YARRAM GOLF COURSE in Victoria’s East Gippsland area has been rated as the best volunteer run course in Australia.
With some 38 golf courses in the area and enticing stay and play and other accommodation packages available, Yarram and its nearby courses are well worth a visit.
With the kind permission of Jetstar Magazine, we below publish an article by Craig Tansley from the upcoming issue of the magazine. The article shines a light on this wonderful country course and the volunteers that help to keep it running and make it such a golfer’s delight.
“SEE those kangaroos? Don’t hit ’em, mate, that’d be a two-stroke penalty, and we’d probably have to shoot ya.”
It’s just past sunrise on Yarram Golf Course and there’s a chill in the air, but club president Dave Phelan’s feeling all warm and fuzzy.
“Now all we need’s a bloody koala, don’t we?” he laughs. He has a point. As far as Australian landscapes go, this one’s about as striking as a Drysdale that’s climbed off the art gallery wall and come to life. Kookaburras chortle in the trees, a wombat shuffles past, there’s a rogue metre-and-a-half long lizard lurking somewhere in the bushes and a flock of galahs overhead. I hit the green with my second shot to the par-four second green expecting applause — it’s the hardest hole on the course — but Phelan and course volunteer Eric Greenaway (he does all the irrigating and spraying) are more concerned with ‘roos than birdies.
“See these marks,” Greenaway points at visible tracks in the bunker, “that’s a joey for sure.” I feel like I’m playing golf with Aboriginal trackers.
No one could love a golf course more than Eric Greenaway — he’s here every day of the week. All but retired from his dairy farm, he donates his time to make sure Yarram Golf Course maintains its reputation as Australia’s number one-rated volunteer-run golf course.
He even misses family weddings to show a journalist around. “They’re probably happy not to hear me talk about the golf course anyway,” he laughs of the course which is celebrating its 101st anniversary this month.
But Greenaway’s not the Lone Ranger here: there’s Lois, the treasurer at the bar pouring beers; and old Bud who mows the greens even though he has a crook shoulder.
There’s George who mows the fairways; Ken who organises the work-for-the-dole blokes; and the four retirees who come twice a week just to help out even though they’ve never played golf in their lives.
There couldn’t be a golf course quite like this one in the world. It’s immaculate — these volunteers do a better job than those who do it for a living.
There’s a great sense of community — to sit and have a beer with the members is as much fun as playing the course. There are old-timers here still beating their age at golf; you can even chat to the bloke who caddied for golfing superstar Gary Player when he was here in 1956.
But that’s South Gippsland for you. It may just be a couple of hours’ drive east from Melbourne, but this region feels like it belongs to another era. And the golf courses feel just as gentlemanly — there are 38 of them down here, with green fees that rarely rise above AU$30.
Many, like Yarram, have honesty boxes to put your green fees in. For the average golfer, they’re a dream come true because we’re not all looking for championship courses laden with bunkers and lakes with Tiger Woods price tags.
But of course that’s not to say it’s a toothless tiger. “Your ball’s gone to where elephants die, mate,” Phelan tells me after I find another piece of wild Yarram bushland with a wayward drive.
It’s truly a golfer’s utopia — empty, cheap-as-chips golf courses stretch on for miles. Apart from Yarram, Foster Golf Club and Leongatha Golf Club test your golfing mettle with their rugged bushland settings, while the golfing clubs do everything they can to entice you away from the Mornington Peninsula and the Murray River region. Yarram’s golf packages incorporate accommodation at everything from cheap pub rooms for blokes’ golf weekends away, to five-star luxury rooms at local wineries.
But there’s a lot to do down here apart from hitting a little white ball into the trees. Yarram is nestled between the southern Victorian coast — where historic fishing town Port Albert offers idyllic long beach treks, plus one of the finest seafood restaurants, Wild Fish Restaurant — and the Tarra-Bulga National Park, for walks into wilderness.
You can stay among the tree ferns and centuries-old mountain ash at the Tarra Valley Rainforest Retreat, part of Yarram’s golf package deals.
Or just down the road, Toms Cap Vineyard Retreat offers some of the finest cool-climate wines in Victoria and steaks to-die-for.
There’s a golf course here to suit any golfer, and for non-golfers, a piece of empty coastline to call your own.
Great Value Golf Packages
Perfect for couples and groups, stay at: Yarram Club Hotel with breakfast, a AU$20 meal voucher and 18 holes of golf for just AU$59 per person twin share; Tarra Motel Yarram with the same extras for AU$85; and Tarra Valley Rainforest Retreat or Toms Cap Vineyard Retreat with a cooked breakfast, AU$20 meal voucher and 18 holes of golf for AU$101 and AU$117 respectively per person twin share.
Packages are available most weekends and prices are based on a two-night minimum stay. To book or for more information, call +61 (3) 5182 5596 or visit Yarram Golf Club
For further infomation on golfing in the Gippsland area visit GippslandGolf.com.au
Jetstar flies to Melbourne from across Australia, and from Christchurch, Bangkok and Bali; JetSaver Light fares from AU $39 one way. Book online at Jetstar.com