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Hill Top Golf & Country Club

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COURSE REVIEW: Article courtesy of Hacker Magazine (Review by Bill Willetts)

There is nothing even remotely tatty about the golf course at Tatura, neither will you find much evidence of a hilltop. What you will find is a good golf course with a high standard of presentation, wonderfully embellished by the relatively recent addition of a group of holes designed under the Thomson, Wolveridge, Perret label - five holes which give great character and style to the course. You will also discover a quartet of excellent Par 3 holes, and generally teasing, deceitful greens defended by some aggressive bunkering. In short, a golfer’s course!

The club was originally founded in 1909 as the Tatura Golf Club, playing a 4 hole course which must have allowed considerable economy of time and effort! Soon the club relocated to Hogan’s Paddock and in 1913. Like so many country Victorian courses, took more permanent residence at the local racecourse, first with nine holes, expanding to eighteen holes in 1949. The present course dates from 1965, when a layout designed by Eric Horne and H. Brown and implemented largely by members working bees, was officially opened at a property called Hill Top which had been purchased two years earlier (an acquisition made possible by members financial support). On completion of the course, parts of the perimeter were sold for residential development, allowing re-imbursement of members and giving the new Hill Top golf club a sound financial start.

The opening holes provide almost a summary of the Horne/Brown design, predominantly flat, tree lined fairways leading to fine greens and the trade mark Hilltop bunkering, attractively sculptured, large and sometimes cavernously deep.

The 1st a substantial par 4, dogleg left at about 180m and then another 180m with the green best approached from the right to avoid the huge left side bunker. The second is shorter and almost straight - a birdie chance, but the approach must be threaded through a narrow gap between bunkers; and the 3rd, first and longest (186m) of the Par 3 holes.
Next we arrive at the first of the five consecutive Thomson inspired holes, a group of distinctive holes of outstanding character. The 4th a mid-length Par 5, is straight with most of the challenge packed into the final 100m, rising quite steeply to a double green (shared with the 8th), guarded by a pair of bunkers 60m short left, a creek wide right, and featuring an acute slope to the left rear. Not only will an approach to this part of the green be thrown off by the slope, it requires a strong will to play the resulting chip shot firmly to reach the flat section of the green, any shot slightly short will require an immediate action replay.

The 5th is a contender (with the 8th) for best hole on the course, a short Par 4 (320m) with water along the entire left flank and the fairway sloping sharply towards the left. A good drive to the high right side of the fairway will reward you with 20-30m extra run. A drive left of centre will probably leave you with wet socks! Another tricky green, elevated between mounds.
The 6th, only 148m, but with water again reaching the full length of the left flank, to a large green almost encircled by deep sand traps (many will be glad to escape with four on their card)
At 511m, the next hole, a gentle dogleg left, with OOB left and a liberal scattering of fairway bunkers, would almost be a relaxing relief after the rigours of the two preceding holes. Except that 511m is a long way in anyone’s money.
The climax of this group of holes, the 8th, is arguably best of all. Another shortish Par 4 (333m), dominated from the tee by water running 250m along the left flank and the fortress like elevated green with a battery of bunkers set into the rising ground. Once more you must drive to the high, right side of the fairway, and long hitters must beware the concealed dam to the right at just over 250m. Superb!
The 9th is not bad either, a mere 137m to another green almost surrounded by sand.

If the course comprised only these 6 holes, to be played three times in an 18 hole round, it would never be dull. At least one critic has commented rather sourly (perhaps enviously) that the Thomson holes are out of character with the course as a whole and do not blend in. I wonder who ever suggested that all parts of a golf course should have the same characteristics. I can suppose only that the critic had no knowledge of Royal Liverpool, Wallasey, Hillside or North Wales or many other classic British links of diverse character.
As you move into the inward nine, we return to the original Horne/Brown layout with its contoured greens, flattish fairways and malevolent bunkers. The 10th is followed by a pair of substantial Par 4 holes, rated the two hardest on the card, a challenge to any golfer.
The 13th is a lovely hole, slightly down over an undulating fairway, catch the right slope and you will be impressed by your extra long drive; and the green, a compressed miniature version of the rolling, undulating fairway.
The last of the Par 3 holes, 14th (166m) is another good golf hole, rising steeply over the last 30m to a domed green, bunkered both sides.

Of all the original holes, however, my favourite is the 16th. A Par 4 (326m), between trees and with a 90⁰ dogleg right. Straightforward if your tee shot finds the dogleg corner, diabolical if you are too long or too wayward.

The last two holes, middle distance Par 4’s, both dogleg left and with strongly bunkered greens, bring a conclusion to a round of golf on a course which must be a true golfer’s delight – varied in character and length, some holes defended by water, others by sand; a few holes where long hitting is a prerequisite, and several where placement of the shot is paramount.

And one last observation - how lucky are the Sheppartonian green fee golfers with a choice of Mooroopna or Hilltop, either at only $20 per round. Or, if you live in Melbourne (only a 2 hour drive away) tell your social golf secretary it’s time to visit Shepparton – possibly the best value for money golfing destination in country Victoria!

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