GOLF CLUB MOUNT WAVER­LEY• VIC­TO­RIA Mel­bourne’s Riversdale Golf Club is cel­e­brat­ing its 125th an­niver­sary, and is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments in its fu­ture as it pre­pares for the next 125 years.


Riversdale Golf Club is cel­e­brat­ing its 125th an­niver­sary – and is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments in its fu­ture as it pre­pares for the next 125 years, writes Jimmy Emanuel.

Orig­i­nally known as the Sur­rey Hills Golf Club and based at Mont Al­bert, Riversdale moved to Cam­ber­well be­fore the club’s pro­fes­sional, Jock Young, laid out the orig­i­nal course on its cur­rent site.

With a new rail­way line planned to take part of the club’s land, Aus­tralian Open Cham­pion and course ar­chi­tect, Alex Rus­sell, was en­gaged to de­sign a new course. Rus­sell’s cre­ation ocially opened for play in 1930 with a match be­tween ama­teurs Ivo Whit­ton and Mick Ryan and pro­fes­sion­als Joe Kirk­wood and the le­gendary Wal­ter Ha­gen.

Some 88 years later, Rus­sell’s orig­i­nal lay­out re­mains, on the whole, largely un­changed with the ex­cep­tion of the bunkers, which for­mer Riversdale as­sis­tant pro­fes­sional and five-time Open cham­pion Peter Thom­son con­verted to pot-style traps in 1994.

The par-72 has stood the test of time and con­tin­ues to host Aus­tralia’s sec­ond old­est 72-hole am­a­teur cham­pi­onship, The Riversdale Cup. This speaks vol­umes for Rus­sell’s work, which re­mains an en­joy­able test of ev­ery as­pect of your game, de­spite mea­sur­ing un­der 6,000 me­tres.

The Riversdale Cup, which is now the long­est run­ning am­a­teur event in the world staged an­nu­ally by a pri­vate club, boasts an im­pres­sive lists of past com­peti­tors. Ja­son Day, Marc Leish­man, Geo• Ogilvy, Sarah Kemp, Nikki Gar­rett, Aaron Bad­de­ley and Golf Aus­tralia’s own Mike Clay­ton have teed up in the event, which has earned club a rep­u­ta­tion as “the cra­dle of am­a­teur golf in Aus­tralia.”

Stand­ing on the par-3 open­ing tee at Riversdale, many of the de­sign prin­ci­ples and visual fea­tures con­sis­tent through­out the course are laid out be­fore you.

The long, up­hill hole has water short left of the el­e­vated green and the va­ri­ety of grasses

used for the short cut sur­faces and sur­rounds of­fer a stun­ning con­trast of colour, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the sum­mer months. As is the case on the ma­jor­ity of the other nine holes where water is present, the haz­ard is only in play for a well and truly mis-hit shot.

The blend of north­ern hemi­sphere and na­tive Aus­tralian trees found across the Riversdale prop­erty de­liver a stun­ning va­ri­ety of colours at all times of the year, mak­ing the views from the re­fur­bished Riversdale club­house one of the high­lights of any visit.

Be­yond the dif­fi­cult 1st hole, the next trio of holes are far gen­tler, with two par-4s mea­sur­ing un­der 350 me­tres (a com­mon theme through­out) and the short par-3 3rd. This al­lows you to ease your way into the round and per­haps even pick up a birdie or two.

Upon reach­ing the par-4 5th, how­ever, Rus­sell’s de­sign be­gins to show its teeth, with the 380-me­tre par-4 ranked the hard­est hole on the course. The fair­way, which is blind from the tee, bot­tle­necks to no more than 10 me­tres wide in parts and the green, is raised above the fair­way, which makes the ap­proach dif­fi­cult to judge.

Back-to-back par-5s come next and, again, of­fer chances to get some shots back. But the 6th and 7th are far from pushover holes, with cam­bered fair­ways, a fea­ture of the course, send­ing slightly off-cen­tre drives into the rough, while the greens are set high above the low­est point of each hole.

Both par-5 greens are sur­rounded by mound­ing and drop offs, as well as deep bunkers. Any player miss­ing the green is faced with mul­ti­ple op­tions and chal­lenges to se­cure par, which is an­other of the con­sis­tent themes run­ning through Rus­sell’s de­sign.

Clos­ing out the open­ing nine are two of my favourite holes on the course. The down­hill 8th and up­hill 9th play along­side one an­other and each dis­plays the risk and re­ward strat­egy of the de­sign, which has un­ques­tion­ably evolved and is per­haps slightly dif­fer­ent than the ar­chi­tect in­tended due to modern equip­ment ad­vances.

The slight dog­leg right 8th plays shorter than its listed 352 me­tres from the back tees. The densely tree-lined fair­way makes pick­ing a play­ing line dif­fi­cult. Hit­ting driver and get­ting as close to the green as pos­si­ble might seem like the best op­tion, but a shorter club hit to the left half of the fair­way is the smarter play for longer hit­ters. This takes the large drop off and treach­er­ous bunker long and left of the putting sur­face – both with the abil­ity to quickly de­rail a good round – out of play for their sec­ond shot.

The par-4 9th again of­fers a choice from the tee. Long hit­ters can take on the dog­leg right and small bunker on the in­side cor­ner to set-up a short pitch to the el­e­vated green. But the fair­way slopes hard to the right and an ap­proach played from the rough will make hit­ting it close to the hole dif­fi­cult, with the 9th green typ­i­cally among the firmest on the course. Tak­ing a con­ser­va­tive line from the tee to the left half of the fair­way is the more pru­dent play.

Start­ing the back nine, the 10th mea­sures just 251 me­tres with a green sur­rounded by water and a fair­way scat­tered with pot bunkers. There is lit­tle re­ward for tak­ing on the green from the tee, which makes this par-4 the weak­est to be found at Riversdale.

How­ever, it doesn’t take long for Rus­sell’s de­sign nous, which was enough to con­vince Dr Alis­ter MacKen­zie to make him his Aus­tralian de­sign part­ner, to be on full dis­play again as the holes be­gin to of­fer play­ers a wide range of shot op­tions with a va­ri­ety of clubs.

The dog­leg left 12th is ar­guably the most en­joy­able of the short par-4s on the prop­erty, with an ag­gres­sive and con­ser­va­tive op­tion again on of­fer from a tee set be­low the fair­way. With the left side of the fair­way heav­ily tree-lined, a long iron from the tee is more than enough to leave an ap­proach from in­side 100

me­tres to the green perched on the high­est point of the prop­erty. The putting sur­face fea­tures sub­tle folds that can make it tricky to get your ap­proach close, de­pend­ing on where the pin is lo­cated.

The side-by-side par-5 13th and 15th holes once again o er the chance to im­prove your score, be­fore the fi­nal three holes pro­vide a fi­nal test of your met­tle if you have a good score go­ing.

The down­hill nar­row fair­way of the 16th hole re­quires an ac­cu­rate and long drive be­fore a sec­ond shot, which is best ap­proached by land­ing short and run­ning up to the green set well be­low the fair­way. This will take the ‘worst miss’, be­ing long of the putting sur­face, out of play.

The 187-me­tre penul­ti­mate hole is the fi­nal of Riversdale’s strong col­lec­tion of par-3s that will typ­i­cally re­quire four di er­ent clubs de­spite three holes o er­ing sim­i­lar visual chal­lenges from the tee and, from which, four pars is a more than ac­cept­able re­sult.

The 18th tee o ers a fi­nal pic­turesque out­look across the course to the club­house, as well as one last choice of whether to take driver and chal­lenge the 10-plus bunkers or to lay back o the tee and trust your ap­proach play to set-up a birdie chance on the course’s true rolling greens.

In­deed the qual­ity of the Riversdale’s greens is real fea­ture, as they run smooth and quick.

And while the con­di­tion­ing is im­pres­sive, the true stand­out is how well Rus­sell’s 1930 de­sign has stood the test of time, which is a credit to both the de­signer and proud mem­ber­ship, who have ig­nored the trend of al­ter­ing their course to match the modern power game of the elite player.

It should per­haps come as no sur­prise that Riversdale, the sec­ond old­est golf club in one of the great­est golf cities in the world, would buck such a trend and o er a mem­o­rable golf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. And be­cause it has done so, Riversdale re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant piece of Aus­tralian golf his­tory that con­tin­ues to o er a var­ied and highly en­joy­able test of golf.

Played down­hill, the par-5 13th hole of­fers ag­gres­sive play­ers a birdie chance.

A mix of na­tive and north­ern hemi­sphere trees of­fer a stun­ning range of colours.

The heav­ily bunkered 3rd hole is the sec­ond par-3 play­ers en­counter at Riversdale.

Long hit­ters can take on the bunkers on the in­side cor­ner of the dog­leg right 9th hole.

Mea­sur­ing 187-me­tres, the par-3 17th presents a very stern test late in the round.

The short par-4 18th hole plays to­ward Riversdale’s his­toric club­house.

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