Yarra Yarra completes Phase One of Course Restoration - April 19, 2018
YARRA YARRA GOLF CLUB - EXCLUSIVE REVIEW
by Darius Oliver, from Australia's Finest Golf Courses
Yarra Yarra Golf Club
Course Opened – 1928
Designer – Alex Russell
Like most of the major Melbourne Sandbelt clubs Yarra Yarra was born many miles away from the fertile golfing ground it currently calls home. Originally the Eaglemont Golf Club the name Yarra Yarra was adopted when a move to Rosanna, along the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River, was made in 1898.
In the 1920’s, with the increasing popularity of the southern Sandbelt region, came the realisation that if the club wanted to retain members and receive championship credentials it would have to move where the sand was plentiful and the game was booming. An emergency meeting of members, convened toward the end of 1926, endorsed the committee’s decision to seek a new home close to the recently relocated, and thriving, Commonwealth Golf Club.
They picked a great location and an opportune time to move with the Alister MacKenzie trained Alex Russell able to design the layout and oversee its construction, for a nominal fee, as part of his architectural education. Russell believed the land at Yarra was superior to that at Metropolitan, Commonwealth and Kingston Heath and told members that it would be possible to make ‘the finest golfing course you could ever see on the land’. Dr MacKenzie, who had never seen the site, apparently used surveyor’s plans of the property to assist with the design by sending rudimentary sketches and ideas for Russell to implement. Little evidence of this input remains however and it would be unfair to deny Russell the credit for the finished product.
The superb greens and bunkers are the highlight at Yarra and as good as many of MacKenzie’s own creations. Typically large, fast and undulating, the greens feature some of the most extreme slopes in Melbourne while the bunkers are constructed to blend naturally with their surrounds and are intrinsic to the strategy of each hole. Throughout Victoria, the best bunkers and greens remain those either designed by MacKenzie or built by the men he trained and Yarra’s are up there with the very best.
The par threes are world-renowned with the incredible 11th hole among the top few short holes in the country. Its notorious target is heavily bunkered and tilted across you from the tee with two tiers, four shelves and a heavy slope from the back. Any two-putt from above this hole is worthy of wild celebration. The natural subtleties of the land are also used to great effect, with a number of outstanding driving holes, the best example being the par four 5th with its crested fairway dipping and rising again toward a large sloping green visible from the tee. The bunkering of the last third of this hole is quite brilliant.
Though the design of each hole has evolved through the generations the routing has remained essentially untouched. Early committee’s made the most significant changes when they planted rows of Pines, Wattles, Gums and Eucalypts to line fairways and define the holes. In more recent times some minor changes were needed to protect neighbouring properties while a few greens, most noticeably the 4th and 8th, have been slightly reshaped. Among the more interesting on the course, the steep slopes on these two greens were sadly softened to allow the club additional pin positions.
MacKenzie who so enjoyed the beautiful surroundings at Metropolitan would have no doubt appreciated Yarra Yarra, which features a similarly attractive setting of indigenous and imported plantings. Though the site is much more confined than Metropolitan and sixteen holes run in a North/South direction, the tremendous variety of design makes up for any shortcomings. Aside from the previously mentioned 5th and 11th holes, other classic Sandbelt moments include short par threes at the 4th and 15th and the long par four 13th. The risk/reward par five’s are also memorable with the tight 9th fairway slanted toward a series of bunkers and requiring two brave shots to reach a huge green while the delicate 16th is easily reachable for the modern golfer but protected by menacing cross bunkers.
As a regular tournament venue since the 1950’s, Yarra is famously remembered as the scene of Gary Player’s first professional victory in the Ampol tournament way back in 1956.
This review features in Australia's Finest Golf Courses (RRP $49.95).
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