East Framlingham Golf Club: Honesty Box Golf Courses of Western Victoria

So remote is its location 25 minutes’ drive from Warrnambool and surrounded by dairy farms, East Framlingham Golf Club isn’t a course golfers stumble across by chance.

If you’re there, you’ve heard about the nine-hole course’s serene location bordering the Hopkins River, impressive couch fairways, slick greens and very relaxed attitude towards the game.

An aerial view of East Fram's par-four 5th with the Hopkins River to the right.

“We have no rules,” says life member Ray Eccles.

“In fact, we had a bloke here one day, he said, ‘that bloke out there, he’s in thongs and a singlet’. I said, ‘did he pay?’ He said ‘yes’. I said, ‘well, what’s the problem?’"

“We aim to be really friendly and generous and teach young people to play golf and look after older people,” says Club secretary Judy Rafferty, a former yacht racer who came to the Club five years ago knowing next to nothing about golf or golf clubs.

“We don’t pressure them too much to ‘hurry up, walk faster’, or ‘improve your score’,” she says.

“This Golf Club building and course is like the hub for the whole community.”

“They have functions, parties, wakes, ongoing education, all sorts of stuff here now.”

Pictured (from left): Life member Ray Eccles, captain Tony Grundy and secretary Judy Rafferty.

Due to COVID-19, ‘East Fram’ is breaking new ground offering online bookings and payment via local website, Book A Tee. Pre-coronavirus, members never booked and visitors only paid using the honesty box though there were always a few rogue operators.

“Some of the excuses for non-payment,” Rafferty recalls, ‘My wallet is missing’, ‘I only can pay by EFTPOS’, which we now can assist with, ‘I'm only playing 9 holes (thus I don't have to pay)’, ‘I'll pay next week’.

“But the best excuse came this summer. He wanted a reduced fee or no fee to play as there were too many flies.”

East Fram can be traced back to the 1920s when returned World War I servicemen found solace on, what was then, farmland.

“They were probably shell-shocked and they needed to get together and do something so they just started hitting balls around in our paddocks and they really got a liking for it,” Rafferty says.

“Other people got involved and neighbouring farmers lent them paddocks to hit through so the Golf Club was developed.”

The golfers eventually bought the land from the farmers.

There is no fence around East Fram today and the Club is privately owned by its members though open to all, even stray herds of cattle.

Until last year, the Club was having problems with an overpopulation of koalas.

“When the koalas [are] feeding, they lean over and pull the limb back to feed and they break it off and it drops so you’d have broken limbs, you’d have mess [under] the trees, they were killing the trees,” Eccles says.

Approximately 200 koalas were relocated and a healthy population continues to thrive in treetops on the banks of the Hopkins.

Lucky golfers can spot platypuses in the river, sight kangaroos and wallabies and avoid interference from crows.

“The crows like the coloured balls,” Rafferty says. “If you’ve got a pink ball or a yellow ball, they’re the ones they’ll take.

“[They] put them in their gob and fly off.”

The tee shot at East Fram's par-five seventh.

East Fram is a great advertisement for country golf.

Walking the par-four fifth hole, which hugs the Hopkins at the low point of the course, you feel completely offline from the world.

Day-dreaming won’t help you at the par-five seventh where you must drive blind over a hill covered in bluestones including one painted with a bulls-eye.

Of East Fram’s 125 or so members, Rafferty estimates that 85 per cent hail from Warrnambool.

Modest annual subs of $330 keep the club ticking and its annual ‘Super Sunday’ golf and raffle in late January is vital to offset money lost from shutting the clubhouse amid the coronavirus.

Daylight savings twilight golf - $25 for nine holes and dinner - has traditionally been a good money spinner and green fee takings have spiked amid COVID because of less competition from other sports.

All day golf will set you back $15 - a bargain by anyone’s estimation.