Murray Downs Golf & Country Club Resort

Murray Downs, 5th hole – ‘water, red sand, and more water’, Brendan James

What follows is one of the success stories of golf along the Murray River. Set in the heart of Kidman Reid’s historic Murray Downs sheep station, the Murray Downs Golf & Country Club Resort was constructed during the poker machine-fuelled boom of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Brothers Geoff and Ted Parslow created a magnificent layout of undulating winter couch fairways and large, true, fast-rolling penncross bent greens. Some of the greens have subtle breaks, others severe slopes, and often they lie at the end of what might have seemed an easy fairway journey.

Man-made lakes were included to help with irrigation and drainage. Native gums have matured and line all fairways. Throw in water hazards on several holes and some strategic, well-sculpted bunkers – filled with spectacular, ochre-coloured sand – and it is little wonder Murray Downs ranks among Australia’s most acclaimed inland courses. A five-minute drive from Swan Hill, it opened for play in 1991 and was swiftly voted best course on the pro-am circuit by the Victorian PGA. No two consecutive holes run in the same direction, and the wide open spaces leave this 6197-metre layout susceptible to the wind and a brute to contend with on a gusty day. There are several memorably difficult holes, none more so than the 5th, a 194-metre par-three. Standing beside the back markers sends a shiver up your spine as you gaze towards the flag and see nothing but water, red sand, a bit more water and a lot more sand. When the pin is positioned in the back right quarter of the green, it is a 210-metre carry over water and bunkers to reach safety. More bunkers litter the lay-up area, short of the green and to the left, making the more conservative play a scarcely less hazardous exercise.

Murray Downs even has its own version of Augusta National’s famous Amen Corner: the par-three 15th, par-five 16th and the particularly trying par-four 17th. The 15th is a classic hole. Like the 5th, it calls for a tee shot over water and sand to find the green. At 169 metres, length isn’t a problem for too many players; the bigger difficulty is landing your ball on the right level of the two tiered green, giving yourself a reasonable chance of two putts and making par. Accuracy is also paramount on the 472-metre 16th, a tight par-five where the driving zone is bordered by water on the left and sand to the right. The final approach to the green is startling, with four huge red sandy bunkers ringing the putting surface, which slopes dramatically from the front edge.  

The downhill 17th, at 376 metres, may not seem like a monster. But when you are standing on the fairway, or in the rough, with a long iron in your hand and an approach shot which demands that you avoid the water short and right of the green, you know the odds are against you. Thankfully, if you do find the green, putting is easier than on the previous two holes.

Water has been scarce in the region, with drought affecting the entire Murray River basin. Careful management of its water resources has helped Murray Downs withstand the ravages of the big dry and maintain a high standard of presentation.

Memorable holes

4th, 5th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th

Where to go

Murray Downs Dr, Swan Hill, Victoria 3585

Book a round

(03) 5033 1427

Where to stay

Murray Downs has a combination of hotel rooms and self-contained apartments on-site. Play-and stay packages are available.

Before/after your round

Explore the unspoilt, rugged Murray River as it winds its way through a 10 km section of national park. You can take a paddle steamer from Swan Hill’s historic port or book an overnight trip on a houseboat.

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