by Brendan Moloney, photos by Colin Wilson
(Golf Victoria Magazine, March 2007)
A view of the new 15th (foreground) and 13th greens
It is said that in small country communities you have to make your own fun. This is particularly true of Trentham where the locals, as well as making their own golf course, made the equipment to play it.
The club, 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, celebratec its 70th anniversary this year but the playing history goes back to 1919 when local enthusiasts started hitting balls around paddocks along the banks of Stony Creek.
One of these pioneers was Bill Trewhella who, in 1893 started a foundry in the town where he forged clubheads as well as acclaimed farm machinery and equipment.
To mark the anniversary, club member Graeme Page has written a fine history without the help of records, which were lost when the clubhouse burned to the ground on Christmas Day 1981. (The Fire Brigade in the nearby town of Creswick experienced similar problems with its centenary history because the fire station had burned down three times.)
It is ironic on more than one level that the original clubhouse, a tin shed, is still standing and now serves as a woodshed. The one that burned down was originally the North Blackwood primary school with a few extensions tacked on. Everyone rallied around after the blaze and the new clubhouse, complete with a pool table donated by local publican and TV personality Ernie Sigley, was opened by VGA President Keith Alcock in 1982.
However, they weren’t quite out of the woods. In 1984 the roof of the new clubhouse was blown off in a gale and finished 100 metres away on the first tee. A member who was inside at the time attributed his escape from injury or worse to the fact that he was a good golfer, and knew how to keep his head down.
Trentham Golf Club was formed in 1937 and the nine-hole course had sand greens, a bogey of 80 and measured 2465 yards (2275 metres) on land leased from the Trentham Co-operative Society.
The Co-op had a slaughterhouse and holding yards beside the present fourth fairway and members say to this day the grass grows better there than anywhere else on the course.
As well as producing good turf, the rich, red volcanic soil grows fine potatoes and until the 1970s a three-acre patch tended by volunteers contributed significantly to the club’s finances. Among the farmers who gave their time to the spuds was Gwen Justice, who has won the club championship 21 times since 1981, including the last nine in a row.
The original course was laid out by the foundation members, including Bill Trewhella’s son, John, who was the first president. When the club purchased the 40-hectare site from the ailing Co-op in 1948, it entrusted the design of the 18-hole layout to Samson Bennett, Commonwealth GC’s first professional.
The greens were grassed in 1963 and since 1995 Kevin Hartley has been upgrading the course, designing two new holes and rebuilding 11 greens to United States Golf Association specifications.
Today’s course measuring 5268 metres is 718 metres longer than two laps of the original, nine-hole layout, and is one of the prettiest places to play within striking distance of Melbourne.
Lush fairways watered from a creek-fed dam, mature stands of trees, undulating terrain with blind tee shots, garden beds around the tees and abundant birdlife provide a pleasant break for the many city dwellers who are members or visitors. As well as its rural charm - scarecrows beside the 10th and 11th greens deter corellas from digging for bugs - Trentham has moved with the times and was one of the first golf clubs in Australia to get a website and it is still one of the best.
The man who maintains it, Colin Wilson, says the club has been particularly popular over the past 10 years, by virtue of the renovated greens and a general improvement in the condition of the course.
"This has allowed a considerable increase in green fees over the last decade. And we have not lost any members while a lot of clubs are having trouble", he said.
Club choice is vital on the 145m par-3 5th hole. Rebuilt in 1996, it tends to play either into the wind or against it.
"The green fee is now $30, which is up from $10 a decade ago. We are now taking $145,000 a year which is up from $55,000 10 years ago. A lot of other clubs have depended on expansion and lengthening their courses while we have stuck with a course that social golfers like.”
"We have improved the greens but we have not been overwhelmed with excessive length. Not that we have the capacity to do that on our 100 acres. That is why it is a popular course with green fee players and social groups. And it is picturesque and in a good tourism area."
Trentham’s most famous players are 1973 Australian Amateur Champion Ray Jenner, who won the first of his three club championships aged 15 in 1964, and Seeker Athol Guy who has just joined.