Devonport Golf Club was established in 1921, with golfers playing around the area of Victoria Parade, next to the mouth of the River Mersey. The club then moved a couple of kilometres across the river to East Devonport, where the first official monthly medal was held on a 9-hole course in 1925.
There was no suitable land next to the course to expand the layout so a decision was made to move back across the river to the south of Devonport, where a 300-acre property named “Woodrising” became available for sale. The club managed to purchase half the site for £4,600 in March 1953.
Vern Morcom was then engaged to design the course and a section of unwanted, low-lying land along the river was exchanged for another more interesting tract (currently housing holes 2 to 5) with the person who had bought the other 150-portion of the property.
Toby Cummings takes up the story in this edited extract from The Golf Courses of Vern Morcom:
“Vern had nearly completed scaling the plan in January 1954; he suggested that quite an amount of clearing could proceed, as he could see no possibility of major alterations to the layout. By the middle of 1954, the club had received the layout plan, individual green sketches and construction report.
As at Royal Hobart, Morcom proposed that ‘green surfaces are flat (not level), there being a fall from back to front of approximately 18 inches and in some cases side falls of approximately 12 inches.’ He stressed that ‘all tees must be irregular in outline and raised above surrounding ground.’
Gaps were left in the proposed tree planting to obtain vistas in depth, a point Vern felt was often overlooked. Morcom left his final word for the strategic bunkering: ‘although the course is designed with heavy trapping, it will be noticed that alternative routes have been provided for the long handicap man.’
In the years from 1954 to 1957, Vern remained in close contact with the club, providing advice on green keeping issues, weed eradication and construction problems. He visited to inspect the course on at least two further occasions, once in May 1955 and again in August 1957.
Play at the East Devonport links ceased in August 1956, with the first competition at Woodrising held over 9 holes on 17 November 1956. Golf on the full 18 holes commenced in March 1961, with the official opening a month later on 22 April.
The original hole sequence was altered due to unforeseen problems siting the clubhouse, and this is reflected in the walks between today’s 6th and 7th and between the 16th and 17th. Vern’s course has largely been untouched (fairway bunkers on 6 and 12 date to 2005, and a dam was built on the left of the 2nd).
Serenely set above the tidal mudflats of the Mersey River, the course has a diverse mix of holes that are punctuated with first-rate bunkering. In its fidelity to the original design, and its greens that are slightly built up on flat surrounds, it shares much with Royal Hobart.
The layout lacks very long holes (both par fives are less than 460m) and short par fours (none are under 330m). Yet there is no yearning for variety, and the result is a balanced par 35-35 layout of 5910m.”
A $10.5 million development came to fruition in 2020, with the merger of Devonport Golf Club, Devonport Bowls and Croquet Club, and Spreyton Bowls Club to create the new 1,000-member Devonport Country Club on the site of the old golf clubhouse, which is now the sporting base of all three clubs.
As part of the project, Graeme Grant remodelled the par three 10th, reducing its length from 165 to 135 metres, to accommodate the installation of new bowling greens.