The Murray River region is home to the best value golf in Australia. There’s a quality mix of traditional and resort-style courses and standing alongside the best of them is the newest kid on the block.
The Murray River is a holidaymaker’s playground with an ideal year round climate, natural beauty, historical sites, great food and wine. There has, for many years, been an abundance of riches for the travelling golfer with more than two dozen courses dotted along the great river between Albury and Mildura.
The newest of these layouts, Black Bull, opened its first holes in 2010 with the remainder coming into play two years ago. In just seven years it has risen to become one of the most highly regarded courses along the majestic river.
Black Bull is quite different to all its neighbouring courses.
Most notably it is located south of the Murray on the Victorian side of the border – making it the first river course built since Wodonga Country Club opened for play in 1983 – long after poker machines had cease to fuel the development of the big Murray river clubs like Yarrawonga & Mulwala, Cobram-Barooga, Rich River and Murray Downs. All, of course, are found just north of the border in NSW.
On course, Black Bull offers relatively wide fairways, big greens, expansive bunkering and subtle mounding. There have been trees planted across the property, but mostly form a green barrier between the course and the surrounding residential project – the Silverwoods Golf and Lifestyle Resort.
In fact, one of the endearing characteristics of playing a round on this Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett-designed layout is the open space. The spacious fairways, punctuated by bunkers of varying shapes and sizes, expose players to breezes coming off nearby Lake Mulwala. These winds add to the challenge of avoiding several manmade lakes and streams that come into play on nearly a dozen holes.
The 329-metre opening hole offers a taste of what is to come with a wide fairway bounded by a lake to the right of the driving zone. Subtle bumps and hollows throughout the fairway give a natural look and feel as well as adding to the challenge of your approach shot into a slightly elevated green protected by two front edge bunkers.
Water and sand combine to really step up the challenge when you enter the ‘Bull Ring’ – a stretch of three difficult holes starting at the 4th hole that pays homage to Black Bull’s Angus cattle farm origins.
When you enter the Bull Ring, the flag colours change from yellow to red and there’s an entrance ‘gate’ like you might find on the set of a western movie. Pass through the gate and to the left of the tee there is a life-size black bull statue. It’s all great theatre and visiting golfers can hardly resist posing for a selfie with the bull.
The trio starts with a 179-metre par-3, which demands a tee shot to be played over water, before heading into two par-4s with the capacity to destroy your round if you mis-hit into the chain of small lakes that lie through the middle of the Bull Ring. The last leg is also the toughest test at Black Bull – a 390-metre par-4 that often plays into the prevailing wind and features one of the narrowest fairways on the course.
The Bull Ring is Black Bull at its toughest and if you can get through here relatively unscathed you can aspire to making a good score for the day. One of the best birdie opportunities comes at the ultimate hole – a 478-metre par-5 that leads from the heart of the course down to the edge of the beautiful Lake Mulwala. A wide fairway gradually narrows the closer you get to the green as the water cuts in from the left, so there is some risk in trying to reach the green in two blows.
The 6,256-metre par-72 layout plays a little shorter thanks to the immaculate Grand Prix couch fairways, while the G2 bentgrass greens are superb and were widely praised by the field that teed up in the Victorian Senior Open, won by Peter Senior, earlier this year.
The club will share hosting responsibilities for the event with nearby Yarrawonga-Mulwala Golf Club Resort again next year, which is not surprising because Black Bull is impressive.
And unlike a lot of courses built in the past decade, it won’t cost you a bomb to play with 18 holes at Black Bull costing just $48, which makes it one of Golf Australia’s Top-50 Best Value Courses in the country.
ADDRESS: Phillip Hyland Drive, Yarrawonga, Victoria.
CONTACT: (03) 5744 0044; www.blackbullgc.com.au
DESIGNER: Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett (2010 and 2015).
GREEN FEES: $48 (18 holes), $42 (cart).
PLAYING SURFACES: Grand Prix couch (fairways), G2 bentgrass (greens).
PGA PROFESSIONAL: James McCully.
MEMBERSHIPS: The focus at Black Bull is on public-access play. Only land-owners in the Silverwoods Golf and Lifestyle Resort are eligible to take up membership. Contact the club for more details.
ACCOMMODATION: There are a variety of options of places to stay in Yarrawonga.
We recommend the Golfers Resort Yarrawonga, which was developed by PGA Professional Glenn McCully and his wife, Jan, to host the Glenn McCully Golf Schools. Today, it is the longest running privately owned residential golf school in Australia.
With their quality facilities the resort is also very popular with golfers as a base to play some of the best inland courses in Australia. Their Murray River Golf Escape packages offer great value for money and have the flexibility to suit the needs of all groups. Check out their packages at www.golfersresort.com.au