By Brian O’Hare.
I’VE been up on the Gold Coast with a few weeks to spare before the upcoming veteran golfers national championship and it has given me a chance to check out some of the local golf courses.
I wasn’t a golfer the last time I visited the area sometime last century so apart from watching the big events like the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on TV I wasn’t much of an expert personally on what else the Gold Coast had to offer golfing wise.
I was a bit worried before arriving that it was all going to be big resort and private courses, with smiling operators asking me to shell out $150 to play in the Wednesday comp – if there was a last minute spot available.
Playing the big resort courses is a fine scenario if you’re up here for a golfing week with your buddies and you expect the cash to flow liberally.
But being here for over a month or so and you just want to play in some local comps to keep your hand in, without breaking the bank, is a different matter.
So I’ve been staying in Elanora, a very leafy suburb a couple of minutes west of Palm Beach, on the “quieter” southern end of the Gold Coast.
The nearest course to me turned out to be Tally Valley Golf Club, literally two minutes down the road from my lodgings.
Asking around I had heard it was just a little 9 hole/18 tee course and it certainly didn’t look like much … when I initially drove straight past it to check out some other courses slightly further afield.
Not being able to get a suitable tee time in the Saturday comps when I checked the other courses, I was soon back at Tally Valley. And what a great decision that turned out to be.
You read a lot of golf course reviews and promo blurbs where clubs are described as “hidden gems”. Well maybe some to them just are.
To state at the outset, Tally Valley is no Royal Melbourne, but sometimes golf courses are about more than just their fairways, greens and facilities. Sometimes it is the whole package of the course, friendly members, employees, volunteers and an active and innovative committee.
Arriving at Tally Valley you can’t miss the Southern Cross windmill at the entrance of what is a rustic little clubhouse that currently includes a little Asian restaurant.
It’s quite a picturesque setting, in the Tallebudgera Valley with the Tallebudgera Creek running around the course, and it only takes a few days to learn how to pronounce Tallebudgera mostly correctly (but it is awesome to get the word in the one sentence three times.)
The land was originally purchased by Cliff Douglas in the early 1970s for its potential to develop an airstrip, and the big aircraft hanger still beside the clubhouses was formerly used to house vintage aircraft. It has now been converted to indoor jumping castles for scores of very happy sounding kids.
After more than 40 years the land and course is still owned and operated by the family, with employees taking care of the commercial side of things and a voluntary committee running the membership and competitions.
There are about 180 members currently and many of those have been with the club for extended periods, some around the 20 or 30 year mark. The numerous little commemorative plaques around the course suggest many former members have happily lived out their days playing Tally Valley.
I put my name down to play in the Wednesday comp and when I arrived on the day everyone was very welcoming, as was the pricing. It is just $20 for visitors to play 18 holes ($16 pensioner concession) and another $7 goes directly to the comp committee.
Teeing off with some long time members I quickly learned they do many things their own way at Tally Valley. For a start, they reckon they are the only club this side of Mars that has a nearest the pin on every hole – a great way to keep interest even if you have blown out toward the end of your round (just a few less balls in the ball countdown at the end). In an unofficial club ritual, after nine holes every group stops at the clubhouse and sits down for a drink, a sandwich or something from the shop, and usually to comment on how baldly they are playing. Very civilised and they have managed to get the timing down to a fine art, so restarting the back nine there never seems to be any delay.
Arriving for my second game on the Saturday it was Monthly Medal day and handing my $7 over to the committee starter I was rewarded with a beer ticket as well as three golf balls from nearest the pin wins. Such bounty!
There is another innovation here on stroke days with every player in the field recording their putts each hole and the winner receiving a no doubt tremendously valuable prize (Members also have a $2 hole-in-one jackpot which currently had a couple of grand on offer).
After a handful of games I was getting more familiar with a course that does have some very tricky holes, some intent on enticing your ball into the picturesque Tallebudgera Creek, and many with relatively small but quite tricky greens; and was excited to learn the next Saturday was the Tally Valley Open.
I probably put way too much pressure on myself imaging how my golfing resume would look in years to come with “Winner of the 2017 Tally Valley Open (Nett) Championship” on it. Arriving on the day things were a little subdued bunting/spectator/media-wise but there was a handwritten note on the blackboard wishing contestants good luck.
I learned there were 57 contestants, with representatives from all the world’s great valleys (Tally Valley and Jamberoo Valley [me]).
I reckon I hit the ball great off the tee but it was his damn putting – aided by rock hard, slick greens that hadn’t seen a drop of rain in six weeks. The great thing is I got to record every single three putt on the scorecard!
Afterwards, sitting in the clubhouse with my fellow contestants, I could see there were 35 putts recorded against my name – 35!. Equal with the worst in the field.
Even with my limited maths I realised if I had been somewhere near the other end of the putting statistics … I might have had that wonderful replica Nett Trophy sitting on my mantelpiece.
Oh well. At least I know how to pronounce Tallebudgera.
Tally Valley Golf Club Course Video