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Spa Country Golf

by Bill Willetts, photos by Colin Wilson

(Hacker Golf Magazine, Issue 57, December 2009)

Like most Central Victorian settlements, the townships of the ‘Spa Country’ had their origins in the gold rush era; for some, the by product discovery of mineral springs provided a more lasting attraction. As early as the 1880’s, wealthy Melbournians (copying the fashionable European practice) began to take the waters of these springs, in search of their reputed therapeutic and beautifying benefits. It was the botox treatment of its time.

Today, with over 70 identified springs, the epicenter of the spa business is the neighbouring townships of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, proclaiming themselves the spa centre of Australia. Together they offer almost every self indulgence, every imaginable (and the unimaginable) beauty treatment, massage, saunas and flotation tanks and fine wines and restaurants. Even better, the area has two golf courses of real charm and distinction.

Trentham Golf Club, 20 minutes drive away, is simply one of country Victoria’s loveliest courses, a blend of green from the back green conifers to the lighter green of fairways and putting areas. This provides a background to the spring colour-fest as the flowering trees and shrubs which abound here burst into flower. In autumn there are the gold, red and orange shades of the same deciduous trees changing into their winter coats. If this sounds like a place of magic, well it is, a natural magic.

So, if you need to earn a few brownie points, enrol your wife/partner/significant other for a few days of therapeutic beautification, allowing you to indulge yourself on this delightful golf course (equally health promoting, naturally). But it’s not obligatory; you can just come with your mates to enjoy some good golf and good food!

Trentham Golf Club

With its broad, leafy lanes and unhurried ambience, Trentham exudes tranquility and elegant charm — beauty rich and rare indeed. It has more than once been a film set and, if ever Inspector Barnaby pursues his investigations Down Under, it must be in Mid-Somer Trentham. And the golf course matches and perfectly complements this idyll. In the sunburnt country and far horizons of north central Victoria, it is a green oasis in the wide brown land.

Here golf is pleasurable and enjoyable, teasing more than intimidating, a course designed (and maintained) to inspire you to your best form. The course is not overly long; of the Par 4’s the longest is 379 metres, long enough to be challenging, but not impossible, and the ACR of 68 against the par 70 is a fair reflection of the degree of difficulty. But it’s no pushover either; if you play to your handicap, 2 under par, you will have done well. The test at Trentham is not to be over-powered — it requires subtlety and finesse.

The round begins with some fairly conventional, parkland holes; the first green slightly offset to the fairway, best approached after a drive right of centre flirting with the tree line. The second, an unremarkable par 3, is followed by a good, deceptive par 4 bending left all the way to the green, where your drive must hug the outside of the bend to give a shot at the green.

The 4th, a birdie chance from a Kevin Rudd drive (left of centre) and the 5th, a par 3 where it always seems necessary to take one more club than you think. These holes, good enough on many courses, are at Trentham merely the prelude, the overture. From the 6th, a blind drive then the fairway threading between trees to an unbunkered but deceitful green, the course is a succession of variety and interest.

The 7th, a lovely golf hole, short at only 256 metres, but all uphill, copses on both sides, dogleg right almost 90 degrees, to a small green perched on a hillock. Again there are no bunkers and none are necessary; misjudge your approach and there are short run offs in every direction. It’s a classic easy short par 4, which can just as easily cost you a 6.

The 9th is a pleasing par 5, rated 6 on the card so a possible birdie. It starts with a slight dogleg right with trees left and out of bounds right - ensuring that if you miss the cut stuff, you could be looking at a certain bogey. The 11th is another gem; drive, blind, between woodland and then see the green perched on a knob of land with the dam behind. Around the green the run-off is steep, but it is the (illusory) proximity of the dam to the green which is the real snare  in reality it is 50 metres beyond the green, but it appears almost to lap at the back fringe.

At the 13th tee, we stand high above an enchanting little dell containing the 13th and 15th greens, both par 3’s, played from opposing high tees. Each is simple and treacherous with a direct shot to either green sliding away inexorably towards sand and water. Scratch golfers may generate sufficient spin to hold on these greens, but for most of us mere mortals, the best approach is to the hillside above the green, hoping for a gentle release towards the hole. You must pause momentarily here to imprint the scene on your memory, for this is an enchanted spot, magical in the evening sun or the morning mist.

The following hole, the 16th, is arguably the best golf hole on the course, a strong dogleg left to a green half hidden by the encroaching hillside, with out of bounds and marshland to the right of the corner.

The 17th is also good, a par 5 with a drive, as ever, between wooded slopes, over a ridge and for the brave a bold second over the creek 90 metres short of the green. Finally the drive home on the 18th — left of centre is again best.

Trentham would make no claim to be a great golf course, but it is a great place for a round of golf.

Last time I played here, one of my companions remarked that golf at Trentham is like golf in a botanical garden, full of lovely trees and shrubs. As suggested by Walter Hagen, a golfing megastar of the 1920’s, "take the time to smell the flowers", for Trentham is a visual treasure. The old saying "a thing of beauty is a joy forever" could well serve as the club's maxim, truly one of Victoria’s golfing gems.

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