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With thanks to two of our wonderful past presidents, Tony Meagher and Marilyn Mooney, and many others who helped them along the way, a fascinating history of the club has been painstakingly researched and compiled. 

From humble beginnings to the club you see today,


 

A History of the Portarlington Golf Club

This history of the Portarlington (Victoria, Australia) Golf Club was first published as part of our Centenary celebrations in 2009 and is continued in this edition until the AGM of 2020. It is published with grateful thanks to, and in recognition of, all those men and women whose contributions over more than 110 years have made this golf club the wonderful, modern, friendly place it is today. Space limitations of this book determine just how many people can be included, along with their contributions, or how many of their stories can be told.

You know who you are and this history belongs to you all. If this book, along with the recording of history, provokes discussion, jogs memories and maybe even gives a laugh or two
then it will have done its job. It may well prompt memories of important parts of our history that are not recorded in this book and any such contribution would be most welcome as this history is an evolving thing. While history does not have much to do with the way forward, we can all learn from the past and, besides, any club that has survived for more than 100 years and has evolved to become the Club we have today deserves a published history.

Here it is!

In the Beginning

Golf in Portarlington appears to have commenced in 1899 when Mr Winter, who was manager of the National Bank, and some of his friends played a 6-hole course located along The Esplanade. One of these holes though, was not always playable because of the high tide. At this time it was social golf only and interclub competition did not occur. The early days were tough going and the Portarlington Golf Club appears to have been formed and reformed two or three times until the Club found the stability which eventually carried it through to the present site in 1937 and on to the Club we have today.

So let’s start at the beginning – the early 1900’s. In the early 1900’s the Portarlington Town and District Improvement Association had considered a plan for a golf course for some time but it wasn’t until 1909 that the Portarlington Golf Club was formed as reported in the Geelong Advertiser of Thursday 27th July 1909.

The general meeting of the newly formed Club attracted a large attendance and office bearers were elected as follows:- President Mr A A Dunne, Vice Presidents (Messrs) C Reid and T Dorgan, Secretary Miss M Beck, Treasurer Mr S C Mitchelhill, Committee Mrs Dunne, Miss M Calhoun, (Messrs) G Renwick, C Graham and Keddell. The Patrons of the Club were Mr J F Farrer, MLA for Barwon, Dr Webb, Messrs P M Browne, J Sinclair, Ed Harvey, W Gray, R Willey, W Calhoun and G E Webster. At that meeting the Club decided to seek permission from the trustees of the Racecourse Reserve to make a links course at the reserve (the site now occupied by Portarlington Football, Netball and Cricket Clubs), and to ask Geelong Golf Club for assistance in laying out suitable links.

The proposed course’s two main features were thick bracken fern and sand. The yearly membership fee was set at 5 shillings. Permission was eventually granted by the trustees and the long process of planning and building the course began. At the same time though, other attractions were being introduced to make Portarlington more attractive to tourists. Those attractions competed with the creation of the new golf course and the project appears to have run into some trouble and was suspended for a time.

In the interim it appears golf was played on the 6 holes already existing along The Esplanade.

A New Driving Force

In 1914 the Town Improvement Assoc. took the matter in hand to reform the golf club and to build a course as “Wherever golf is played at tourist resorts successful seasons are the rule”. A Public meeting was held on May 8th in the Free Library presided over by the president Mr C E Graham. Mr Carl Jones spoke of the great advantages a golf course would bring to the town.

It was eventually decided to reform the club and the following were appointed as office bearers:- President Mr W Gorman, JP, Vice Presidents Rev Sidney Smith and Mr Carl Jones, Treasurer Mr R Cornall, Secretary Mr Bunce, Committee Miss Beck, Miss Harvey, Messers W Gray JP, G E Webster and C E Graham. Several sites were mentioned and it was decided to obtain expert opinion before making a final decision.

Mr Teal of Dewar & Co. Melbourne was asked to recommend an expert. In June 1914 Golf links had been marked out as reported in the Bellarine Herald on June 26th 1914 “The starting point is on The Esplanade near the pathway to the baths and the course proceeds eastward along the walk to the town boundary. The links continue in a southerly direction past “Tarina” residence of Mr P M Browne, then westerly to St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church and thence northerly to The Esplanade”.

A New Driving Force It was decided to obtain the services of Mr Banks, the ex-champion golfer to supervise the laying out of the links and several contributions were promised towards defraying this expert’s expenses. When Mr Banks arrived and examined the proposed links he advised that the ground would be too hard to play on in summer but would make great winter links.

The committee then revisited the racecourse reserve at the western end of town where Mr Banks was delighted with the racecourse and reserve for the links. He marked out links, which would allow for 9 holes, a complete circuit of the links measuring over 2700 yards and plenty of spare land to increase the links by another 2000 yards. Mr Banks stated “The racecourse reserve will produce links almost unrivalled in Victoria for the soft nature of soil will allow golf to be played all year round.” (Bellarine Herald July 10th 1914).

Building the New Course

At a committee meeting held at the Grand Hotel on Monday evening 6th July 1914, with the President Mr. Gorman in the chair, the Club decided that owing to the extra cost of preparing the links in the recreation reserve, which had been selected by Mr Banks, the golf expert, young members under 21 years would be admitted as members and that subscriptions for Gents would be seven shillings and sixpence and Ladies five shillings. An account was to be opened at the Colonial Bank in the name of the Portarlington Golf Club, and a Mr K Hitch was to be engaged to mark out the line for the links and to seek advice about cutting of the ferns. Enquiries were also to be made in regard to the renting of May Miller’s Cottage, with the option of purchase, for a possible clubhouse.

A Special Meeting of the Club was held in the Grand Hotel on 9th July 1914 at 4.30pm where the President explained to the committee that it would be necessary to have the work done by tender. The working bee system would take too long. They had received one tender for the work and would like an expression of opinion. After some discussion it was thought that a tender would be the fairest thing, to give everybody a chance. Tenders were called for, with an expectation of a time limit for the work.

At a committee meeting, held in the Grand Hotel on 13th July 1914 the Building the New Course Club decided to advertise in the paper that “Any member joining after the 1st August shall pay an entrance fee”. Tenders for clearing the links were received from J. Cleary for ₤40, from J Kent for ₤27 and from G Marshall for ₤25. After considerable discussion it was decided that the work would be given to J Kent and G Marshall (combined), on condition that they work together and both sign agreement. A supervising committee was elected from members Webster, Gorman, Cornall, Graham, Bankier, Smith and Jones.

It was expected that the links would be available for playing in three weeks. Meanwhile a Grand Euchre Party and Dance would be held in Forresters Hall with valuable prizes on August 6th. At the August meeting of 1914 the President reported that Mr Brown had kindly offered to fix the garden at the clubhouse. The clubhouse was to be repaired as per tender of ₤5; turnstiles were to be erected at the foot of the hill and a Yale lock to be fixed on the door. The secretary was also instructed to write and obtain a price for tanks.

The Bellarine Herald on August 25th 1914 reported that “the members of the Portarlington Golf Club are making good progress with the aid of working bees. The brick cottage on the brow of the hill overlooking the links has been secured for a club house. It has been fully renovated and the grounds put in order. The clearing of the links is almost completed”.

First Real Competition

On October 23rd 1914 The Bellarine Herald reported “The 1st Club competition will be held on the Portarlington Golf Links on Wednesday afternoon when a mixed foursomes will be played for trophies presented by the committee. There should be a large attendance to witness the first competition. Entries close on Monday evening with the Secretary Mr Carl Jones”.

The result of that competition was reported in the Bellarine Herald’s Sporting Notes on October 30th as follows, thus becoming the Club’s first published results:-

Golf
The 1st competition under the auspices of the Portarlington Golf Club was held on Wednesday afternoon. The prizes were trophies presented by the Club. There was a large attendance of players and spectators. Twelve pairs played in a mixed foursomes, 9 holes. Considering the newness of the links they played in good condition. The competition resulted in a tie and the gentlemen presented the trophies to the ladies.

The result was: Score Hcp Nett 87 40 47  74 27 47 Miss Harvey and C Jones 82 32 50 Miss M Hitch and W Pywell 87 37 50 Mrs J Allbutt and RG Cornall 82 27 55 Miss O Graham and W Gorman 96 37 59 Mrs W Nichol and T McLachlan 101 37 64 Miss E Bartlett and Miss Woods 113 39 74 Miss Beck and B Nichol 106 32 74 Mrs E Webster and Miss Allen 122 41 21 Miss E Plumer and CE Brown 122 41 81 Miss M Gray and Mrs Gorman 130 42 88

NameScoreHcpNett
Mrs T Griggs and W Dorgas  87 40 47
Miss L Gray and Rev Sidney Smith 74 27 47
Miss Harvey and C Jones 82 32 50
Miss M Hitch and W Pywell 87 37 50
Mrs J Allbutt and RG Cornall 82 27 55
Miss O Graham and W Gorman 96 37 59
Mrs W Nichol and T McLachlan 101 37 64
Miss E Bartlett and Miss Woods 113 39 74
Miss Beck and B Nichol 106 32 74
Mrs E Webster and Miss Allen 122 41 21
Miss E Plumer and CE Brown 122 41 81
Miss M Gray and Mrs Gorman 130 42 88

The Argus newspaper of 1st January 1915 ran advertisements for the Family and Grand Hotels both of which listed “golf links” as one of Portarlington’s attractions. The Annual Meeting was held in September where the balance sheet for the year was presented and adopted. A hearty vote of thanks was passed to the ladies for their valuable assistance during the past year, also to Mr C. G. Brown for his great assistance in fixing up the “golf house” and grounds.

It was decided that a report of year’s “doings” be drawn up, printed, and sent to each member. Also members’ tickets were to be printed and enclosed. The subscription was fixed at previous year’s rate of Ladies 5/- Gents 7/6. The Club’s year was to begin on May 1st. It was also resolved to clear bushes, etc. off the hill near the “golf house” by working bee.

Financial Struggle

By February 1916 the Club’s finances were again under stress with the bank applying some pressure. Several solutions were canvassed, including borrowing from the Bowling Club, to pay off the bank (thought not to be advisable), asking members to pay their 1915 subscriptions by the end of March and, in the event of members not responding, approaching the Club’s guarantors with a view to them reducing the amount of debt.

The Annual Meeting held on 18th May 1917 decided to reduce fees to Gents 5/- and Ladies 2/6 until after World War 1. The financial situation had settled down somewhat with the Bank’s position being that, so long as the Club is kept alive, the overdraft will not be required immediately. Opening Day was to be June 4th (being the King’s Birthday) and 1/- admission would be charged, with proceeds to be given to the Soldiers Patriotic Fund. Members would meet the week before to get the links in order for play. The Peninsula Tourist Booklet of 1920 lists Portarlington Golf Links (Secretary N E Winter) as a 2449 yard, 9 hole course, 8 minutes’ walk from the ‘station’ and costing 2/6 per day.

Resuscitation

There then appears to be a small break in Club activity, possibly caused by the financial state of the Club and / or the effect of the war, until a meeting was held at the Weighbridge on 1st September, 1923 where the chairman, Mr Webster, gave a short history of the old Golf Club and the reason for it ceasing to exist, and called for a motion as to the advisability of forming a new Club or resuscitating the old Club (the ‘resuscitation’ being reported in The Argus on 13th September 1923).

It was agreed to reform the old Club and obtain a permit from the Lands Department for permission to fence in the various greens. It was decided that the Links (9 holes) would start from the east end of the Park and go east along The Esplanade. Subscription fees would be – Gentlemen 10/6, Ladies 5/-. Visitor’s’ fees were fixed at 2/6 for the weekend, 1/- for a single day.

A dance was to be organized in Forresters Hall for 29th September with tickets to be 2/6 each.

A Club On The Move

The Club then played in various locations including “7 holes on the cliffs” (Melb. Herald Oct. 25th 1928), and Bill Stiley’s property on the Queenscliff / Tower Roads corner playing a 9 hole course, though intra club only. Not a lot more is known about this era but things appear to have been somewhat unstable. In 1929 it was reported in The Argus on 31st May that “The Portarlington Golf Club has been re-formed with Mr M Jamieson as president and Mr E Winter secretary. Arrangements have been completed for laying out a new course of nine holes. The proposed course will give a commanding view overlooking the bay.”

The new course was to be established at the Common (the old Racecourse Reserve). The Argus reported on 13th June 1929 “The newly laid-out golf course was opened before a large number of players and visitors. In the absence of the president (Mr Jamieson) the opening was performed by Mr Hunter (vice president). Mr Cowell and Mrs Wilshire handed in the best card for the mixed foursomes. The new course is so situated that it includes vantage points which provide views of the bay contiguous to the Peninsula. The course should prove a decided acquisition to the district.” The new course had been carved out of the thick bracken ferns on a sand base. The first tee was opposite the old BP service station on the corner of Sproat St. and Geelong Road.

The course continued along the Geelong Road towards the (now) industrial area, worked its way A Club On The Move towards the racecourse (now football ground) and then wound its way, in a snail shape, around the racecourse, finishing about where the gate to the ground is now. A two room house was moved from Jack Dendle’s place, down the Sproat Street hill, to the site, to be used as a clubhouse. Using Clydesdales in front and Clydesdales at the rear, disaster nearly overtook the building when one of the wooden wagon wheels caught fire during transportation. Although there was no water available nearby, the fire was quickly extinguished due to some quick thinking and “improvisation” by the four men involved.

Move to New Beginnings

The club played on the “Common” course until on 28th July 1937 a Special General Meeting was held in the Free Library (where the Senior Citizens Building now stands) at which it was declared that “The state of the present links was unsatisfactory”. A committee of seven members was appointed to arrange finance to purchase a 36 acre wattle paddock on the corner of St Leonards Road (now Hood Road) and Taylors Road (now Oxley Street) from the estate of Mr. Frederick Willey. Finance of ₤400 became available from the National Bank as soon as enough “suitable” people would sign a “Joint and Several Agreement”, guaranteeing the repayments and on 12th August 1937 approval to purchase the land was given. An estimate of ₤450 was made which included ₤10 per acre for the purchase of the land, transfer of the deeds, fencing along St Leonards Road, making the course playable, removal of the clubhouse and erection of conveniences. The land, measuring 18 chains (360m) along St Leonards Road and 20 chains (402m) along Taylors Road, would allow a course of 9 holes, with sand scrapes, over 2000 yards (1828m) and an 18 hole SSS of 70.

By 1st September 1937 nine guarantors, Albert Pratt, William Little, Olive Cornu, Leila Day, James Kerr, James Richmond, Edward Hensman, Edward Harvey and Herbert Allen were found enabling the land to be purchased. A layout and rabbit proof Move to New Beginnings fencing was approved and work on the new links began. The 9 holes with sand and fine, oiled, bluestone scrapes were constructed. Fairways were carved out of the wattle trees and bracken fern with most of the material for the scrapes being gathered from a sand pit on the 6th fairway. Golf commenced on Saturday 25th September 1937.

Transforming the land from a paddock to a playable golf course took only 25 days with the supervisor Mr Wheadon paid ₤2/2/- for his work. A greenkeeper was appointed at 10/- per week and one third of green fees collected by him. Green fees were set at 1/6 per day. In 1938 the two roomed clubhouse, then being used as a cricket pavilion was moved lock, stock and barrel from the old course. The members later added a new room to the south, a veranda, fire place, tank stand, and 600 gallon water tank. In April 1938 subscriptions were Members ₤1/1/-, Associates 10/6 and Juniors 7/6. The committee had always been comprised of Members, including ladies, but about this time the ladies formed their own “Associates” committee.

New Course Up and Running

In 1939 the Club applied to State Rivers and Water Supply Department (SRWS) to have the water “laid on”. Mowers were borrowed or rented from Queenscliff or Clifton Springs, and drawn by a horse supplied by one of the members until April 1939 when the Club purchased its own, a Berrigan horse drawn mower. The rough was cut with a scythe. Mowers continued to be borrowed or rented, from time to time, until as late as 1950. As the season only went from approximately May through to October sheep were placed on the course during summer to curtail the mowing expenses.

Golf continued until the end of 1941, when play was suspended for the duration of World War 2. In the meantime, Mr. Roy Webber offered to sell his adjoining 34 acre property to the Club but the Club could not afford the ₤850 asking price. After some negotiation it was purchased by Miss Leila Day, the local butcher and longtime staunch supporter and member of the Club, on the understanding that she would sell it to the Club when the Club could afford it.

After the war, in 1946, golf recommenced with renewed vigour and in early 1947 the Associates reformed. Many issues of concern to the ladies were addressed such as course condition, handicaps, ladies tees, Rules of Golf re boundary fences (in those days you could get a free drop away from boundary fences) and the effect of the measuring of the course on Ladies Union Handicaps.

Fairways - To Sow or Not To Sow

In May 1947 great debate took place on whether the Club should sow the fairways and in June it was decided to plough the fairways at the end of August, let them lie in rough through summer and sow down with suitable grasses. The decision was clouded in controversy, as the associates were allowed to vote although the Club Constitution at the time stated that: “The Lady Associates shall have all privileges of members except that they shall have no voice in the management of the Club”. Legal opinion was sought by the President which confirmed the rule.

However the associates were from then on consulted more often and their opinions and ideas more readily canvassed. In August work began on planting out the fairways with couch as well as renovating tees and approaches to greens and eradicating the rabbits. Raffles were run, along with other fundraising efforts, to raise money to improve the course. Working bees were held to clear the bracken fern and whole families marched up the fairways, in line, to plant couch.

The 1948 Golf Program ran every Saturday from 5th June to 11th September with every 2nd Sunday of the month to be a Mixed Foursome. The course was made available for use by visitors to the “Laze-Away” camp during summer recess for ₤2/10/- per month.

By 1949 the season extended to every Saturday and Sunday from May to September and subscriptions had reached ₤1/11/6 for members and ₤1/1/- for associates with green fees at 2/-. Competition fees were also 2/- but that, of course, included afternoon tea. Membership in July was Members – 23, Associates – 28. The Annual General Meeting that year recommended “a tree planting effort be instituted”. As a result large numbers of trees were planted on the course, using old sanitary cans to protect them from the rabbits. Most of the trees are still there.

Pennant Team Considered

In August 1949 entering a team in the Corio Sub District Pennant competition was debated, but it was not until 1952 that a team was finally entered. The team had little success on the golf course but was, by all accounts, socially brilliant and resulted in a lot of good times. Members also competed all around the district in team events and open tournaments, thus encouraging players from other clubs to attend our own Annual Open golf tournament (now the Carnival of Golf).

In September 1950, application was made to have the telephone and electric light connected to the clubhouse (the electricity took more than 5 months to be connected) – things taken for granted now but what a difference it must have made back then.

In May 1951, more trees – Mahogany gums (many of which had become dangerous by the millennium and had to be removed). The construction of hazards was also considered in June 1951 but nothing was to be done then. November saw the purchase of a piano to further enhance entertainment in the Club (no big screen TV in those days). BBQ’s, dances and an Annual Club Ball were the order of the day through these times. In 1951 the ladies also became affiliated with what is now the SWDLGA – South Western District Ladies Golf Association.

A Time for Extensions

With the growth the Club was experiencing, extensions to the 19th hole were also proposed. The President at the time, Mr J C. Baxter, at a Special General Meeting in August, objected to the proposed extensions and to “members consuming liquor on Club premises”, and said that if it was not restricted, he would resign. When he called for a vote on the restriction it was “lost by absolute majority” and he then resigned.

Planning then proceeded through 1952 for the extension to the clubhouse which was built by members during working bees over several weeks. It provided a function room (50’ x 20’) where they could further enjoy the 19th hole. A leading light on this project was Bill Hemsworth, a past President (1960-63 &1966), Captain (1955-56), Pennant player and Life Member of the Club. The W Hemsworth 4BBB trophy is presented each year in his honour.

When he called for a vote on the restriction it was “lost by absolute majority” and he then resigned. The workload of outdoor staff increased to the point that 1952 also saw the Club purchase its first tractor for ₤160. Membership numbers were capped at 120 and green fees reached 3/- for 18 holes or 5/- per day. A move was also made that year to “provide more bunkers”.

More Land, Water and Grass Greens

In 1954, the first suggestion regarding putting greens was made but the lack of water was a big problem. The nearest main connection point was way down Mercer Street. The Club applied for a Club Licence in 1954 for the serving of liquor. It also decided that the Open meeting would be limited to the first 72 entries received and that, henceforth, fields in all competitions would play in 4’s so as to relieve congestion. Later in the year the Club decided it was financially sound enough to approach Miss Day, to buy the adjoining 34 acre property for ₤950 clear, that she had bought years earlier and was holding for the Club.

By May 1955, the Club agreed to Miss Day’s very favourable terms of ₤100 deposit and ₤245 per year until paid, and bought the land, bringing the Club’s total holding to approximately 71 acres. More trees - in 1955 another 100 Mahogany Gums were planted. 1955 also saw the election of Fred Beaken as President who was, with Frank McGarry, a leading agitator for the planting of greens.

By April 1957 it was decided after much discussion to bite the bullet and proceed with the building of 9 greens as a start. Application for water supply was made, the layout approved, and the sum of ₤100 was made available to form and sow the greens. And so work commenced, forming the greens with working bees held over a number of Sundays. A front end loader was supplied by the Shire Council (the driver, Wally Noy being employed under the best of conditions) Stewart Renfrey supplied his trucks and members supplied what they could in the form of trucks, utes, trailers, shovels, rakes etc. A lot of hard work, but a lot of fun too, and many new and lasting friendships were formed. After work the ladies provided the BBQ, the Club the beer, and everyone felt a great sense of achievement.

In September the SRWS had still not approved a water connection and a further application was made. By 1957 membership had grown to 64. Members, 30 Associates and 1 Junior with fees rising to Members ₤5/5/-, Associates and juniors ₤4/4/-. Green fees were 3/- for 9 holes, 5/- for 18 holes, 7/6 per day and ₤1/10/- per week. 1957 also saw yet another tree planting program.

The water was finally connected in April 1958, and by July full reticulation of the course was completed under the direction of one of the “Country” members, Bill Carlos. Bill later made his home in Portarlington and served the Club in the positions of Committeeman, Captain (1967-69), and President (1970). He also represented the Club on the District Committee promoting in particular, veterans and junior golf and established the junior clinics at the Club which continue to this day. Bill was later made a Life Member for his service and the W. Carlos Summer Cup is presented each year in his honour.

The Club fixed navy blue as the Club colours in May 1958 from a choice of maroon or navy blue.

The new greens were opened for play on 16th November 1958, with the official opening ceremony taking place on the putting green. The day was advertised in the newspapers and open to all golfers and their partners starting with a Mixed Foursomes event followed by the opening and a barbeque.

Other Notable Contributions

The Club now had greens and with them the first, full time, curator Bill Hogan. Bill was first elected to the General and Match Committees in 1938 before being elected Secretary in 1939, serving ten terms between 1939 and 1956. He served on the Handicap and Greens Committees over many years, was Vice President in 1949-50, Captain in 1950 and President from 1957-59.

Also, at this time, Stan Chirgwin began his amazing run of 10 years as Captain of the Club, a run not likely to be equaled or surpassed.

No history of this Club would be complete without mentioning H D (Don) Gray. Don’s great contribution to this Club stretched from the 1930’s (he joined the Club in 1931 when he was about 15 years old) through to the turn of the century. He joined the committee when the Club moved to the present site in 1937. He served on the General Committee for 19 years, Greens Committee for 5 years, Match Committee for 8 years, Handicap Committee for 14 years, Finance Committee for 1 year, as Secretary for 2 years, Vice President for 3 years, Auditor for 4 years, and as Captain for 7 years. If that wasn’t enough he also served as District Delegate as well as being a Trustee of the Club’s property for decades. Along the way he managed to pick up two Club championships in 1948-49.

Once retired from official positions, he continued to serve the Club until well into the 1990’s Other Notable Contributions around 35 years as a volunteer around the course, even bringing his own tractor to help with the mowing. While in his 80’s he would still turn up regularly to jump on the tractor and go out and mow the fairways and the rough.

Understandably the Club, recognizing his amazing service stretching over seven decades honoured Don with one of our first Life Memberships.

Rapid Development & 18 Holes At Last

In February 1959 the Club decided to develop an additional five holes and approached the former curator at Point Lonsdale Golf Club, Eric Horne, (Eric being involved with Peter Thompson and Associates in designing and building courses), to design the layout, which he did at no cost.

The rapid development began to take its toll on the Club’s finances. In late 1959 the Club was under such strain from the land purchase, building of the first nine greens and the extensions to the course that a Finance Committee was formed to ensure financial viability. Three new greens had been established, but, while they were to be maintained, the first consideration for the Club was to be the maintenance of the existing nine holes. The state of the Club’s finances was such that the Greens Committee was requested to limit expenditure on maintenance and equipment to ₤500 for the next financial year and if at all possible to reduce that figure even further and that they produce a twelve month, costed, works program. A concerted effort was also made to attract new members.

By June 1960 the final payment on the land was made and five new greens had been sown. Despite being hampered by bad weather work on the new course progressed and on Sunday 11th December 1960 the new 14 hole course was opened for play.

In February 1961 the Club decided the Club colours would be Black & Gold. In May 1961 two new greens were sown and, over the next 2 years, work building the remaining four holes proceeded slowly until, on 16th June 1963, the Portarlington Golf Club celebrated the opening of their new 18 hole course. At last!

More Land for Further Development

In the meantime, in July 1962, negotiations were under way to purchase 10 acres of land to the south of the course. The old slaughter house paddock was owned by the local butcher Mr M Brown and in September negotiations were deadlocked, with the Club willing to pay ₤1200.

It wasn’t until June 1964 that the Club again felt the urge to investigate the purchase of adjacent land for future development and formed a committee to do so. They later approached Mrs. McLean, regarding 10 acres of land to the south of the Club and adjacent to the old slaughter house paddock the Club had wanted to buy previously. Mrs McLean was of a mind to sell but only the whole of her 30 acres for ₤30,000.

The price was outrageous and way over what the Club could afford. The owner of the original 10 acre paddock the Club wanted to buy, now Mrs Brown, was approached and agreed to sell the land to the Club for ₤2000. By December a payment plan was agreed to and the deal was done. The Finance Committee estimated the Club would be able to fund the purchase in the coming year without any increase in overdraft and the Club obtained vacant possession in May 1965. The land was then leased out at ₤6 per acre per year.

 

Hole  Par Metres
1 4 330
2 3 201
3 4 369
4 4 355
5 3 168
6 5 472
7 4 356
8 4 315
9 5 443
Hole Par Metres
10 4 370
11 5 483
12 4 283
13 4 304
14 4 404
15 4 368
16 4 351
17 3 155
18 4 321

Pennant Success and a New Clubhouse

More trees - large numbers of trees were planted through 1965 and the Club introduced sand buckets, to help members keep the course in order by filling divots. By this time members’ subscriptions had grown to ₤8 and ₤5/10/- for associates and a joining fee of ₤11 applied to all prospective new members. 1965 also saw the Club’s first success in the Geelong District Golf Association (GDGA) Pennant with a win in ‘C’ Section.

The first Fixture Books were approved, drawn up, and printed for the 1966 season and in March a monthly medal was first proposed. In August the Club decided to build a new clubhouse, to be financed by interest bearing debentures issued to members. At a Special General Meeting in October 1966 the Club decided to extend the geographical limitation on full members to those living within a 50 mile radius of the Club or those who were ratepayers of the Shire. Until then, if a person lived outside a 10 mile radius, they could only apply for a “Country” membership.

There was a certain wariness about those who were not “locals” in those days. The old clubhouse was pulled down in 1967 and a new building commenced.

1967 also saw the ladies win their first SWDLGA Pennant Shield in ‘C’ Section. In March 1968 the long process of obtaining a Liquor Licence from the Licensing Court began. January 1969 saw extensions being planned to comply with the Liquor licensing Act and the new, extended, clubhouse finally opened on 23rd August 1969. A full time Bar Manager and part time Caterer were approved. In November, the Club applied to the Liquor Control Commission for a permit for Sunday bar trading. By this time membership had grown to: Members 222, Associates 104.

The Dress Code

It is interesting to note that the dress code of March 1969 required – “Coats with ties or cravats and long trousers (shorts and long socks on hot days). Associates are to wear frock, skirt or long trousers with a blouse. Long stockings must be worn with shorts and skirts. Applies to Members Bar Lounge after 7:30pm daily and after 4:30pm Sundays”.

Road Widening Threatens Course

About this time the Country Roads Board was planning to widen the St. Leonards Road and there was a real possibility of the Club losing some 66 feet (20m) of its land to the widening, affecting 6 greens and 6 tees. The Club decided to obtain details of Ms Taylor’s Estate (approx. 20 acres to the east of the course), with a view to buying for future expansion. The land was for sale at a suggested price of $8000. In May the Club decided not to buy the land (the Club later bought this land for $200,000) but instead authorised planning of extensions to the clubhouse of approx. $12,000.

By July the architect was given the go ahead and the bank approved the finance, subject to a levy of $10 being placed on all members. In November a tender was accepted and the extension began.

More Land More Development

This heralded in another stage of development, commencing with Arch Baker serving as President (1972-73), having previously served as Secretary. The Arch Baker Mixed 4BBB is presented each year in his honour. In June 1972, in its continuing search for adequate water supply, boring for water on the Club’s land was completed, but the water found proved to be too salty and supply not good enough to water fairways.

The search continued, however, and it was during these investigations that in August 1972 a chance meeting with the owner of the rest of the block (29.5 acres) across Tower Road, now Mr S. Wilson, revealed a willingness to sell. After some negotiations, during which the owner changed his mind about the amount of land he was willing to sell, a deal was struck. The Club would purchase 20 acres previously used to grow asparagus, and adjacent to the 10 acres already owned, at $550 per acre.

In November, Greenmasters, the company of which Eric Horne (the original designer) was now a principal, quoted $1000 to supply plans and supervision for a new layout and in April 1973 the new layout was accepted in principle with 5 holes across Tower Road and 13 holes on the existing land. March 1973 had seen the purchase of 500 more trees for the existing and new course (and another 250 pines for the new area in June).

The land was held under an Old Law on General Title and the title contained two relatively minor flaws.

Minor they may have been but they were sufficient to cause a lengthy delay in finalising the transfer of the title thus holding up the bank loan. The vendor was becoming impatient and when a demand to settle or cancel the deal was made the Club was suddenly faced with the problem of finding $10,000 quickly or losing the land. An approach was made to some of the members to advance a sum of money as a loan to the Club for six months. Four members made $6000 available to overcome the problem with the rest being made available from the Club’s own funds. The vendor was paid and agreed to surrender possession of the land before the legal formalities were completed. In June clearing of the new land began.

Slow, Steady Progress To a New Course

Progress over the next few years was slowed somewhat by the very changeable weather – flooding rains in winter and drought and water restrictions through summer and pressure mounted on course staff, because as each new hole was built, there was one more to maintain. Many working bees were held throughout this time, with regular attendances of 40-50 and even as many as 80 on one occasion. Mick Hogan followed as President (1976-78) and maintained the momentum to develop the new holes without over committing the Club financially. By March 1978 the last two of the new greens were sown and in April a new PVC reticulation system was completed throughout the course to partially water the fairways. The 5 new holes were opened with a Mixed Stableford event on 11th March 1979, attended by representatives from the GDGA, VGA and the Press.

Over the next year the course was reconfigured, with the original 18 holes being re-designed and cut back to 13 holes, and on 8th March 1980 the final layout of the new course was officially opened. The new course was considered one of the best tests of golf in the district with narrow fairways, lots of trees and a Par 72 over 6047 metres. It was a long time before anyone broke par.

In 1982 the Bellarine Sewerage Authority proposed a new treatment plant and in November preliminary talks were held with the Portarlington Branch of the Bellarine Sewerage Authority to canvass the possibility of piping water from the treatment lagoons to the course for watering fairways. A fairly simple exercise, one might think, but it was to take another 24 years and many, long, years of drought before the course was finally connected.

By 1984 the pine trees planted decades before were causing damage to the fairways, tees and greens and the Club decided on a removal program that is still going today. In December 1984 the maximum Club handicap was extended to 32 but kept at 27 for Open meetings and Medal days.

Equal Opportunity & Incorporation

By 1985 the Equal Opportunity Legislation had passed into law and the Club’s constitution was amended to comply with the Equal Opportunity Act and the Liquor Control Commission requirements. Even though the E.O. law was enacted only one lady, Mrs. Una Reid, in 1989, became an “Ordinary (7 day) Member” with the remaining ladies choosing to remain “Limited (6 day) Members” until 1997 when three more ladies upgraded. It wasn’t until 1999 that Saturday play was opened up to the “Ordinary” lady members which encouraged more ladies to upgrade, particularly those who worked during the week.

In July 1986 the Club began the “Incorporation” process and in September first looked at water storage possibilities i.e. dams.

In 1987 the Club celebrated the Golden Anniversary of moving to the present site with a Dinner Dance.

Disaster Strikes! Members Respond

On the 8th February 1988 disaster struck when the clubhouse was completely destroyed by an overnight fire. Fortunately, the diligence of the then Secretary/Treasurer, Keith Phillips, in ensuring all of the Club’s property was adequately insured paid off handsomely, with the Club being fully compensated, enabling the it to rise again in a fairly short time. Jack Taylor, previously Club Secretary and Captain (1987-88) at the time of the fire, had visited the Lorne Golf Club in the wake of the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires and noted that all their records and Honour Boards had been destroyed thus destroying much of their recorded history.

In a stroke of genius Jack came back and photographed all of Portarlington’s Honour Boards thus enabling that part of our history to be easily replicated. It also transpired that most of the early minute books (unfortunately not the Associates’) were off site at that time so that, even though important documents were lost to the fire, enough survived to enable a fairly accurate history of this great Club to be written.

With President Alf Cork at the helm members again rose to the challenge - a theme that seems to be replicated time and again through this Club’s history. A temporary bar facility was quickly provided, as required under the licence (needed within 7 days or the licence was at risk). The Evans brothers, Bill, Ron, Jim, Norm and Colin, all builders, downed tools at work and in only a couple of weeks, and with the help of many, many members, erected a temporary building (currently housing the ground staff ) to serve as a clubhouse until rebuilding could take place. By August 1988 plans for the new clubhouse were approved and a tender accepted by October. The insurance money was forthcoming and the rebuilding began, with much voluntary assistance from many members. Also in August, the Club had surveyed members regarding the Club colours, the choice being maroon, navy or red. In September members decided on maroon with a white logo – the logo being a large golf ball above a yacht sailing on Corio Bay, seagulls and the You Yangs in the background.

The new clubhouse was opened by Mr D. Blair, President of the Australian Golf Union (AGU) on 20th August 1989.

Pokies, First Dam & Notable Achievement

In 1991 the Annual Meeting authorised the committee to investigate Poker Machines but the Club missed out on the initial allocation by both Tattersalls and Tabaret. May 1992 saw the Bellarine Rural City Council propose building a storm water retardation dam on the golf course (the small dam with the pump house) and, after protracted negotiations, the Club agreed to the proposal in September 1993, the cost to the Club being only $15000. 1993 also saw another investigation into the use of waste water on the course and the Club briefly considered purchasing the land to the north of the course in Hood Rd.

The SWDLGA, in 1991, named their ‘B’ Grade Championship after Portarlington’s June Gillivour. June was a committee member for 19 years (16 as secretary) and in 1999 was honoured with SWDLGA Life Membership.

Planning & Managing For the Future

The Club moved to do away with the Management Committee in 1996 and establish a Board of Directors to run the business of the Club, with Men’s and Ladies’ Golf Committees to run all golfing matters.

1996 also saw yet another attempt to obtain waste water for the course and a decision to employ consultants to provide a Master Plan for the development of the course with Antony Cashmore and Associates P/L being the successful tenderer.

Cashmore’s vision and plan for the future called for the upgrading of all the fairways to Santa Ana couch grass, moving the 2nd green, a new 5th hole, re-making/shaping of some greens, fairways and bunkers. It also called for some new tee positions, improved drainage, removal and replanting of trees etc. but, with the availability of 2 spare par 3 holes, the renovation of the holes could proceed, yet still allow for a slightly shorter, 18 hole course all of the time.

By 1997 the day to day business of the Club had grown to such an extent that, in August, the first full time manager, Jim Trevillian was appointed. As well as revolutionising the Club’s business practices Jim, in 1998, proposed to revamp the Club’s 60 year old Annual Open Tournament by remarketing it as the September Carnival of Golf, an event that would become the “envy of all other clubs”. The annual Carnival became the Club’s most successful event.

Rainfall was low in 1996/97, which signalled the start of a drought and in February 1999 the Club first looked at harvesting storm water. Quotes to sink a new dam were called for and provision of waste water from Barwon Water was back on the agenda. But Barwon Water replied that they had fully committed all of their waste water to another customer.

In March 1999 approval was given allowing ladies who were full members to play in any time slot on Saturdays and in July the Manager suggested it was time the Board took the Club into the 21st century by investing in the Club’s own internet website which went live in November. 1999 also saw the Club decide to connect to the new handicap management system, GolfLink.

A small extension to the west side of the clubhouse was completed in 1996 to accommodate the many gaming customers. By January 2000, land opposite the 12th fairway became available for sale again, this time for $200,000, the same land the Club let go in 1970 for $8000.In June the Club finalised the purchase and turned the land into a practice fairway.

Drought Proofing the Course

The dry weather continued (with particularly dry years through 2001/02). Though the Club first looked at harvesting storm water in February 1999 it wasn’t until 2001, after much planning and designing, consulting with affected persons, and redesigning to accommodate objections that work on harvesting storm water began. Concurrently, the new, large dam in the northwest corner of the course was also under construction. The Club then had two large storage dams capable of storing a total of more of than 50 mega litres of water and so reliance on town water was substantially reduced.

In October 2002 Barry Ruler, after serving 4 years as Captain was elected President. A position he would hold for the next 8 years.

A further larger clubhouse extension incorporating an administration section and large Bistro and Al Fresco area was completed in 2003. In 2006 an even larger Al Fresco area was built to comply with Victoria’s new smoking laws.

With 2006 being the driest year on record, and Stage 4 water restrictions imposed by Barwon Water, the Club was successful in gaining permission from Barwon Water to connect to their Waste Water Reclamation Plant for the supply of C Class water.

In December that year, with the cooperation of the local landowners and Barwon Water, a large group of volunteer members laid 3.5 kilometres of pipe across three farms in two days to connect the course to the Plant, which further reduced our reliance on town water. From conception of the plan to the water actually flowing into the dams took only three weeks, and an idea that first surfaced 24 years earlier at last became a reality. In 2008 that pipe was permanently installed underground.

In 2007 the Club took a gamble during the drought and established Santa Ana couch in the 6 fairways not yet done thus completing the basics of the Cashmore Course Master Plan.

The drought continued on and eventually became known as The Millennium Drought of 2001 - 2009.

Though less reliant now on town water the Board recognised, on advice from the course superintendent that the course was not yet drought proof as the C Class water needed to be diluted with fresh water to minimise the impact, particularly on the greens, of the impurities still contained within the water. The continued use of C Class water without being diluted would have damaged the greens beyond repair.

The Board then started to investigate the merit of installing a desalination plant to clean the water to an acceptable level.

A water levy was also imposed on all competition and green fee rounds to assist with the cost of any extra town water that may be required.

The Board also decided that the levy would be discontinued when it was no longer required and that any part of the levy not used for extra water each year would be held in a separate Water Levy Account to provide a buffer against future droughts.

Following a violent storm early in 2008, the 2003 Alfresco area was destroyed and the Club took the opportunity to replace the area with a new, built in members’ lounge overlooking the 1st tee and 18th green, which was completed in December 2008.

Out on the course more tees were being irrigated, (non-irrigated tees being a problem that had forever existed), bunkers were rebuilt and more boundary fencing renewed. General Manager Jim Trevillian announced his intention to retire after 11 years leaving the Club in a sound, stable, financial position to allow it to proceed into the future with confidence. Ms Kerry Bond was appointed to take over as General Manager.

Centenary Summary

In our Centenary year of 2009 the course was still in a stage of redevelopment with the completion of Santa Ana couch to all fairways, tees and bunkers being re-made and a new 2nd green to be built later in 2009. If finance permitted, a new 12th hole in 2010.

The Hood Road entrance to the Club was renovated to modernise and eliminate the 1970’s look.

In 2009 the Club’s more than 750 golfing members enjoyed a golf course that was the envy of many, not only of those within the Geelong district, but also of the many visitors we welcome each year, especially at Carnival time. They enjoyed a challenging golf course that was open 7 days a week with regular competitions on all days except Mondays. The annual Carnival of Golf in September was the highlight of the golfing year, attracting over 1400 entries in 2008. They also enjoyed a Bistro that opened for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, not to mention the Gaming Machines for when they felt lucky.

The Club had become a focal point within the local community with many community groups using the Club’s facilities to conduct their meetings etc. Being part of the local community, the Club’s calendar also included six official charity days each year, where the course and facilities are offered free of charge for fundraising purposes.

The Way Ahead

The redevelopment continued with more tees and bunkers being re-made and the 2nd hole being renovated to another Cashmore design, with the green being moved away from the 15th tee for safety and improved drainage and performance. The Tony Cashmore design and vision of a new layout was taking shape, as time and money allowed, albeit somewhat slower than planned. The Hood Road entrance to the Club was renovated to modernise and eliminate the 1970’s look.

The Club in 2010 posted its first loss since gaming machines were introduced back in 1994. The loss was entirely due to problems within the Bistro.

Following a series of adverse budget variances, coupled with declining patronage, the head chef departed in December 2009, leaving a leadership vacuum in the bistro with the peak holiday period ahead. A new head chef was appointed in February 2010 but unfortunately health issues prevented him from continuing in the position.

It wasn’t until later in March that a new head chef could be appointed and recovery could really begin.

After a relatively short tenure, GM Kerry Bond resigned to pursue other interests overseas and the Board decided to lift the professional standard of our management team by, among other measures, upgrading the position of General Manager to Chief Executive Officer. An exhaustive search then ensued, culminating in Ron Stockdale being appointed.

Coincidently, President Barry Ruler also decided that after 12 years in office, 4 as Captain and the last 8 as President it was time to retire and Tony Meagher, after serving as Vice Captain, Captain and Board member was elected President.

Gaming Licences and Modernization

Following State Government changes to the gaming machine licensing arrangements, where Clubs and other venue operators would now own the licences to operate the machines, in 2011 the Club was successful in obtaining licences for 55 gaming machines at a cost of $1.88 million with a start date of 2012 to operate those licences. And so a massive change to the management of the Club’s finances ensued.

The “Millennium Drought” broke at last with major flooding occurring on the course.

Redevelopment continued with the car park at the rear of the clubhouse sealed. The retaining walls around the front of the clubhouse were reconstructed and the grounds landscaped to modernise the entrance to the clubhouse.

The interior of the clubhouse, including the gaming room were completely refurbished to modernise the clubhouse in preparation for operating our own gaming licences in 2012.

After losing business during several lengthy power outages an emergency diesel power plant was installed.

Course redevelopment continued with more bunkers and tees being reconstructed and irrigated, more boundary fences replaced and a new and safer wash down bay and fertiliser and chemical sheds constructed.

The 12th hole was totally redesigned and construction started and more boundary fences were replaced. A new, Ultimate Member category was introduced to replace the old Clubhouse Member category.

At the Community Clubs Victoria Awards the Club won the 2011 Best Club Refurbishment and 2011 Best Golf Club awards. In September 2011 the Club investigated holding a Pro Am Tournament the next year. The PGA offered early March 2012 as a possible time which the Club accepted and Barwon Cleaning Supplies was the first to take up a sponsorship and claimed the naming rights.

A Very Big Year

In February 2012 the 12th hole redevelopment was completed including a longer fairway, “sand belt” style fairway bunkering, new green and greenside bunkering and new tee complex in time for the Pro Am in the first week in March.

The inaugural Barwon Cleaning Supplies Portarlington Pro Am took place on 8th March, and proved to be such an outstanding success that at the Victorian Golf Industry Awards the Club won 2011/12 Regional Pro Am Course of the Year (and placed second in the Regional Pro Am of the Year).

New fairway bunkering was introduced to the 13th hole to increase the strategic element when playing as the hole had been shortened (now a short 240 metres par 4) to accommodate the new 12th green.

The Board decided to open a TAB in the boardroom area to round out the gaming experience for our gaming customers.

The storage room at the eastern end of the Club was converted into a Boardroom and a 40 feet long container purchased for storage.

The Club started operating its own gaming licences, replaced the courtesy bus with a new bus and modernised the golf scoring system by introducing the MiClub Clubscan System which included a Leaderboard function.

A new website (including mobile phone access) was also introduced.

The Club memorabilia display (taken down during the previous year’s refurbishment) was modernised and installed in the Members’ Lounge.

The course kiosk was upgraded following City of Greater Geelong’s concerns about compliance issues.

The Board also decided to extend its community support by joining the Christmas Gift Program with the Portarlington Business Development Association, Lion’s Club and Mussel Festival to provide support to five families within the community who would not otherwise be able to afford Christmas.

2012 was indeed a very big year for the Club. Not only did the Club win the 2011/12 Regional Pro Am Course of the Year (and came second in the Regional Pro Am of the Year) at the Victorian Golf Industry Awards but also the Judges Award at the Geelong Advertiser Business Excellence Awards and at the Community Clubs Association Victoria Awards, the 2012 Regional Head Chef of the Year Award was won by Head Chef Chris Vakidis and the 2012 President of the Year Award was awarded to President Tony Meagher.

Drought Security and a New Masterplan

In 2013 the Board abandoned investigating a Desalination Plant after a meeting with Barwon Water in which they stated that, because of their work in securing supply because of the new Melbourne to Geelong pipeline, they did not envisage imposing water restrictions, other than normal water saving measures, for the foreseeable future.

As a result, and as promised back in 2008, the Board removed the Water Levy noting that the Water Levy Account then has approximately 2 years’ worth of extra water in it as a buffer against the next drought. With the 2 dams, the storm water harvesting, the supply of C Class water and 2 years’ worth of emergency town water in the bank, the course was now as “drought proof“ as can be reasonably achieved.

The modernization of the clubhouse entrance was completed with new, contemporary, handrails.

The City of Greater Geelong approved the Club’s application to rezone the Club’s 20 acres to the east of the course from Farming to Special Use 3, which opened up the possibilities for wider use of the land in the future.

After a series of robberies which began in July, the Club installed much stronger security barriers to protect the property of the Club. Upgrades to security cameras and security lighting were also implemented as well as regular checks to ensure the security of all areas of the Club’s property and business.

The Board also commissioned a Master Plan for the redevelopment of the Clubhouse. A 7 stage plan was adopted by the board with the first stage being a complete redevelopment of the kitchen. The kitchen by now was so old it was struggling to cope and COGG health inspectors were advising the Club that the kitchen was close to not complying with acceptable standards.

Stage 1 Masterplan Implementation

The Club also introduced the Diamond Rewards system for its members to earn reward points.

On the course, redevelopment continued with more bunker and tee reconstructions and irrigation and turf work around the clubhouse.

An arborist was engaged to survey and catalogue all the trees on the course to develop a Tree Management Plan to assist in the selective removal and pruning of dangerous trees to ensure the safety of members and guests.

At the Victorian Golf Industry Awards the Club won the 2013 Regional Pro Am of the Year and the 2013 Regional Pro Am Course of the Year.

At the Community Clubs Association Victoria Awards the Club won the award for Best Regional Club.

Early in 2014 the Board decided to implement Stage 1 of the Master Plan and called for tenders. Stage 1 involved a rebuild and extension of the kitchen, a new men’s toilet, a new disabled toilet and new men’s change room. Completion was planned for December.

The Board set a targeted total debt at project end (including existing debt) of $800,000 and committed to paying debt off by mid-2018.

Outside on the course normal renovation of tees, bunkers and green surrounds continued as well as renovations to the clubhouse surrounds with more irrigation and more new turf to modernise the look of the area.

The course was re-rated to provide 4 men’s courses and 2 ladies courses.

To improve the efficiency of the Administration area a restructure was implemented creating an Assistant Manager Position focusing on finance, bar and gaming. David Milne, a qualified accountant and former Manager of Clifton Springs Golf Club was appointed to the position.

Stage 1 of the Master Plan was largely completed and signed off by the Council Health Department in time for the Christmas holiday period.

At the Community Clubs Victoria Awards the Club Official of the Year was won by Treasurer Graeme McGregor and the Club won the award for Golf Club of the Year.

More Tax and More Development

By February 2015 Stage 1 of the Master Plan was completed. Many extra works were undertaken because of issues identified along the way including storm water, fire hydrants, electrical and gas, structural building issues and hydraulic problems, yet at the end of June 2015 the total Club debt stood at the budgeted $800,000. The Club was on target to pay that off by 2018 as planned.

Following completion of Stage 1 the Board decided to take a step back and put any major works on hold while they assessed the results of Stage 1.

Meanwhile the State Government imposed an increase in the Gaming Tax which had a significant negative impact on the Club’s result (about $110,000). So to be able to complete Stage 1 of the Master Plan and still be within the debt target was indeed a great result.

Out on the course normal redevelopment work continued within the normal course budget. Turf and concrete around the Pro Shop improved the look of the area and solved the boggy mess the carts caused when the rains came. A lot of turf work was done to join holes around the clubhouse for a seamless look between them as well as to improve the playing of those holes.

At the Community Clubs Association Victoria Awards the Club won Best Club Refurbishment.

Modern Communications & New Ways

The 2016 Golf Course Guide lists Portarlington at no. 83 in the Top 100 Public Access Courses and at no. 7 for Best Aesthetics – recognition at last.

The Club introduced a regular eNews newsletter to join with Facebook and Twitter and the Club website in keeping members up to date.

Both Men’s and Ladies’ Golf Committees seek approval from the Board to pursue amalgamation of the committees to form one Portarlington Golf Committee. Approval is granted with a view to achieving amalgamation in 2017.

After 12 years as Vice Captain, Captain, Board Member and 6 years as President Tony Meagher decided it was time to step down to allow a fresh set of eyes and ideas to carry the future of the Club.

Marilyn Mooney, after many years’ service as a board member, nominated for President and was elected, unopposed, to become the first female President of the Portarlington Golf Club.

The Club has indeed come a long way in a relatively short period of time. T

otal membership of the Portarlington Golf Club at 30 June 2016 stands at 4222 and still growing – more than the township of Portarlington and its rural surrounds.

Planning and Record Numbers

Unlike many others, the Club at this stage was strong financially with a very strong cash position and therefore able to meet all financial commitments.

Later in 2016 the Board held a 2 day Strategic Planning Workshop which developed a Business Plan for the next 4-5 years.

The success of the bistro after the redevelopment was amazing. It was not unusual to serve over 400 meals on busy nights with many having to be turned away. So the Club purchased a marquee to try and capture the overflow bistro traffic normally turned away during the busy holiday period and provide real data to help decide the next stage of redevelopment.

Major works to the irrigation system, teeing areas, greens and surrounds, fairway mounding, and repairs to and maintenance of bunkers continue to improve the substance and aesthetics of the course.

Out on the course indigenous and native species in vegetation was the major focus in all new plantings. A substantial program of planting was undertaken which not only provided a spectacular backdrop to the golf course but also succeeded in attracting many different native bird species.

New Pro Shop and More Gaming Machines

In 2017 as part of the Staged Master Plan for the Club a major upgrade to the Pro Shop was undertaken and completed in 2017. Although in the Master Plan it was to be housed in the main clubhouse the Pro Shop was in such urgent need of upgrading that the rebuild was undertaken on its existing site.

The new Pro Shop provided members and visitors with a new, much improved welcome to the Club as well as scoring facilities, a bigger retail space and an indoor coaching facility.

At the 2017 Victorian Golf Industry Awards the Club was awarded the 2016 Victorian Regional Pro Am of the Year Award.

Also at the same awards, Matt Milne the Club’s Professional was a finalist in the Victorian PGA Club Professional of the Year Award.

After a complex, intense and arduous process, 10 further Electronic Gaming Licences were obtained. This initiative has been an outstanding financial success. The VCGLR granted the entitlements on the condition that:

  1. A Community Contribution Fund be established and the Club contribute $10,000 annually to not-for-profit and sporting organisations in the Bellarine and City of Greater Geelong.
  2. The Club substantially completes building works on the premises as part of stage 2 of the Master Plan.

The Club also obtained an amendment to the Portarlington Structure Plan to the effect that the parcel of land known as “the 20 acres” could provide an “opportunity for short term tourist accommodation to be developed in conjunction with the existing clubhouse facilities”. This provides exciting development opportunities for the Club in the future.

The Club undertook a complete rebranding of its logo and physical public presentation to better reflect its professional and contemporary focus on golfing and business operations. The Club colours were also changed to navy blue.

At the 2017 Community Clubs Victoria awards the Club was a finalist in the Best Golf Club of the Year award whilst Club Head Chef, Peter Crowley, was crowned Club Chef of the Year.

The Carnival of Golf continues to attract near capacity fields over the seven days of competition.

AusGolf Golf Course Guide Top 100 Courses rated Portarlington 84 in 2017.

History in the Making & A Course Master Plan

Following Board approval in 2016 for the Golf Committees to pursue amalgamation the Men’s and Ladies’ Golf Committees merged to form a single Golf Committee. An outstanding achievement and wonderful example of people coming together in good faith and working cooperatively to achieve a successful outcome for the Club.

2018 also saw the election of the first female as Club Captain. For the first time in its history the Club has a female as Club President, Marilyn Mooney, and a female as Club Captain Jan Cogger a great step forward and a strong indication of the progressive nature of the Club.

A review and overhaul of Membership categories was undertaken by the Board and changes were made to Senior and Veteran categories to reflect the changing demographics of the Club to be phased in over three years.

The Board decided to commission a Golf Course Master Plan for the entire land area of the Club. This includes reviewing location of infrastructure around the golf course, pro shop, and clubhouse.

In accordance with conditions attached to obtaining the 10 new gaming machines, planning for the next stage of development gets underway with building to commence in 2019.

Secretary David Bond received the Club Official of the Year award at the 2018 Community Clubs of Victoria Awards night.

After 12 years of exceptional work guiding the Club to the best financial position the club had ever seen the Treasurer, Graham McGregor, announced his retirement at the AGM and was awarded Life Membership.

In November 2018 the Club hosted the Opening Ceremony of the School Sports Australia 12 years and under Golf Championships. Sixty young boys and girls from all over Australia took part in the event.

Clubhouse Redevelopment

2019 saw planning of the next stage of redevelopment complete and building commence at a cost of $2.5m.

The redevelopment included:

  • A new bistro/lounge seating 140
  • A coffee shop area
  • A staffroom
  • Improved storage
  • Extended bistro dining space
  • A children’s play area, (Govt. grant of $90,000)
  • A refurbished general lounge area
  • Relocation of the TAB
  • Relocation of the Club’s administration area

Completion was due mid-2020.

A children’s playground, long considered necessary by many, was installed after successfully applying for a government grant. The playground has proved to be a major success in helping to cater more for families in the bistro.

As it was about 25 years since a Course Masterplan was created, the Board decided to appoint course architects Crafter & Mogford to create a new plan.

A new Lifestyle membership for new and time poor golfers, using a points system was introduced and was well accepted.

As usual, the Club’s flagship events the ProAm and Carnival of Golf continued to thrive and showcase the Club to the golfing world.

AusGolf Golf Course Guide Top 100 Courses rated Portarlington No.78.

As part of the redevelopment an interactive kiosk for members to access Club information was installed in the foyer of the Club. Information included Honour Boards, Board and Committee member photos, all Club Champion’s photos, Pennant team photos, Plates Cups and Shields photos, Club History, Carnival of Golf and ProAm results and photos, Old Friends photos and much, much more.

After 12 years of great work as Club Secretary David Bond announced his retirement at the AGM and was awarded Life Membership.

Covid-19 Pandemic & The New “View Room”

Early in 2020, after another very successful ProAm, a worldwide pandemic, a coronavirus, Covid-19 arrived with devastating impact on the health and social activities of the entire world. And the Club was not immune to its effects.

The first draft of the new Course Masterplan was presented to the Board in February with the next stage being 4- 6 weeks of display followed by meetings with members.

Due to restrictions placed on the community by the government in an attempt to slow and contain the virus, those plans had to be put on hold.

The government restrictions included the closure of many sporting facilities, including clubhouses and bistros throughout the nation and on 20th March the Club was forced to close.

In May those restrictions were partially relaxed allowing a return to playing golf, under modified conditions, and a limited re-opening of the bistro, again under modified conditions.

Fortunately, the redevelopment of the Club was able to continue with the builders finding a way to work within the new government guidelines.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid19 restrictions and the fact that the fight against the virus was going to be a long one, the Carnival of Golf and all Charity events had to be cancelled.

The extension, the “View Room” was ready for opening on Monday 3rd August. The Club could now seat more than 500 Patrons with the added ability to tap into the lucrative functions market.

Just as the “View Room” opened for use, a massive second wave surge in Covid-19 cases was sweeping the state and it became necessary for the Government to impose even harsher restrictions on August 4th. One effect of those restrictions was to again shut down many sporting facilities, including clubhouses and bistros throughout the state and again the Club was forced to close.

Time for a Change & A Bright Future

Limited social golf was allowed but only in groups of 2 with greater spacing between groups and no competition play at all.

Through all this turmoil the Club, despite having very little (and zero gaming) income since March, still managed to record a profit for 2019/20, the tenth year in a row.

AusGolf Golf Course Guide Top 100 Courses rated Portarlington No. 62. The steady rise up the Top 100 rankings is a testament to course Superintendent Steve Burchett great work over his 15 year tenure.

On September 16th the Government announced that due to the improvement in the virus infection rate in regional Victoria, it would ease restrictions somewhat in those areas whilst still keeping most of Melbourne in lockdown. As a result the Club was able to reopen the bistro, albeit on a limited basis.

Golf competitions could resume but also with some restrictions.

Not ideal, but at least there was light at the end of the tunnel (and it wasn’t a train).

The forced closure of the Club by Covid 19 restrictions imposed by both State and Federal Governments had caused the greatest revenue loss in the Club’s 110 year history.

After 10 years at the helm, (years which saw, arguably, the greatest changes ever to take place at the Club, as well as 10 consecutive years of profit), CEO Ron Stockdale announced his plan to retire after the 2020 Annual Meeting.

Michael Phillips was appointed to the CEO’s position. Michael brought with him extensive experience managing large clubs, including Ballarat Golf Club.

To be continued

 


Club Details

Town Location: Portarlington – (situated approx. 30kms from Geelong)

Club: Portarlington Golf Club Inc. 130 Hood Road, Portarlington, Victoria. 3223

Year of Foundation: 1909

Year of VGA Affiliation: 1931

Year of SWDLGA Affiliation: 1951

Course Designer at present site:

  • Original: Eric Horne
  • 1996 -2020: Antony Cashmore and Associates
  • 2020- : Crafter & Mogford

Founders: 1909

  • President Mr A A Dunne
  • Vice Presidents (Messrs) C. Reid and T. Dorgan
  • Secretary Miss M Beck
  • Treasurer Mr S C Mitchelhill
  • Committee: Mrs. Dunne, Miss M. Calhoun, Messrs G Renwick, C Graham and Keddell.

Course Records:

  • Men: Anthony Mrhar – 64
  • Ladies: Adele Huggard – 74
  • Professional (Pro Am) Michael Choi 2014 – 62

 


Endnotes:

The information contained in this history has been taken directly from the Geelong Advertiser of 27th July 1909, The Bellarine Herald of May to October 1914 and the surviving committee minute books of 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1923, 1937-1970 and 1979 onwards which were fortunately off site at the time of the 1988 fire.

The minutes from early 1971 to 1979 appear to have been lost in the fire but, during research, a Greens Committee minute book was discovered covering much of this time which enabled development of the Club through those years to be included.

The information covering 1924 to 1937 was gleaned from an earlier, 1960’s, attempt to record the Club’s history and by drawing on the recollections of as many current and past members as could be found as well as snippets from The Argus newspaper of 1915, 1923, 1929, and 1933. The information from 2000 onwards is contemporary.

This history was researched, compiled and written by exCaptain, Board Member and President Tony Meagher along with Board Member and President Marilyn Mooney who also conducted the many interviews with past and present members to glean the information they held and edited the many drafts of this history. Many thanks also to all those members who helped, and continue to help, along the way