Location: Horsham, VIC
Architect: Sam Berriman
Date Played: 22nd August 2016
Making my first trip to Central Victoria, was the last course in the Top 100 Golf ranking, Horsham Golf Club. This has been in and out of the list during the last six years, with it currently only just making the cut.
Horsham Golf Club Entrance
The course is located a few kilometers out of town and has various facilities available. Originally established in 1949, the club suffered a devastating bushfire in 2009 which all but destroyed everything on the course. This become noticeable when leaving the proshop, with the course seeming quite open. I asked in the proshop and informed that around twenty thousand trees were destroyed. This intrigued me enough to find photos from before the fires. Can’t believe how different it looks, but feel it is an improvement to the original course.
New clubhouse at Horsham Golf Club
With the clubhouse being totally destroyed during, it has been replaced with a modern facility. Unfortunately during my visit, there was no lunch available, which I understand since the course was very quite on a Monday.
Horsham Golf Club course Map
The course utilises the land available, although on the front nine four consecutive holes go back and forth.
Scorecard for Horsham Golf Club
Play on the day was from the blue tees, although they were put forward slightly, feeling more like the white tee distances.
Hole 1 – 303 meter par 4
Starting the round is a short par 4, with a sharp dogleg to the right. Anything too far right will make for a tough approach with trees coming into play. Long and right is disasterous with water found among the trees. The hole does allow long hitters to take on some risk, in particular the bunkers scattered near the turn. This will leave a short uphill approach to the green complex.
Approach from the 1st fairway
Finding the fairway left, leaves a great line in, with the greenside bunker not in play as much, but also allowing a longer landing area on the putting surface. This is quite a small green and rather narrow. Finding yourself long brings the greenside bunker into play, due to the sloping of the green in that direction. I thought this a good opening hole. Not too demanding on the first shot, but certainly enables you to take on a bit of risk, which may well reward. Also has a bit of strategy, making you think on the best position from the tee to make the approach.
Hole 2 – 167 meter par 3
Next is a testing hole, on length and accuracy. This medium par 3 plays a lot longer, being up a steep slope. From the tee it is almost like playing through a chute, even with the trees quite low.
Looking back from the 2nd green
Four bunkers are found around the green, two either side, with one on the right short of the complex. The green slopes away on all sides, with a small rise at the front will repel balls not quite the right distance. The surrounds of the green were quite inconsistent with grass coverage, hence the need for acuracy. Another predominantly long putting surface, tests any recovery shot from the side, although the rear area is slighlty wider. Certainly a hole which to test a lot of players early in the round.
Hole 3 – 442 meter par 5
Easiest hole and shortest par 5 The first par 5 for the round is the shortest and easiest on the course. This must be one of the narrower tee shots on the course, with trees encroaching on either side.
View to the 3rd green
Play to the green is one of the more unusual on the course. The fairway falls away creating a small swale in front of the green, preventing the ball from being run in. A bunker on the right is quite long, starting just short then running the full length of the small green. This complex will allow for some tricky shots, bringing in a variety of play.
Hole 4 – 158 meter par 3
Similar to the second hole, but a touch shorter, this medium length par three plays up a strong incline. It is ranked the hardest par 3 at Horsham Golf Club. The area has some trees around, but is quite clear, compared to pre bushfires, when it would have seemed like hitting into the woods.
Side view of the 4th green
Playing to a raised green, which is bunkered either side, the putting surface has some stronger slopes. This was a bit more enjoyable hole compared to the second. Bunkering was not quite as severe, with the putting surface having a little more sloping to contend with. I’m glad to have played the hole in its current form, minus the large amount of pines which previously were found around the hole.
Locals at Horsham Golf Club
The course has a variety of wildlife found throughout. These kangaroos were relaxing on the 11th tee, whilst many forms of birdlife are found flying around.
Hole 5 – 362 meter par 4
Playing back to the west, this mid length hole plays relatively straight. From the tee a rise is found, blocking a view of the green. A couple of fairway traps are found to the right, in which direction the land slopes. The fairway is quite generous and should be easily found. Taking the safer option out to the left will leave a difficult shot to the green.
Approach to the 5th green
Upon reaching the rise a nice view of the green is found, sitting above the dangers to the left. A greenside bunker and a small water hazard, the only one which you will find on the course, will potentially find a lot of balls, as the slope of the fairway changes from right to left. The ideal shot will carry to the green, as anyone trying to run the ball will need to start way right of the target. This was a challenging hole, with the design taking giving the player a few strategies to play.
Hole 6 – 384 meter par 4
Heading back in the opposite direction is a similar length hole, also playing relatively straight. From the tee it is down a gentle slope, before the fairway narrows with a large bunker complex to the left.
Wide open 6th green
Play is then up a slight incline to another raised green, although not quite so dramatic. The putting surface is larger, with traps either side. The hole isn’t a standout, probably suffering due to having consecutive par fours of similar distance.
Hole 7 – 329 meter par 4
A shorter par four following, playing in the opposite direction, but up a decent incline. The fairway narrows the further we play, as does the increase in the slope of the hill.
Looking back from the 7th green
The green sits slightly raised, something you should now be used to, with traps either side of the green. This is quite a small putting surface with a gentle slope. Not one of my favourites on the course, with not much more than the incline to give it some character.
Hole 8 – 404 meter par 4
Starting the journey back to the clubhouse, the hardest hole on the course is the longest par four with a long sweeping turn to the left. From the tee play is downhill, with the fairway sloping from left to right. It will be quite easy to play through the corner for longer hitters, but luckily there is plenty of room to miss, although the shot would be from the rough.
Sweeping 8th fairway
The approach will be one of the more difficult, up a steady incline, to a green with a small false front. Traps are located either side for anything slightly off line, which won’t be all that hard, considering the putting surface is quite small considering the lenght of the hole.
Looking back from the 8th green
A tough but enjoyable hole, which will test any level of player. It was good to see one of the par four holes have some variation in direction of play, after having three play relatively straight.
Hole 9 – 281 meter par 4
To close the front nine, is the shortest par 4, which plays from a raised tee. For some this will almost be a hole which can reached with one shot. Direction is straight, although the green sits slightly offset to the fairway. For a majority of players, the main danger is hitting slightly off line finding the trees on either side.
Looking across at the 9th green
Play to this green, definitely favours an approach from the right side of the fairway, in particular pin positions which are located behind the long bunker to the left. This putting surface has the most change in sloping for those on the first nine and could prove tricky.
Looking back from the 9th green
It is also one of the largest green complexes. A short hole which does offer some risk vs reward, but does require thought on positioning from the tee.
Hole marker and pin flag
With the club suffering financial pressure, it is wise to try and take in as much money as possible. One way is through advertising on the hole markers. The pin flags were varied, the front having black and yellow chequers, whilst the back where red and white.
Hole 10 – 317 meter par 4
To start the back is a short to mid length par 4 which plays quite straight. From the tee one bunker is located down the right. Landing down this side opens the green a little for the approach.
View from the 10th fairway
The slightly raised green has bunkers on three sides to catch the errant shot. It is raised higher at the rear than front, so a delicate touch will be required for any shot going long. I predominantly find a straight hole not overly interesting, unless there is some varied elevation or undulations on the fairway, or a really interesting green complex. This offered none of the above. It at least had some options on strategy, with those taking the risk of the right side fairway bunker, having a better line into the green.
Hole 11 – 192 meter par 3
The longest par 3 on the course is very open playing slightly upslope. Previously the hole was surrounded by pine trees, but I think this would now allow conditions to have an effect on the shot type required.
Looking back from the 11th green
Two bunkers are found either side, with the left running the length of the green. A wide opening is left at the front allowing the ball to run onto the putting surface. Considering the length of the hole, the green surface is not overly large. The hole doesn’t look much, but certainly will test the player, especially into a head wind.
Hole 12 – 464 meter par 5
Playing back in the opposite direction, is this mid length par 5. The hole plays up a gentle slope to start, then doglegs to the left. Danger is found on the inside of the turn with a hidden water hazard and large trap.
Dogleg on the 12th fairway
The approach is up a steeper slope, with the green almost hidden. Two traps are located short right of the green complex, which sits raised high above the fairway.
The raised 12th green
The putting surface has a couple of tiers to contend with just to make it a little more interesting. Most memorable par 5 played on the day, offering a bit of everything on each shot.
Hole 13 – 520 meter par 5
Playing the longest hole on the course and hardest par 5, we had back in the opposite direction for this double dogleg par 5. Play is over a small rise from the tee, with the fairway sloping and turning to the right. The landing area is very large with the only danger being a misdirected tee shot into the trees either side. For the second shot the hole turns back to the left, which may prove tricky with the fairway sloping to the right. I do say second shot as I only see professionals potentially reaching this hole in two. This plays as a true three shot hole.
Approach to the 13th green
The green sits slightly raised over the fairway, something you need to get used to on this course, with bunkers either side. The left extends beyond the front of the green and almost its full length. Sloping on the putting surface run from the rear to front. Quite liked this hole also, showing it is not necessary to have hazards on every fairway to be difficult. Distance is the primary defense on the hole, which makes good use of the land to make it interesting.
Hole 14 – 290 meter par 4
Ranked as the easiest par 4 on the course, this short par 4 plays fairly straight. The fairway is average width but very open on either side, although this will change in the coming years with stakes evident of plantings down both sides. Some may be tempted to hit it long from the tee, but found themselves with an awkward stance in the swale just short of the green.
View from the 14th fairway
The test on this hole comes at the green, or the approach to it. A small opening is found between bunkers either side, but leaving it slightly short will see the ball roll back down the raised slope. The putting surface is not overly wide, so missing left or right could see the recovery run through the green. Good memorable hole, in stark contrast to the 10th. Hopefully the plantings down either side are not overly intrusive down the track.
Hole 15 – 153 meter par 3
The shortest hole on the course and easiest par 3, plays over a gully of sandy waste followed by some short grass before reaching the green.
Looking back from the 15th green
There are three bunkers around the green, with two leaving a wide opening at the front. I love the look of this hole from the tee, but it really seems at odds with the rest of the course. You would certainly expect the 15th to be found on a seaside links course, not in the middle of the country.
Hole 16 – 403 meter par 4
The sixteenth hole actually takes us back to the clubhouse. This long par 4 sweeps to the left. Water is left, but should not really come into play unless playing a tight line along that side. Bunkers are staggered either side at around the same distance, the left being closer. With a wide flat fairway, there is plenty of room to land the ball.
Looking back from the 16th green
Being such a long hole it is good to see the green is a little larger and quite open, with only one large trap to the right. A rarity on the course, the green is not raised at the front, allowing for a shot to run in, but caution needs to be taken with out of bounds beyond the green. Although relatively flat, the hole offers a bit of strategy, taking on a tight line left from the tee, but bringing in danger to shorten the hole and a slightly better line to the green, or play saftely out to the right and leave a long approach. The open green is also a positive on this long hole.
Hole 17 – 385 meter par 4
Heading away again on the penultimate hole, a long par 4, this hole turns in the opposite direction sweeping right. Some heavier scrub is found on the inside of the turn and unusually a large bunker is on the outside to the left. The fairway angles away mostly and is relatively flat, which from the tee, leaves a decision on the line to ensure there is enough room before running through.
View from the 17th fairway
With a slight rise at the front, this green is guarded by bunkers either side, with another short left. The putting surface slopes heavily from the rear, widening slightly towards the back. Considering the land is quite flat in this area, with a lot less trees than originally were found, the hole still remains interesting. Even though it is quite open, there are still enough areas off to the side to cause trouble for errant shots, but not overly penalise the golfer if slightly off line.
Hole 18 – 365 meter par 4
For the last hole of the day, we find a mid length par 4 which doglegs right. A more traditional design with bunker on the inside of the turn, but a wide fairway to land the ball.
Looking over the 18th fairway bunker
Hopefully the last full shot will be to a raised green, with three traps, two on the right side. The putting surface is large enough, sloping slightly from the rear, but increasing the further you get towards the front. Nice hole which offers the golfer a few options in strategy, to finish the round.
Ball plugged in bunker on 18th green
One of my pet hates, soft sand on a bunker face. In this case the only shot out was sideways and I managed to avoid standing on the bunker face to play the shot. But it annoys me when do have to take a stance on the face to play a shot. This only compounds the issue with the face decaying causing further balls to stop from rolling back into the bottom of the bunker. Sure the greens keepers do not appreciate it either.
Looking at the course makeup:
- Hole Directions – There was a decent variety allowing for conditions to have wide ranging effects during play. The main criticisms would be routing of holes 3-6 being back and forth next to each other and the 17th being a westerly direction, which is not good for those finishing their round late in the afternoon. This may not have been such an issue with all the reported pine trees previously on the site, but now being quite open, there is a potential to not see the shot.
- Hole Lengths – Par three holes had a some variance in distance, the majority in mid length (only 13 meters distance between the three) and one quite long. Par four holes ranged from short to long with the majority being either short or long in length. Par 5 holes ranged from mid to long with the former being the majority
- Hole Layout – There was a decent mixture in how the holes played, although an overwhelming majority tended to favour turns to the right, where two shots or more were required to reach the green. This outnumbered those turning to the left almost two to one
In summary I found it an enjoyable experience playing at Horsham Golf Club. The majority of the course was a lot more open than I had expected and after looking at old photos before the bush fires, quite happy to have played the latest layout. I just hope that with all the plantings I saw being implemented, that this does not signify the return of the tall pine tress, which would have a negative impact on my impression.
Surprising was how sandy the ground was, in particular off the fairways, which was particularly shown on the 15th hole, which I would consider the signature of the course.
At times the ground was quite flat, more so on the back nine, but the use of slight turns and bunker placement assist in distracting from this. The front nine had a lot more elevation changes, which brought quite a variety in the hole layouts.
The green structures, considering when they were designed sixty odd years ago, were at times great, yet others annoying. Finding a variety in depth of swales located around some of the greens made play interesting. But the small step ups at the front of quite a few greens, seemed unnatural. If these could be shaved slightly to blend in naturally with the fairway or slightly upgraded with further rounding, appearance would be much better. Putting surfaces were quite small at times, but usually suitable for the hole length.
If the club were not so far away, it would not hesitate to play more often.
How to play at Horsham GC:
1. Available 7 days a week to the public (outside competition times)