The following edited extract is taken from Toby Cumming’s The Golf Courses of Vern Morcom:
“The Kyneton golfers, banding together to form a club in July 1900, spent three decades playing on a series of primitive courses on the eastern side of town. In February 1929, the club leased 115 acres of undulating country by the Calder Highway from a Mrs Brady. Golf was played her for two decades, before another move was enforced when Mrs Brady opted to sell her land.
Determined to open the 1950 season by May, the club wasted no time in commissioning Vern Morcom to design the new links. In January 1950, Vern pegged out a course of 6560 yards and submitted his individual green designs to the club. He was paid £30 for his work. Many trees were felled to create the fairways; 400 in the first month of construction alone.
This was offset with the planting of pine trees, in the expectation that they could be harvested in future to pay the mortgage. Temporary greens were laid and top dressed in front of the places marked for the permanent greens, and the self-imposed deadline was met – the course was officially opened on 13 May 1950. Permanent greens were formed in time for the 1951 season, while bunkers and mounding were added later.
Any proposed changes to the original course were controversial, and required the vote of at least eight committee members, so it is little surprise that Vern’s layout remains intact. The only routing change came very early on. The original 10th fairway was straight, crossing a low-lying gully, which contained a spring that only became evident in winter. To avoid this boggy area, the hole was reshaped into a left dogleg, and the 11th tee was relocated as a result.
Vern returned in 1964 to build a new 17th tee and to install an underground drain short of the green. The pond on the 7th and the dam fronting the 14th tee are from the 1970s. Course renovations of the late 1980s included rebuilding the 8th, 12th and 13th greens to the plans of Gisborne’s Ray Keane.
His changes to the 8th were short-lived, as Gary McCullough ( a Professor of Turf Culture visiting from Canada) designed a new green and bunkers in 1991.The 11th green was also rebuilt in 1991, Other small alterations, dating from 1994, including filling in the bunker at the 7th and grading the water hazard on the 12th to make it playable.
Kyneton is not Vern’s best work, and there are no obvious extenuating circumstances. Two of the most important factors – sufficient land and gently undulating topography – were in his favour. While it avoids any sense of back-and-forth, the routing is uninspired. There is a preponderance of left-turning doglegs, the closing holes are meek, and many greens are undefended, surface-level targets.”