Founded in 1895, Ballarat Golf Club had an 11-hole course in play within a month of its formation but it didn’t take long – only two weeks, in fact – before it became a 9-hole layout. This was then expanded to eighteen holes a decade later.
The club name was changed to Ballaarat Golf Club during World War I when the secretary – an employee of the Ballaarat Water Board – felt this was the correct spelling (“balla” meant resting and “arat” translated as place in the Aboriginal language) but the title reverted back in 1994.
Alex Russell developed a master plan for the club in 1929 and his recommendations took five years to fully implement. From the early 1930s until the start of the new millennium, the only course modifications of any note occurred in 1973 when the 9th hole was removed and a new 5th introduced.
In 2008, property developer Roadcon purchased the eastern part of the course in return for creating a new quality championship course on the western portion of the old course and on former common land to the north.
Peter Thompson and Ross Perrett designed the new layout and because small sections of the original course were retained – parts of the old 3rd, 7th, 13th and 14th – the club claims to still be custodian of the country’s oldest 18-hole course on original land.
The regional centre of Ballarat is blessed with a fantastic and affordable course. The redesign of the late 2000’s is ageing well and the course makes for an engaging outing.
I thought the course had a few great elements. When played in dry conditions the undulating nature of the fairways come into their own, bouncing well struck balls in all manner of directions. Green sites are varied, subtle and punishing despite a lack of severity. A number of holes also feature great hero shot option, with enticing short par 4’s and protected, strategic short par 5’s.
On the downside, I found the conditioning somewhat variable, especially the greens. I felt the course also lacked a bit of bite, with the short (yet strategic) par 4’s and 5’s not being balanced by a number of strong holes. Lastly, the course passes through residential and industrial areas which (always) detracts from what was a well presented and cared for course.
All things told, I was extremely surprised by Ballarat Golf Club. While clearly not in the league of top golf courses, the place is well worth a visit; especially at the price.