Located less than a 3-hour drive north of Melbourne, with golf holes laid out close to the winding waters of the Murray River, Cobram Barooga Golf Club boasts two 18-hole golf courses – the Old and the West – which were brought into play in the late 1980s.
Toby Cumming charts the provenance of the two 18-hole layouts in this edited extract from The Golf Courses of Vern Morcom:
“Golf here began on the Victorian side (of the Murray River) in Cobram but ended up on the New South Wales side in Barooga. When Cobram Golf Club was established in 1912, their course was located at Cox’s Paddock, now occupied by Cobram Primary School.
The club moved several times in the years following WWI, before deciding to cross the river in 1926. The first event at the new Barooga course was played on 18 April 1928. The holes covered the southern section of the property, known as the Police Paddock, an area now shared between the Old and West courses.
At the 1929 annual meeting, the members decided to employ a golf course architect to design a second nine and bring the course to full size. A.E. Findlay was entrusted with the task. These holes extended the course to the north and over towards the recreation reserve.
Having been north of the river for two decades, the Cobram Golf Club belatedly changed its name to Cobram-Barooga Golf Club in 1948. In 1953, the club bought 50 acres to the north of the recreation reserve for £40 per acre. This land was to become the back nine of the Old.
Vern was in contact with the club in the winter of 1954, agreeing to visit and advise on the acreage and suitability of land for the golf course extension. Vern aimed to use as much of the existing layout as possible, while eliminating bad length holes, yet not much was kept in the overhaul.
The only holes bearing any similarity to what went before are today’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th, played along the same corridors as the original 16th, 17th, 1st and 7th, respectively. The course played since the late 1920s was a par 70 that measured 5955 yards (5445m). Morcom’s more substantial layout opened in June 1956.
In late 1956, the club wanted Vern to return for further consultation (but) ill health forced Vern to give up the task of designing new grass greens and this job fell to Sloan Morpeth, who visited in late 1964. With 1968 marking forty years on the present site, the final four turf greens were ready and an official opening held.
Membership growth was rapid: 909 in the late 1960s, 1842 in the late 1970s, 3100 in the late 1980s. Poker machine receipts totalled $1.76 million in 1984 and in 1990 exceeded $4 million. By this time, there were 36 holes – the club acquired 352 acres of Barooga Station in 1982, and Kevin Hartley’s West course opened in 1987.”
The Old course has the reputation as a tighter track, with the newer West course offering greater latitude with more generous playing areas and bigger greens. Both layouts feature wonderful couch-grassed fairways lined by gum trees and beautiful bent grass greens.
Configured with two returning nines, each of which end with a long par five hole towards the clubhouse, the Old course measures 5,850 metres from the tips, playing to a par of 72. The signature hole might well be the shortest par three on the card, the 137-metre 12th.