The following edited extract is taken from Toby Cumming’s The Golf Courses of Vern Morcom:
“One of Vern’s earliest design projects, Medway was also one of the most problematic. It was built on 98 acres next to the Maribyrnong River that was owned by Tom Williamson. Tom’s father had bought the land as a pasture to fatten cattle he brought down from Yea to market in Melbourne, but it has sat idle for years and was covered in noxious boxthorn bushes.
In 1934, after he had laboured for more than 12 months clearing the property, Tom settled on the idea of a golf course. He contacted Stanley Dutton Green, a Melbourne solicitor, and long-standing committee member at Kingston Heath. As a consequence, the Morcoms became involved and a private company was formed in December 1934 by Gren, Williamson, Vern and Mick to develop and operate the Medway Golf Club.
With Mick’s health beginning to deteriorate in mid-1935, management of the construction work fell to Vern, and it brought him close to bankruptcy. The course was completed by July 1936 and Vern and Mick were issued with their 500 shares in the company. Less than a year later, Mick died. The new course was not a success, with a lack of equipment contributing to poor conditioning.
Why men of the standing of Green and the Morcoms would take on the project is a perplexing question. Mick and Vern were firmly ensconced at Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath respectively, two of Australia’s most prestigious clubs. Stanley Dutton Green was every inch the successful aristocrat: Captain at Kingston Heath for six separate terms , he was a member of Brighton Council, and had been a Mayor.
How did they think that building a golf course during a severe depression on the basalt clay of the western suburbs, home to some of the highest unemployment rates in Victoria, was a viable proposition? Maidstone was a world away from the sandbelt enclaves of the south-eastern suburbs.
One of Medway’s foibles is that you are never more than a long hole’s distance from where you first teed off. Holes return to the clubhouse not twice but four times, allowing many sequence changes over the years. The holes themselves, though, closely reflect the Morcom originals of the 1930s.
The only substantial reconfiguration came in 1963-64, when the unsatisfactory 131-yard 5th was removed. This allowed a new green to be built for the 4th, transforming what was a straight 290-yard hole into a dogleg right of 322 yards. To replace the old 5th, a new short hole was added in the north-eastern corner (today’s 8th). In addition, the par three 17th was reversed so that it played uphill rather than down.”