Timboon Golf Club: Honesty Box Golf Courses of Western Victoria

Updated: Mar 7

About 15 minutes’ drive inland from Port Campbell, Timboon Golf Club is home to a 14-hole golf course and a cohort of members whose friendly wagering makes every shot count.

Twenty or so locals play a $5 winner-takes-all net competition but the real action is the 50 cent ‘units’ played for on every single shot.

“We play for everything. Timboon is famous for the amount of units they play,” says life member and former secretary Bill Norton.

Timboon Golf Club life member Bill Norton.

‘Units’ can be won and lost and there are dozens of types because Timboon’s members have adopted previously unheard-of rules from other clubs.

Birdies, greens in regulation, and up and downs from bunkers are worth one unit, a ‘ferret’ (chip-in) and an eagle are worth 2 units and a ‘gopher’ (hole-out from a bunker) carries three units.

More amusing are the ways units can be lost: a ‘kangaroo’ (out of bounds), ‘Burke and Wills’ (lost ball), ‘snake’ (three putts), ‘python’ (four putts) and an ‘anaconda’ (more than four putts).

“A [‘snake killer’] is when, in anger, one buries the clubhead in the ground,” Norton says.

One Timboon member discovered, during a competition in Warrnambool, that a ‘FISH’ was used to describe an air swing and was an acronym for ‘f***, it’s still here.’

‘Flaggies’ (sinking a putt longer than the flagstick) has also been a popular unit at Timboon.

A more conventional form of gambling at Timboon is the annual footy tipping competition which has its own tab on the club website’s homepage. The worst performer for the season wins the ‘Galah Trophy’ which sits proudly in the clubhouse.

Originally a nine-hole course, Timboon has been at its current site since 1964, was extended to 12 holes and, in the 1980s, two more were added including one hole on the site of a former rubbish tip. For competitions, four holes can be played again from alternative tees to make an 18-hole layout.

“This is the hardest-rated course in Corangamite, so if we go to any other course in Corangamite, which includes Portland and Heywood, we lose shots off our handicap; I reckon it’s a bit rough,” Norton says.

The men’s course record (3-under) is held by Wayne Drayton and Alistair Gillin - a 23-time Club champion who won 19 out of 20 titles from 1995 to 2014.

Another club stalwart is Barry Cook who won 15 titles from 1962 to 1983 and still plays regularly. In 1974, Cook was playing one group ahead of his dad, Gordon, and had a hole-in-one on Timboon’s scenic 120-metre seventh. Minutes later, Gordon aced the same hole.

Timboon features striking gum trees and steep hills which make carts popular.

“We built an extension of the machinery shed to put carts in probably about [2006],” Norton says. “It’s not big enough, it’s filled up; reckon we should have built it twice as big.”

Carts would have been no substitute for the mode of transport used during Timboon’s summer twilight competitions in the 1970s.

“This bloke called Bill Neal, before carts, he had a Holden ute and a couple of us would sit on the tailgate and go round the course. He’d stop the car, get out of his ute, play his shot.”

One curious incident in the Club’s history was the discovery, several decades ago, of an unmarked grave adjacent to the first fairway, believed to have been the resting place of a young girl since the early 20th century.

“A [mower] went ‘clank’, and they got out and had a look and found it was the concrete of this grave and they didn’t know it was there,” Norton says.

“There was no marker, no date, no nothing.”

The Club erected a rail to mark the grave and make sure it wasn’t hit again.

Today, Timboon is handling the impact of the coronavirus; the absence of bar takings has been offset partly by the resignation of a full-time greenkeeper in early 2020 and a small spike in membership.

Meanwhile, three mobile phone towers on the course continue to provide good income.

Timboon has given back too. Over 18 years, it’s raised just under $280,000 for the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Good Friday Appeal.

A fully-fledged honesty box Club, Timboon used to pay someone to sit by the first tee and make sure visiting golfers didn’t forget to pay; a job worth about 20 per cent of each green fee.

“We actually made more money by paying a bloke to sit there,” Norton says. “Boring job; I don’t think anyone else would do it.”