Long established as one of the go-to destinations on the Murray River, this 36-hole venue is set to further enhance its appeal with major course upgrades as part of a multi-million dollar reinvestment.
Lying three hours north of Melbourne’s CBD and nearly eight-and-a-half hours south-west of Sydney, Rich River has well and truly cemented itself as a destination golf venue and tournament host since opening 40 years ago.
The West Course was the original 18 holes on the land situated on the New South Wales side of the Murray River in Moama. However, it is the East Course that opened nearly a decade later that regularly receives higher acclaim. The club hopes the renovation work being overseen by Thomson Perrett Golf Design (TP Golf) will ultimately return the layout to the Top-100 ranked Public Access Courses in the country.
The redesigned East layout and slightly amended West Course are also set to benefit – for the first time in nearly 40 years – from a new irrigation system, which will be installed on the East Course in 2020 and the West the following year.
The club’s $6 million dollar investment into the golf facilities comes on the back of a major redesign of the expansive clubhouse and follows the addition of an 18-hole mini golf course, created by Richard Chamberlain. And while the club’s master-plan will make course changes that almost all and sundry will agree are set to be an improvement, the existing bones of both layouts are certainly enjoyable and will continue to attract visitors as the works progress.
The redesign work of the East will focus largely on the bunkers around the 6,200-metre-plus course. Currently populated with Peter Thomson’s trademark pot style traps from his course changes in the late 1990s, the bunkers of the East Course will be amended to be more visually fitting of the open landscape, with lower lips and wider profiles. A significant number of the existing bunkers will also be removed, whilst many of the remaining fairway hazards will be repositioned to be more in play for the distance players hit the ball in the modern game.
The pot bunkers were indeed somewhat aesthetically ill-fitting of the rest of the Geoff and Ted Parslow layout and the change in style will also alleviate an issue many regular players often faced, requiring more than one shot to extricate their ball from the sand.
Drainage work will also be a part of the bunker refurbishment, while the layout changes on both courses are aimed at bringing more risk and reward qualities, with wider fairways possessing preferred lines to achieve the best angles to attack the large greens.
RIGHT: The water left of the par-3 16th will come more into play when the redesign work is complete. PHOTO: Brendan James.
The putting surfaces incorporate significant undulation and surrounding mounds offer up a myriad of short game options when players miss a green.
Of the front nine holes on the East Course, the par-3 8th is one of the standout holes for mine, and work that begun in September on the formerly 145-metre one-shotter will unquestionably see it rise to become one of the better par-3s along the golf-rich banks of the Murray.
Played after consecutive side-by-side par-4s, the 8th will be bunkerless once the renovations are complete, and the water already surrounding three sides of the green will be brought more into play. New tees will also slightly change the angle of approach into the putting surface.
Among the other holes to be altered are two of my favourite holes on the entire property, the 16th and 17th, which come as part of a memorable four-hole stretch to close out the younger of Rich River’s courses.
The par-4 15th hole already contains some of the risk and reward values the redesign is aiming to spread throughout the rest of the course. The short par-4 measures just 330 metres from the white tees and can be challenged by longer hitters looking for late birdies or played safely by those with less fire power or a more conservative mindset.
“Currently populated with Peter Thomson’s trademark pot style traps … The bunkers of the East Course will be amended to be more visually fitting of the open landscape.”
Water lines the entire left side of the 15th and bunkers lie both short left and long right of the fairway, placing a premium on distance control for those taking less than driver from the tee. More aggressive players will need to find a narrow strip of fairway that cambers slightly towards the water, but will be rewarded with a far easier approach to the large, raised green where, like so many holes on the East Course, finding the same level as the pin is crucial to avoiding a three putt.
If there was a slight weak link in the closing stanza, it was perhaps the par-3 16th unless played in a significant wind. However, plans to bring the water short left of the green closer to the edge of the 144-metre hole’s putting surface are set to place some added pressure on club selection and execution.
Changes to the penultimate hole are set to begin this month, with the tee moved forward on the shortish par-4 to encourage more players to attempt to take on the carry over the water down the left of the dogleg left fairway. Previously, the precision required to find an island-like fairway at the 17th with a driver proved too great a risk, while the lay-up from the tee was also an extremely difficult shot. Again, the changes will see more birdies but unquestionably more bogies as well, with more players testing their mettle on a two-shot hole that always possessed great potential to be one of more interesting holes on the course.
Closing out the East Course, the par-5 18th is a true brute at 532 metres from the back tees. Rated the hardest hole on the layout, water once again features down the entire left side and combines with an ever-tightening fairway among the native trees to place great importance on accuracy on what is an extremely long hole.
Rich River’s West Course, despite not earning quite the same level of praise in years gone by, is an enjoyable and varied test when compared to the East.
The trees lining the fairways on the West are more dense and encroach more onto playing lines, which adds to the difficulty for the wayward player to extract their ball from. The greens are also typically smaller with subtle slopes, while also being consistently raised above the level of the fairways.
The West Course changes were some of the earliest completed as part of the club’s masterplan, with the previously non-descript par-5 16th converted into a risk and reward, driveable par-4 of less than 300 metres, followed by a mid-length par-3 played to the old par-5 green.
Once again the new holes are designed to bring more strategy into play for members and visitors to Rich River, which is also true of the manipulated 12th hole, where the green was moved to accommodate the new mini-golf course.
Formerly the No.1 rated hole on the West, the par-4 previously turned almost 90 degrees right around a lake that seemingly penalised less skilled players, who were forced to hit a long second shot over it. TP Golf has moved the putting surface closer to the water’s edge to once more challenge players’ nerves as to how aggressive they wish to be from the tee and their ability to execute when approaching the new green.
Rich River’s long-standing reputation as an outstanding option for golf trips – either exploring all the nation’s largest river has to offer in surrounding courses and wineries, or those choosing to spend their time exclusively on the expansive property – was built on two enjoyable and varied layouts.
“The club’s prioritising of its golf facilities for improvement makes this already popular destination, now a must visit …”
The game’s progression has seen the need to update the courses and a long held want to improve the layouts visually and from a playability standpoint is now starting to take shape and will only increase the resort’s appeal.
The new irrigation system should also prove a huge bonus for the club when battling the hot summers along the banks of the Murray. The club’s prioritising of its golf facilities for improvement makes this already popular destination, now a must visit to either see how far the courses have come or to experience two very good layouts for the first time.
LOCATION: Twenty Four Lane, Moama, NSW, 2731.
CONTACT: (03) 5481 3333
DESIGNERS: Geoff Parslow (West Course 1979 & East Course 1985); Peter Thomson, Mike Wolveridge & Ross Perrett (1998); Thomson Perrett Golf – TP Golf (ongoing).
SLOPE RATINGS: East Course: Black 122, White 120, Blue 116 and Red 121. West Course: Black 122, White 112, Blue 109 and Red 120. (Temporary ratings due to construction work at the time of going to print).
PLAYING SURFACES: Wintergreen couch (fairways) and Penncross bentgrass (greens).
GREEN FEES: 18 holes $50, 9 holes $30.
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Andrew Johnson.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Richard Caiolfa and Steve Loader.
MEMBERSHIP: Rich River offers a range of membership options to cater to every variety of golfer, including full membership for $737, six-day memberships for $620, a three-day membership option at $350, as well as a special introduction membership (conditions apply) for $260. See the club’s website for the full range of options.
RECIPROCAL CLUBS: ACT (Federal GC, Gungahlin Lakes, Yowani CC); NSW (Grange GC). There are 85 other clubs around Australia with 50 percent reciprocal rights in place. Full list available on the website.
STAY AND PLAY: With a 63-room accommodation complex on site, Rich River offers a range of room types and packages to suit a wide variety of trip types and budgets. Play and Stay packages are tailored to each individual group’s needs, with a number of extra activities available to compliment the golf and accommodation on offer.