Yarra Yarra Golf Club

Yarra Yarra, par-three 11th – ‘a national treasure’, Brendan James

First-time visitors to Yarra Yarra Golf Club, expecting the river with the similar name to play a pivotal role, might be surprised. The closest the Yarra gets to this acclaimed sandbelt course is the spot where it flows into Port Phillip, some 20 kilometres away as the crow flies. The club’s name – which means ‘flowing, flowing’ in Aboriginal language – dates back to 1911 when it moved to land at Rosanna, near the north bank of the Yarra.

Within 15 years it had to move again, thanks to the expansion of residential areas into Melbourne’s east. The club looked to the sandbelt, where golf course construction was booming, and chose a site at East Bentleigh where the club still sits today. Alex Russell, who’d partnered Dr Alister MacKenzie in creating Royal Melbourne’s West course, was asked to examine the location and prepare a design blueprint. He liked what he saw, reporting back: ‘I have no hesitation in saying that a first-class championship course could be erected there.’ Russell was right. Since Yarra Yarra’s earliest days in 1928, the world’s finest players have had nothing but praise for it. Some minor changes have been made in recent years, with the par-fives altered to combat advances in modern equipment. But this par-72 remains largely as Russell designed it more than 80 years ago. Particularly notable is the quality of its par-threes. These four holes, as a group, are unrivalled in Australia. In his Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Tom Doak rated Yarra Yarra’s par-threes the seventh-best in the world. The longest of them begins proceedings – a downhiller of 201 metres – but it is the shortest one, three holes later, that really gets the juices flowing.

On a calm day, the 118-metre 4th hole requires little more than a solid pitch uphill to find the heart of a narrow green. Yet the penalty for missing the target is severe, with deep bunkers ringing the tiered putting surface. When the wind is blowing hard in your face, and as you stand and address the ball with a mid-iron in your hands, the tee shot becomes even more daunting.

The 165-metre 11th, described by Peter Thomson as a ‘national treasure’, is Yarra Yarra’s most revered hole. It is an intimidating proposition, demanding precise club selection, pinpoint accuracy and a steady nerve with the putter. The green, which sits diagonally right-to-left to your approach, screams out for a perfectly controlled shot shaping from left to right. The putting surface is three tiered and one of the most dramatically contoured on the sandbelt, and the bunkers at the front are a wonderful example of Russell’s and Mick Morcom’s best work. The 15th hole, like the 11th, rests on your ability to judge the breeze. On windy days a well-struck long iron may be needed to negotiate the hole’s 145 metres. Even then, should you find the green, the job is nowhere near done. A steep, arcing tier through the middle of the green creates two distinct levels. If the flag is on the lower front level, you will curse yourself for landing on the higher back half, because putting from here is far more difficult than an escape from one of the deep greenside bunkers. Yarra Yarra is a private course but limited tee times are available for interstate and overseas golfers.

Memorable holes

1st, 4th, 5th, 9th, 11th, 15th and 18th

Where to go

567 Warrigal Rd, Bentleigh East, Victoria 3165

Book a round

(03) 9575 0595


Where to stay

Melbourne’s CBD is less than 25 minutes away via the Monash Freeway, with accommodation options to suit every budget.

Before/after your round

Go, if you dare, on a spooky hangman’s or ghost-seeker night tour of Old Melbourne Gaol. It is not merely Victoria’s oldest prison and the site of Ned Kelly’s hanging; it is also Australia’s most haunted building.

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