The story of the Bannockburn Golf Club is similar to that of many golf courses; even the world famous courses of Royal Melbourne and Huntingdale had their beginnings on temporary leased sites until finally securing a permanent home.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”
― Muhammad Ali
The aforementioned quote succinctly summarises the history and story of the Bannockburn Golf Club. The course and facilities we now enjoy at Bannockburn are testament to the hard work and persistence of our visionary founding members and the standards they set for those that followed to continue to improve for the benefit of all to come.
The result of imagination and dedication sees today a course with Santa Anna couch from tee to green, a fully automated watering system utlising the asset of a five megalitre dam, a modern clubhouse powered by solar electricity and a newly refurbish junior clubhouse designed to engage the next generation of Bannockburn golfer.
A Brief History of the Bannockburn Golf Course
The First Course
This course was situated on private property about 400m west of the township. It opened in about 1920 and it was a nine hole layout on a flat, open area which was bordered by Bruce’s Creek. The original “clubhouse” was a large log which was surrounded by stumps and this was where the members gathered to socialize and for presentations. In later years they were able to access an old shepherd’s hut as their clubrooms.
The Second Course
In 1956 the members relocated to another site which was west of, and about 1.5 km from the township. It was owner by the Gillespie family and it bordered on the Bannockburn Bush area. Access was through the bush via a track that wound around and across the back of the Bannockburn School’s Pine Plantation. It was a challenging 2560 metres (2800 yds), 9 holes layout that featured several large trees. The scrapes were often fenced off to keep the sheep that grazed the area from damaging them. The members built a clubhouse which originally had an earthen floor.
Negotiations to purchase the land from the Gillespie’s were unsuccessful so the land was leased for 6 months for each year.
In 1969 the course and clubhouse were destroyed by a major bushfire. Club records and memorabilia were lost. Support from local Geelong Clubs who donated items such as the Championships Board, which came from Torquay, helped the club re-establish.
The Current Course
In 1967 the club began the process of trying to lease land for a new 18 holes course on what is the current site. In 1968 the club accepted the offer for a 7 year lease of the new area. The 1969 major bushfires caused damage to preliminary works but it actually helped as it cleaned out much of the scrubby undergrowth.
Mr. Max Kroger, a Geelong Golfing identity, planned the layout in an area, which at this time was a mix of scrub and plantation sugar gums. The committee of the time led by President, Kevin Warburton and Secretary Ray Coles spent countless hours setting this up.
The first nine holes were available for play by April 1971 and the second nine was opened November 1972.
The course was essentially a seven to eight, month season course. The length of the season depended upon the quality of the rainfall that fell throughout the season. The playing surfaces varied greatly and ranged from fairly good to very poor.
Decisions were made by various Committees over the years and most, which were driven by individuals, led to many of the improvements we have today.
In Feb 1977 and instigated by Stan Madden, a dam was built to catch runoff from the course and the gully that crosses through the course.
During late 1988 and early 1989 a system of pipes was run around the course so that every tee could be watered. This was another of Stan Madden’s projects as was the follow up planting of turf for the tees.
In late 1980 the course was also connected to town water.
In the early 1990s, John Cole began experimenting with Couch grass on the tees and as this was successful John and Bryan Harmon proposed that we try Couch on some fairways. This happened on the now 4th and in subsequent years the hills on the 2nd, the 9th and the 18th were planted successfully. This work effectively changed the worst 4 fairways into the best 4.
About this time Murray Satchell also started a program, designed to extend Stan Madden’s work, to water around the scrapes. In 1998 Murray proposed that we attempt to plant couch around all the scrapes that now had water around them and this was successful.
Back in 1990 we signed a 21 year lease for the land but increasing rents and the possibility of the Government selling off the area led to efforts to purchase the land. Following continued efforts and numerous meetings in 1998 we were able to buy the land for $42,500. John Cole and Ivor Steven did a great job to bring about this result.
During 2000, Maurie Lynch, Bryan Harmon and Neil Smith, pushed hard for new clubrooms as the old ones were in need of major repairs. This happened throughout 2000. The Club borrowed $100,000 for the project
Back in 1992 Murray Satchell, Glenn Brown and Ivor Steven met with representatives of Barwon Water to discuss the possibility of the Golf Club accessing recycled water when and if sewerage works were to take place in Bannockburn.
By the early 2000’s Bannockburn had sewer and the settling ponds were about 1.5 km from the course. Several feasibility studies, all which were too expensive, were undertaken as to how we could get this water to the course. As Bannockburn continued to grow there became anxiousness by Barwon Water to dispose of the water. This meant that earlier options which we couldn’t afford were shelved and Barwon Water paid for the pipeline and allowed the water to be stored in our existing dam.
In 2005, Stephen Fenwick, Bryan Harmon and Murray Satchell signed a 21 year agreement with Barwon Water for the supply of recycled water to the course. By Feb 2006 water was running into the Dam.
Mid 2006, Clive Carroll, alerted us about Commonwealth Community Water Grants, that were available. Richard Franklin and Shire Officers made an application for $50,000 which was successful so work began of installing an automated, electric watering system to six holes. Murray Satchell and Bryan Harmon worked to apply successfully for the next two rounds ($100,000 and $50,000) The Shire contributed twice with Grants of $30,000 and the club borrowed another $50,000. Over a period of three years the whole project was completed and 99% of this work was done by a handful of volunteers who worked tirelessly over this period of time.
We soon discovered that we needed more than just water so in 2008 Murray Satchell proposed that we reinvigorate all the previously couched areas and that we begin a program of couching the rest of the course.
Over the next 4 years Bryan Harmon would apply to the Shire for a Community Grant, Clive Carroll, Doug McKenna and Bruce Phillips would prepare the area and we would source sprigs, which Bryan and Doug McKenna would cart from Anglesea. A volunteer team would then plant the sprigs and they would be watered in.
In 2011-12 as a result of the changes to the new handicapping system a new set of men’s tees were developed so as to provide variety. Proposed by Murray Satchell they were finally brought into operation in 2012. In 2015 extensive improvements were made to them by Richard Dalton on a bobcat and Doug McKenna and Len Bagley who carted all the soil around the course.
The Decade 2010 to 2020
Refurbishment of the old clubrooms to include “Junior Club Rooms,”, woodshed and storage bays for ride on golf carts.
Installation of solar panels.
A BBQ area beside the clubs was built following suggestions from Doug McKenna
Shade sails were installed over an outdoor seating area in front of the clubhouse.
2010 Following the 2009 fire in the tractor shed a newer, larger shed was built from insurance money, input from members and Doug McKenna’s contacts.
The couch grass planting program was completed.
Over the years a schedule of regular fertilizing and weed spraying has seen an increase in both these activities as the course is now in good playing condition for 12 months of the year and it requires the extra attention.
The quality of the fairways has improved greatly although this has meant year- round mowing. Most of this fairway mowing has been done by Len Bagley while the tees and surrounds were done by Murray Satchell and when he stopped Robert Prince.
As of 2021 we are still a sand-scrape course but, discussions and studies are about to commence to check the feasibility of installing and then maintaining greens.
Working on the theory that our volunteers deserve quality machinery to make their tasks easier there have been a number of machinery upgrades
In 1010 and after the fire in 2009, a new Ferguson Tractor and Howard Stealth Slasher were purchased to replace the destroyed equipment
2011 The AGM ride on mower was replaced by a Kubota 60inch cut diesel mower. This was used to mow the tees and the surrounds.
- A spike roller was purchased. Doug McKenna organised wood sales of $3000 which was matched by a Shire Grant.
2016 The Howard Stealth slasher was traded in and replaced by a Snake three deck slasher which was designed for fairway work.
2018 The old blue Fordson was sold, the Fergie became the backup tractor and, a new John Deere Tractor was purchased This along with the Snake Mower became a dedicated mowing unit.
2020 A second, slightly smaller Kubota was purchased. This is used for the tees and surrounds while the original mower is now used in the rough.
The work continues as the club strives forward……..
Written by Murray Satchell Life Member & Unofficial Historian Bannockburn Golf Club