Location: Murray Downs, NSW
Architect: Ted Parslow
Date Played: 5th November 2016
Destination Murray Downs Golf and Country Club near Swan Hill, was part of the plan to finish another five Top 100 golf courses, before the end of 2016. There was a concerted effort to complete those in my home state of Victoria.
Murray Downs Golf and Country Club Entrance
Located on the border of NSW, being around a four hour drive from Melbourne, arriving at the site you find accommodation off to the side before finding the main entrance to the club. The lodgings allow a quick stroll over to the course from the front door. Admittedly finding your way to the pro shop isn’t the easiest, with the easiest route through the front door of the clubhouse.
Clubhouse at Murray Downs Golf and Country Club
A multi storied clubhouse has locker rooms and pro shop down the bottom, with the club, gaming room and bar found at the top. It seems to be a popular spot with the locals of an evening, especially the weekend. The clubhouse overlooks a large practice green and chipping area, with a driving range also close by.
Map of Murray Downs Golf and Country Club
The course meanders its way around a few water bodies, more so on the back nine than the front. There are quite a few holes which route back and forth, but wisely these have been broken up a little, so as not to feel repetitive.
Murray Downs Golf and Country Club Scorecard
Play for both days were from the blue tees. The first day of play saw the front nine played in the evening in quite calm conditions. The following day all eighteen were played, starting from the tenth. Conditions were extremely gusty on the day however, making this a lot tougher test.
Hole 1 – 302 meter par 4
To start the round is the shortest par 4 on the course. Playing over a slight slope before turning to the right, there are a couple of staggered bunkers either side of the fairway. Some will be tempted to carry the bunker on the right, which could be heavily penalised if off line or unsuccessful, but those playing safe will have ample room to land the ball.
Varying undulation on the 1st fairway
Laying up (playing safe) also allows a shot at the same level as the green, whereas longer drivers will be hitting up to the green. Three bunkers are found around the putting surface, which is quite wide. From the outset we see that there is some generosity with fairway widths and green sizes, although finding yourself on the wrong side of either, can lead to a difficult shot. This was a good hole to start the round, allowing forgiveness from the tee, but also the option to try and attack on distance. The shaping of the fairway ensured it looked interesting, but also potentially had some impact on second or third shots.
Hole 2 – 187 meter par 3
A fairly long par 3 is next up, but has the advantage of playing slightly down hill, reducing the distance a little. Water is located out to the right, but you struggle to see this due to the trees. Not sure if these are there for safety or environmental reasons, but certainly would improved the hole dramatically if they were removed.
Bunkering to the right of the 2nd green
A wide green awaits, which is much deeper on the left side, where pin positions will be more accessible, due to the wide opening between green side bunkering. Two smaller traps are to the left, but one long snaking trap is to the right. Designed to have a bit of forgiveness in the surrounds, which is good due to its length, although finding the right trap could leave a tricky shot. Water here would only come into play for a very bad shot, as the green sits in quite a bit from its edge.
Hole 3 – 367 meter par 4
A medium length dogleg right par 4 follows. Tree lined on either side, the fairway has a bit of width, before narrowing slightly at the turn. Here a slight ridge is found, helping to hide the green found beyond. No bunkers are found on this hole until reaching the green. Staying along the right side of the fairway will leave a better approach shot, but brings the trees heavily into play.
View of the 3rd green
Coming into the green a fairway trap is located short on the right, helping to deceive distance, but also hiding the large run off area this side. The front section is smallish, before opening further towards the rear, where bunkers on the left come into play. Good strategic design where distinct lines or play exist to potentially reward shots.
Hole 4 – 510 meter par 5
Reaching the longest hole on course, is also the hardest par 5. Fairway traps are found on the left, where a slight turn in the fairway occurs in this direction, whilst another is on the right a little further on. Ideally carrying the left bunker or staying tight will allow an easier second shot, as the ground is slightly higher with a better view of dangers ahead.
Less risky layup area on the 4th fairway
Most will not be able to reach this in two, especially into a head wind. So for most it is a case of finding the best position to layup for the third. A bunker is located to the right of the fairway, which is best avoided. Water encroaches part of the way across the fairway beyond this, requiring a carry of some sort, depending on fairway and pin position. So the safest option is just before the water where ample fairway is available.
Looking back from the 4th green
Bunkers are located either side of this green, which angles away to the right. The putting surface is quite wide, but not overly deep. There are a few slopes to contend with here, but the main one to watch is for left pin positions, where the green slopes away from direction of play. Good hole which asks a bit on each shot and offers some risk vs reward at various stages. Has some distinct strategy which can be employed, but enough forgiveness for all levels of player.
Hole 5 – 185 meter par 3
From the longest hole on the course to the hardest hole on course. This long par 3 is the signature hole at Murray Downs Golf Resort. A forced carry is required over water to reach the green, or fairway short of this, but has great design, allowing the golfer to take on as much or little as they dare.
The 5th green from the 6th tee
Two bunkers are located to the right, sitting between the green and water. Good if you are not quite on the number as the ball rolls into sand rather than water. These have a wooden retaining wall to ensure they don’t fall into the water. Question whether this could have been propped up a bit more to allow the green to sit on the waters edge. Three trees sit beyond these traps, which may assist in stopping balls running into the inlet behind. Again would be good to see these removed having the green sit on the waters edge, covering all of the right and part of the rear, although this would reduce the number of pin positions available.
Looking back at the 5th green
Four bunkers run along most of the right hand side, starting well short of the green but reaching to its end. Various small humps and hollows are found around the green complex, all covered with short grass, allowing for a variety of shots. The putting surface is quite wide at its start, but becomes almost half in width towards the rear. Quite enjoy the hole, in particular the angling away from the tee, allowing the golfer to take on as much as they dare.
Hole 6 – 376 meter par 4
Heading back towards the clubhouse, good opportunity for a top up in liquid if required, is a mid-long par 4. From the tee play is up a decent sized hill, with a large cross bunker sitting to the right. Longer hitters may carry this, but need to be careful of the carry distance. Ample room is located to the left, but leaves a more difficult approach.
View from the 6th fairway
If approaching from the left, a large trap must be carried to reach the green. This is deceptive due to it being slightly forward. Beyond, a small swale will collect balls not hit to correct distance. Two traps are located either side at the rear. The putting surface is slightly undulating, with sweeping slopes. Challenging hole with a tough strategy, to be pulled off, which mainly caters to longer hitters.
Hole 7 – 443 meter par 5
Heading away from the club is the shortest & easiest par 5 on the course. Playing with a slight left turn, a wide fairway awaits, with a large mound located at the turn on the left hand side. Managing to reach this could see extra distance gained as the fairway starts to slope away beyond.
View from the 7th fairway
The fairway narrows significantly over the hill, but still leaves a wide area of rough on either side. This widens up before the green with a large area extending to the right of the green. Various mounds are found in this area short of the green, which may leave a tricky stance. Question is on whether you have the distance to carry the ball from this elevated position to the green bypassing this area.
Looking across at the 7th green
A large bunker crosses the entire width of the fairway short of the green, with another slightly further on to its left. There is no running the ball along the ground to reach the putting surface. Another couple of large traps are located to the right, but the biggest danger is long, where water awaits. There is not too much strategy in regards to the correct line, although those playing slightly right will have a slightly better angle into the green.
Hole 8 – 336 meter par 4
Playing along the southern boundary, is a short-mid par 4, which doglegs to the left. The fairway is quite wide for the first portion of the fairway, although playing too far to the left could see trees block the approach shot. There can be the temptation to carry the trees on the inside of the turn, but a narrower landing area awaits on the second section of the fairway leading into the green. Ideally playing to the right of the turn will allow a better approach.
Looking over at the 8th green
Bunkers are found on either side of the green complex, which sits slightly raised at the front. Slightly angling away to the left, a slightly better line for the approach is available from the right, but not by much.
Hole 9 – 305 meter par 4
To finish the front loop is the easiest par 4 at Murray Downs Golf & Country Club. A short par 4 which turns to the right. Another fairway devoid of bunkers, it is easy to try and cut too much off the corner, or play through the fairway if too far left. It is from the latter side which will leave an easier shot into the green.
Massive bunkering around the 9th green
There is large bunkers down the right side of this long, narrow green, making the line in from the left of the fairway more desirable. The multi tiered putting surface will require an accurate shot on distance, otherwise a difficult putt may be faced. Although not the widest fairway on the course, this hole offered a bit in strategy, with a bit of risk vs reward from the tee. You have the option to try and shorten the hole, but face issues if not on line, whilst those thinking there way to the green are offered a distinct line of play. But even that does not necessarily mean a good score if not finding the correct portion on the green.
Hole marker and pin flag
The hole markers are found on the black marble and include a map of the hole, which is always quite handy for first time visitors. They did slightly remind me of headstones in a cemetery however. Flags are a standard white colour showing the club logo.
Hole 10 – 345 meter par 4
Starting the second loop is a medium length par 4 which turns to the left. The landing area is fairly tight, with a large trap on the inside of the turn, but another slightly further down on the right.
Approach from the 10th fairway
The land slopes mostly from the left, feeding away from the inside bunker. Being short of this, or too far left also brings the trees into play when trying to make the approach.
Large green in front of 10th green
The green complex itself has a very large bunker covering the front left portion, containing its own little island on the right. Any pin positions this side requires a carry on this wide but narrow green. Sloping significantly also to the right, being in the wrong portion will leave a tricky putt. Not a standout hole. Too many bunkers on the fairway, which don’t really setup well with the greenside bunker. Can’t work out what the strategy should be, other than avoiding the sand.
Hole 11 – 140 meter par 3
The shortest & easiest index hole at Murray Downs Golf Resort, is the 11th. Playing slightly downhill from some tiered teeing area, makes this even shorter. Water is found long right, but really shouldn’t come into play, unless you are extremely unlucky with the cart path, or hit a god awful shot.
Bunkers galore around the 11th green
A multitude of bunkers are found around the smallest putting green on the course. One large U shaped is found right, with the remaining five left or at the rear. A small opening is found between the sand front left, which will allow the ball to run on to the green, which predominantly slopes to the rear. Challenging small hole, where accuracy is mostly required.
Hole 12 – 449 meter par 5
Depending on the tee, you may have a small carry across water, but either way this is not the widest of fairways to find. A line of trees down the left of the fairway, with water found at various points along the right. The fairway actually angles away slightly from the water until some cross bunkers encroach cutting it almost in two. Beyond the traps, trees tighten the opening to the second section, which is quite expansive.
Bunkers lead into the 12th green
With bunkers either side of the fairway, if playing from the right side, a carry is required into the green. Finding either leaves a difficult shot in. An opening exists front left for those wanting to run the ball in, but anything long may find the rear trap.
Looking back from the 12th green
The putting surface is quite large, angling away to the right, with sloping mainly in the same direction. Another hole which was average, with a confusing strategy. Fairway bunkers seemed to be on the wrong side from the tee, as playing down the right is not ideal. Second portion of the hole had better design, with those wanting an easier approach having to take on the left hand bunker. Think maybe the right side one should be closer to the hole, joining the greenside bunker or not be there at all, as it created a funneling effect on the fairway.
Hole 13 – 371 meter par 4
Next is a longish par 4, requiring a carry over water on either side of the walking path. The fairway and surrounds are quite generous, but the preferred line is down the right hand side. Various small mounds are found mid way, but it is not until the green that trouble really comes into play.
View of the green from 13th fairway
The bunkering down the left is deceiving, with a couple quite short of the green. One further bunker is greenside left, otherwise the space is quite open. Being one of the more flatter areas on the course, some subtle humps have been incorporated on the right to make the green surrounds slightly more tricky.
Hole 14 – 364 meter par 4
Heading back in the opposite direction is this medium length par 4. With a slight kink to the left from the tee, a medium sized mound is found to the left, tapering off as it runs to the other side of the fairway. Staying close to the left allows most pin positions to be reached.
Leading in to the 14th green
A few undulations are found along the second portion of the fairway, leading into the green. Short of the putting surface is a medium size bunker, catching those out of position or trying to stay clear of the water circling the green. The only place you can’t miss is long or left, to the right may find safety in the sand. Angling back towards the right the putting surface is longer than it is wide. Nice hole which will definitely challenge players, especially with the approach.
Hole 15 – 163 meter par 3
The last par 3 for the day, is this mid length hole requiring a carry across water and sand, although those not quite confident have a route to mostly avoid the trouble. Feels similar to the 5th, although more a direct carry, but still has the area to the left with a lot of fairway to miss. For the earlier hole, water runs all the way along the green. The greenside trap, runs almost the full length of the hole and is quite narrow in places, making for a difficult shot if landing in these areas.
Look across at the 15th green
As for the putting surface, there are some gentle undulations throughout, but generally slopes from right down to the left. This hole suits a left to right ball flight with the green angling away to the right. Nice hole catering to all levels of player, even with a forced carry.
Hole 16 – 456 meter par 5 (photo courtesy of Slicey Tysie)
One of the standout par 5 holes on the course which turns slightly to the right. Good design allows a tee shot where you take on as much risk as you dare. The more you risk taking on the water to the left, the better angle you have for the second. Those playing too safe my find the trees on the right of the fairway.
Raised 16th green
Bunkers are found either side, short of the green complex, which sits slightly elevated, particularly on the left, where anything short will be repelled. Two further traps are found left and rear. The putting surface is much wider than it is deep, allowing the rear to come into play. Standout feature of this hole is definitely the first half, with the big risk reward tee shot.
Hole 17 – 367 meter par 4
The penultimate hole is the hardest par 4 on the course. Playing down slope from the tee, staggered bunkers are in reach on either side of the fairway from the tee, although the landing area is quite wide. There is a medium hump running along the middle of the fairway for some distance, which may see some balls run out to the right.
Approach from the 17th fairway
It is the approach which will really test the players game. Water comes into play on the right for most of the second shot, which feeds around behind the green. This actually comes in a bit further than expected, due to the height of the fairway.
View from behind the 17th green
Two bunkers are found short of the green, one in the center whilst the other is to the left. This stops attempts to run the ball in avoiding the water, but also come into play for those struggling to reach the green. There is ample width to the green, although this narrows quickly moving towards the rear, where water may come into play. One of the toughest approach shots for the day, especially into a strong headwind. Not a fan of the bunker blocking access to the middle of the green, as it restricts how the hole can be played. In my opinion would be better served being left of center, opening up the green a little for various shots, but still be in play if off line.
Hole 18 – 387 meter par 4
To finish the round is the longest par 4. Water is visible from the tee to the left, but not really in play. The hole doglegs to the right, with two fairway traps on the outside of the turn.
View from the 18th fairway
Leading into the green is a large cross bunker, around 50 meters short, whilst three further traps are found to the right, one running the entire length of the green.
Looking back on the 18th green
With a multi tiered green, finding the correct portion becomes critical. The slope is quite dramatic, so does not guarantee two putting. A strong finishing hole, although again cross bunkers limit the types of a play. It helps to disguise distance to the green, but must be carried to reach the putting surface.
In summary it was well worth the drive to play Murray Downs Golf and Country Club. This was my first trip to the area so I look forward to returning one day, but will also take in some of the other courses in the area.
The main issue faced had nothing to do with the course, but what felt like a mosquito plague. Playing a twilight nine after arriving, there was a constant slap at the insects, which made became quite frustrating. Being evening and near water, you could expect some mozzies, but playing the next day during daylight, the issue was just as bad. Repellent also did nothing to alleviate the issue. Will ensure next time visiting it is the cooler months.
Looking at the course makeup:
- Hole Directions – There was a fair mixture on which way the holes faced, although absolutely none had a north easterly facing tee shot. At times consecutive holes would play in the same direction, but there would always be a variation in how the hole was laid out or length to ensure it did not feel repetitive.
- Hole Lengths – Par three holes had a good variance in distance, evenly split between mid to long length. Both on the front nine had two meters difference on the scorecard but with one from an elevated tee, play would be slightly shorter. Par four holes ranged from short to long with the majority being mid length. These were spread out well on the course. At one stage from 13-17, three par 4 holes had only 8 meters difference, but the use of par 3 and 5 holes in between broke this up nicely. Par 5 holes ranged from mid to long with the former being the majority
- Hole Layout – There was a good mixture in how the holes played, although a slight majority tended to favour turns to the left, where two shots or more were required to reach the green. Overall though it would have to be said the course was quite balanced in this respect
The course conditions overall were very respectable. Tee boxes were generally fairly even and well maintained. A rotation of teeing areas was occurring regularly, although not sure on how many rounds the course has which would contribute to wear. Fairways were extremely good, which was surprising for a country course. Having water on the course though show allow these to be almost immaculate as it is freely available. The numerous bunkers were consistent with the sand, which was slightly tight, but allowed the club to pass through easily. Green complexes were well maintained with varying grass lengths on the surrounds, but a good distance of short grass, allowing a variety of shots. The large putting surfaces ran quite true.
Overall I would say the course left a positive image on memorability. A good mixture of hole lengths, direction and how they played as well as being conditioned nicely. Standout holes were 1, 5, 14 and 16. There were too many holes where cross bunkers had been used limiting the play into the greens, otherwise a few more would have been rated as standouts.
Definitely worth the return and should be a part of any Murray River trip. I will just ensure in the future that it is a cooler period, when mosquito numbers will be drastically reduced.
How to play at Murray Downs Golf & Country Club:
1. The course is open to the public seven days a week