Riversdale Golf Club

Riversdale’s trickiest test, the par-four 5th, Brendan James

Victoria’s second oldest club, formed 18 months after Royal Melbourne, began life in humble circumstances as the Surrey Hills Golf Club. After a brief stint at Camberwell the club moved to its present location in 1927. The land was at that time a country estate known as St John’s Wood and owned by Sir Redmond Barry, the judge who famously sentenced bushranger Ned Kelly to be hanged. Noted designer Alex Russell prepared the new layout, which was officially opened in 1930 when the legendary Walter Hagen was paired with Joe Kirkwood in an exhibition match against Victoria’s two best amateurs, Mick Ryan and Ivo Whitton. Riversdale’s links with amateur golf are strong, stretching back to the club’s earliest days as host of the Riversdale Cup. The cup, first played for in 1896, is Australia’s second oldest amateur tournament and is today ranked among the top 50 amateur events in the world. Past winners of the treasured trophy include Whitton (four times), Harry Williams (three times) and Kevin Hartley (10 times). More recently Robert Allenby, Brendan Jones, Aaron Baddeley and Michael Sim have all triumphed at Riversdale on their way to successful professional careers.

The calibre of winners speaks volumes for the quality and testing nature of the layout. Apart from some modifications during the 1990s, when Riversdale’s bunkers were remodelled and its fairways converted to Santa Ana couch grass, the par-72 course remains as Russell designed it.

The clubhouse sits high on a ridge, overlooking the holes that lie across the slope to the north. Many of them play either to the edge or over a picturesque chain of ponds on the lowest parts of the course. The opening two holes are situated here, and play over the water, before the layout moves south of the clubhouse and winds through higher, more varied terrain. Riversdale’s shortest hole, the par-three 3rd, marks the start of a terrific stretch of holes. Only 146 metres long, it is played across the side of a hill. A pearshaped green is surrounded by five deep bunkers, demanding that your tee shot be struck precisely into the ‘fat’ of the putting surface.

Riversdale’s toughest test is the parfour 5th, which measures 392 metres from the back markers. Players are faced with a blind tee shot to a fairway that gets narrower the further you hit the ball. A scheme of six bunkers left of the cut portion is a real no-go zone, yet on this side of the fairway lies the best approach into the green. Three bunkers lining the end of the fairway to the right are designed to catch any ill-struck approach shots.

It has often been said that a good short hole that the average player can birdie and the elite player can easily bogey is a worthy addition to any golf course. Riversdale’s downhill 10th is such a hole. A 267-metre par-four, it harks back to a bygone era before modern equipment sent golf balls extraordinary distances. Yet this has not diminished this tiny’s hole appeal. The green can be driven by good players, but to do so they must bravely thread their ball past the fairway bunkers and on to the putting surface without deviating into the water that surrounds the target on three sides. The recommended strategy for most players is to hit their tee shot short of the fairway traps, leaving a downhill pitch to the green.

Riversdale is a private members’ club but access is available for interstate and overseas visitors by prior arrangement with club management.

Memorable holes

3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 14th and 18th

Where to go

Cnr Huntingdale & High Street rds, Mt Waverley, Victoria 3149

Book a round

(03) 9807 1411


Where to stay

Riversdale is only 25 minutes’ drive east of the Melbourne CBD, where accommodation options are plentiful.

Before/after your round

Visit the state-of-the-art Melbourne Aquarium. Wander through glass tunnels and into shark-fi lled tanks and view thousands of creatures from the Southern Ocean.

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