An excerpt from coffee table book, 'Honesty Box Golf Courses of Western Victoria'.
Strange things can happen at Birregurra Golf Club.
On the morning this writer visits the quaint course near Colac, there is a jogger surging up the ninth fairway, a one-on-one personal training session happening on the second tee and an unconfirmed brown snake sighting near the outdoor toilet.
Seated beside the clubhouse atop a steep embankment overlooking the Barwon River, Club president Tim Farquharson and former president Des Read have many tales to tell including one involving a silver Mercedes-Benz ‘parked’ in the car park with at least one child in the back seat.
“The people got out of the car to just have a look at the view and, next minute, they look around and the car went straight down the hill and ended up in the river with the child in the back seat,” Farquharson says.
“They got the child out of the car, it wasn’t fully submerged. It’s a funny story because everyone was ok.”
Pictured (from left): Former Birregurra Golf Club presidents Des Read and Tim Farquharson.
Farquharson - a fifth generation Birregurra resident - is 40 years old but has already amassed 10 club championships at the small nine-hole course which has some of the narrowest fairways and smallest greens you’ll find.
He holds the men’s course record, a 3-under 63 playing off a handicap of 3, is in his second stint as president and learnt the game from his grandparents who were life members, one of whom was 17-time women’s club champion Joyce Farquharson.
“It was a good course to learn how to play because you were always chipping and putting and so when you went to the bigger courses in Melbourne, greens were a lot bigger, fairways were a lot wider and probably golf seemed a little bit easier in some ways.”
Birregurra has been at its current site since 1913 and the course has two sections - five holes above the embankment and four holes below it.
On the lowest part of the course, the current fourth and fifth holes shared the landscape with the local cricket ground until the 1970s.
“Golf was only played in winter so they didn’t clash,” Farquharson says. “There was a fence around the cricket ground, [golfers] just played over the fence.”
Today, Read patrols the same area on a mower as one of the club’s trusted volunteer greenkeepers.
It’s generally a therapeutic exercise for the 20-year member but mowing the same bank which claimed the Mercedes can easily lock up his wheels.
“Nearly ended up in the river,” Read says.
“I started heading over towards the church, north-west, and all of a sudden it wanted to go south-east, the mower, which was going straight down towards that big gum tree.
“Fortunately, I parked it down between the two big trees. It was slippery.”
Click on the image above to watch a video of 'Niagara' - Birregurra's dramatic par-three second hole.
Birregurra has just over 80 members.
Read and Farquharson are keen to mention other past and present volunteers who’ve helped build and preserve their fascinating Club.
They include Norman McGeary, who was instrumental in building the watering system, Rosie Flavel, her mother, Julie, who played golf at Birregurra into her late 90s and life members June Flakemore and her husband, Ken, who died earlier this year.
“He’d swear a lot, he’d tell some good stories, but he put his heart and soul into the Club,” says Farquharson. “If he knew a frost was coming, he’d get up at three o’clock in the morning and turn the water system on.”
Today, Ian Henderson – the local vet and long-serving Club secretary - shares mowing duties with Read and oversees the watering system.
“Nearly every night for about 20 minutes over summer, [Ian’s] down here to start the pump,” Farquharson says. “We haven’t got an automated pump.”
Ian’s son, Lachie Henderson, is a member and approaching a 200-game AFL career for Brisbane, Carlton and, since 2016, Geelong.
Jack Henderson, Ian’s uncle, has a hut named in his memory on the second tee - a dramatic par-three nicknamed ‘Niagara’ with a 45-metre drop from tee to green.
According to Read: “It’s a pretty easy shot but a lot of people top the ball, shank it, slice it into the river.”
Perhaps karma has ruined the scorecards of some who haven’t paid the honesty box at the clubhouse or seen the sign which warns: “Tickets to be produced on request or DOUBLE FEE paid on the spot.”
“It’s all a scare tactic I suppose,” Farquharson says.
To order a copy of 'Honesty Box Golf Courses of Western Victoria' , click here