­way. A lake then looms up on the right as the fair­way rises to the el­e­vated green.

The fol­low­ing par-3 plays along­side the other side of the lake and if you keep your tee shot out of the haz­ard, you’ll still need to ne­go­ti­ate the bunkers right and left of the putting sur­face.

While wa­ter dom­i­nates at 13 and 14, it is sand that will be your curse at the 322-me­tre par-4 15th. This is a trade­mark Thomson and Wolveridge hole with the strate­gic use of bunkers, on the fair­way and around the green, as well as mound­ing. The fair­way nar­rows in the land­ing area with three bunkers and a small mound pre­sent­ing prob­lems. The sec­ond shot is to an el­e­vated green nes­tled be­tween bunkers and mounds. Stand­ing down on the fair­way it is a great sight – bunker cut into the hill and mounds defin­ing the land­scape be­hind the flag.

The mighty river in full flow be­side the par-5 5th hole of the ac­claimed Mur­ray Course.

A wet­land has been added to the par-4 3rd hole, adding to the strate­gic re­quired to make par.

The Lakes Course’s 18th hole brings you right back to the front of the im­pres­sive club­house.

The ex­pan­sive greens blend eas­ily with their sur­rounds on both the Lakes and Mur­ray Courses.

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