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Golf along the tourist trail: Trentham

It's the best of both worlds -- a game or two plus the lure of mineral springs and gourmet food. Graham Eccles visited the tourist destination known as Victoria's Spa Country to check out Trentham.

from Golf Victoria magazine, August-September 2017

There's nothing new about avid golfers establishing a putting green on their back lawn. But creating one on the nature strip outside a barber shop? Well, that's got to be a first.

Jack Higgins, one of Trentham Golf Club's first committeemen and the village's local hairdresser early last century, built the green and even kept a few putters for his clients to use while they waited for a haircut or shave.

Jack's putting green is just one of many tales that members love to recall at this gem of a course, a leisurely 100km drive north-west of Melbourne, from where it's just a short hop to iconic Daylesford.

Take the second hole, for instance. Many remember the days when it was a three-hectare potato patch that contributed significantly to the club's finances.

And when the old clubhouse burned down, along with all the club records, on Christmas Day in 1981, TV personality the late Ernie Sigley, who owned the nearby Lyonville Hotel at the time, donated a pool table for the new building.

However that wasn't the end of the clubhouse's travails. Three years later the roof blew off in a fierce gale and flattened a safety fence before coming to rest on the first tee. A member inside the clubhouse at the time declared he escaped injury because he was a good golfer who always kept his head down.

The club is 80 years old this year and over the decades has been transformed from an almost treeless 40-hectare site that housed a slaughterhouse and holding yards for pigs and other livestock to one of the most picturesque golf courses in the country.

Members reckon that, more than anywhere else on the course, the grass seems to grow faster on the flat part of the fourth fairway where the abattoir once stood. They maintain it's due to the lasting effect of the 'fertiliser' dropped all those years ago by the livestock awaiting their fate.

Today, the relatively short 5277-metre par-70 layout, to which experienced golf course designer Kevin Hartley made considerable improvements in the 1990s, is without argument a challenging test of golf on land that alternates between flat and hilly.

Until Hartley's master plan was implemented, there were four par threes on the back nine. Hartley corrected this anomaly by combining the 15th and 16th par-three holes into an interesting par four. However, the change meant there are now 10 holes on the front and eight on the back.

Unlike so many other golf courses these days, Trentham has not yet embraced the switch to couch on its well-maintained fairways, but its Bent greens take a lot of beating.

Course designer and Golf Victoria columnist Mike Clayton is effusive in his praise of the putting surfaces. "With only two employees looking after the course, I am amazed at the quality of the greens at Trentham," he said. "It's a real credit to those guys."

A proud club president, Bob Penrose, remembers Clayton visiting the course a couple of years ago and telling members that some Melbourne clubs should come up and have a look at Trentham's greens.

Trentham Attractions

Trentham is a small rural township situated in the Wombat Forest 97km north-west of Melbourne.

The Trentham Falls, just a short dsistance from the 16th green, are said to be the largest single-drop falls in Victoria while the Lyonville mineral springs are 10 minutes from town, where visitors can sample the refreshing waters in the picturesque reserve.

At beautiful Blackwood, 14km south of Trentham, there is the opportunity to pan for gold in the Lerderderg River and the Domino Trail is an easy 8km walk starting and ending at Trentham's historic old railway station.

A stop at Chaplin's Cafe or the Redbeard Bakery in the main street is popular for coffee and brunch.

"All of them were renewed under the Hartley plan, the last of them in 2012. We did the work over time when we could afford it," he said.

The club boasts two professionals as members - Australian PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, Stuart Leong, and England-born Ben Jackson. But Ray Jenner is its most celebrated and successful male golfer. Jenner won the Australian Amateur in 1973 and the Victorian Amateur the following year. In 1982, he added the Ivo Whitton Trophy to his list of accomplishments after being runner-up a year earlier.

Today, the club has 210 members and a healthy balance sheet due largely to its popularity with green fee-paying visitors and social groups. Normal green fees on weekdays and weekends have remained unchanged at $30 for 18 holes for several years.

"Visitors on competition days actually pay half green fees plus a $5 competition fee, which makes it only $20 and very reasonable," Bob Penrose said. "And everyone is made welcome at Trentham."

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Course conditions

2 December 2017

 Fairways: Excellent grass cover.

 Greens: Excellent.

 Surrounds: Excellent.