Scrub to Club
Compiled and edited by Bruce Lidbury 2012
This booklet is dedicated to the wonderful people of Tuross Head, who continually demonstrate true community spirit by selflessly donating their time, energy and resources to the advancement of Tuross Head.
The information contained herein is as accurate as many fading memories will allow. Many other details have been gleaned from various written sources. The real factual content surely can be derived from the many photographs taken by those who kept a record as the Course progressed.
As visitors arrive at the top of the hill above the village of Tuross Head, the viewing area on Hector McWilliam Drive presents a magnificent panorama, overlooking the broad expanse of Coila Lake, the vast Pacific Ocean with Coila Beach stretching away to Bingi Point, and directly below, the green belt of Tuross Head Golf Course – arguably one of the most picturesque scenes on the South Coast of N.S.W.
From the Southern Star, April 1984
Imagine this same hillside covered with tall, densely packed casuarina forest and low-growing scrub, as it was prior to the building of a golf course.
The idea for a golf course had been in the minds of many locals, none more so than Tom and Pat Dunwoodie, pharmacy proprietors and their close friends, Dennis and Jacqui Morton, fruit shop owners, when in the late 1970’s, they returned from their regular round of golf at Moruya each weekend.
“What a great place for a golf course!” they thought as they stopped at the viewing area to admire the scenery.
The beginning of survey, Nov. 1981
And so, with the birth of this idea came the first stirrings of activity that were to eventually result in the construction of the Tuross Head Golf Course.
Not too many of today’s locals are aware that a golf course of sorts was built by developers along the waterfront in the 1920’s. A 16mm film made by Hector McWilliam in 1927 to promote his beloved Tuross shows golfers from Batemans Bay, Cooma, Moruya and Queanbeyan teeing off in the “Tuross Links Gold Cup Tournament” (won by Cooma). This area was soon divided up into building lots as it was unable to be maintained properly.
In 1956, a nine-hole course with sand greens was constructed near the present shopping centre, but it closed in the 1960’s due to lack of maintenance. In 1968, a plan was drawn up for yet another golf course as part of a sub-division design by Rygate and West Surveyors, but nothing eventuated. It was to be a par 33, 2 540 yard 9-hole course situated where today’s course is.
Looking down the old 1st fairway – today’s 7th. 1984
Fairway construction August 1984
The Dunwoodie idea was discussed among some keen golfers and interested locals, and a steering committee was formed to begin negotiations with Council. Don Cullen (real estate agent) became the first President and Dennis Morton the first Secretary. Debentures were issued to enable investigation of the idea. After lengthy delays caused by burocratic red-tape from a reluctant Council, 20 hectares of land near the Bowling Club was offered as well as another parcel of land near the Princes Highway turn-off as an alternative.
The Southern Star newspaper of April 15, 1981, under the heading “Nine or 18 holes… Tuross golf decision Saturday” tells of a meeting to be held in the Tuross head Progress Hall to determine which site would be accepted.
The alternative site for the Tuross Head Golf Course
That meeting decided to utilise the 20 hectares in town as water would be available, whereas the land near the highway had no such facility. Council preferred the highway site but reluctantly agreed to give over the other for “development and temporary management.” This land had been bequeathed by Hector McWilliam to be used as “Public Reserve.” Only four people at the meeting disagreed, with the majority believing that there was insufficient catchment area at the highway site, the cost of a large dam was too high, it was too far from town and not within walking distance, and volunteer labour was more available close to town. Many now believe that the land at the junction of the Princes Highway and Hector McWilliam Drive would have been a better choice as it could have accommodated 18 holes.
The meeting indicated overwhelming public support from the small village population, resulting in 130 financial members with a nomination fee of $15 and an annual subscription of $10.
In November, 1981, the “Tuross Lakes Country Club Ltd was formed as a public company.
The highway site
Unfortunately, the initial burst of enthusiasm began to wane as the committee realised the monumental task of carving a golf course out of the side of a hill and the huge costs involved. There were also lengthy delays over negotiations with Council regarding the lease agreement. Progress was frustratingly slow.
Meanwhile, fundraising continued through progressive dinners and endless raffles, as well as government grants.
The story goes that President Don Cullen, on a visit to Council one day, was horrified to see a plan displayed on Council’s wall dividing the golf course area up into building lots. A letter was whisked off to the N.S.W. Minister for Lands seeking his assistance. Thus pressure was applied to Council to “get on with it” and finally a lease agreement was signed in 1983.
A push to “get moving” came from local tradesmen, who had to travel to Moruya or Narooma once a month for “Tradies Day”. They appealed to the Committee to stop “sitting on the money” and start spending it on some real course development so that they could play golf in Tuross.
During all of this delay with little being done on the course, Warren Wenban, employed in the Council Building Department and a Tuross resident for some time, became so frustrated that, along with Glen Sullivan (Tuross pest controller), turned up on a Sunday with his own bobcat and began to clear some land towards the top of the course which was not as thick as the lower portions.
Work had finally begun!!
The 3rd fairway 1984 (today’s 9th)
2nd Fairway (today’s 8th) October 1985
Bodalla bulldozer clearing below 3rd green (today’s 9th)
Minor clearing along 4th fairway (today’s 1st)
The involvement of Warren Wenban resulted in him obtaining a contour map of the area, and he laid out a course to scale with the idea of gaining as much yardage as possible in the limited area available. This was different to the layout suggested by the original steering committee which had the fairways running due south and north alternately i.e. straight up and down the hill – “exhausting for golfers and unplayable for older members”.
By measuring the area, it was discovered that a course was feasible if they could “borrow” a little of the unused Monash Avenue at the bottom of the hill. A plan was drawn up on December 20, 1983, endorsing the new layout and the Committee handed over $2 540 to commence work.
Warren Wenban: “Ron Cox, Glen Sullivan and myself measured the course with a 30 yard tape – no mean feat considering the scrub and the bog.”
Ken Brown, Engineers Department with Eurobodalla Shire Council, was instrumental in surveying the area and in keeping Council motivated. A meeting of debenture holders was held and any animosity from Wenban’s “precipitous action” was resolved and he was voted in charge of course construction, and he used his bobcat to rough out a few fairways along Hector McWilliam Drive, which was relatively clear.
Warren Wenban: “Tom Dunwoodie, observing the difficulty that the bobcat was having with the casuarina scrub, personally handed me $1 000 to hire heavier machinery. A D-6 dozer was dry-hired and the remaining three fairways were roughed out in early 1982.”
Looking down the 2nd fairway towards Lake Coila (today’s 8th)
Bulldozer creating drain across 3rd (today’s 9th) fairway- July, 1985
Volunteer workers spent countless hours during the week and on weekends doing whatever they could to help.
Wally Barker and Dennis Morton travelled to Ulladulla on a Friday to hire a “ditch-witch” and spent the entire weekend digging trenches around the course, returning the machine on Monday – exhausting work but very satisfying, as real progress was being made. 1 400 metres of water pipeline was laid in one weekend!
Glen Shearer, Council employee and Tuross resident, would often spend much of Friday, Saturday and Sunday operating the Council’s ditch-witch to lay many more water pipes. Unfortunately, no-one bothered to draw a map of the whereabouts of these pipes, and many an accident occurred with burst lines!
To assist with the clearing of the scrub, RegEndall, resident of Kyla Park, would lend his old grey “Fergy” tractor to slash the rough fairways where bracken fern and stones were abundant. However, as the tractor was not registered to travel on the roads, Warren Wenban quickly gained Reg a temporary permit from the R.T.A. – a simple problem solved.
“We carved out a bit of a track down the low part of the course,” explained Reg. While they worked, a few locals protested about the destruction of trees, but they continued on regardless – how else could they build the course?
Dec. 1984 – Wally Barker preparing to lay underground water pipe
On another occasion, Vern and Phil Dessent, having completed a large operation around Braidwood, returned and donated the use of their excavator to continue breaking up the extensive scrub to create fairways. Unfortunately, their machine became hopelessly bogged in front of the present 1st tee for up to a month, and it took a bulldozer and a grader to eventually pull it out.
Ron Cox: “I shopped around and got a lend of a backhoe off Ted Eagar and spent six weeks of my holidays clearing some fairways. I remember when we were clearing the 6th fairway, it was so thick the only way to see where I was going, Warren held up a white flag where the proposed green was to be. Finding this was going to be too slow, I knew some dairy farmers at Bodalla, so after ringing up the Co-Op, they said we could have a lend of a D6 bulldozer provided we could find a qualified driver. We only had to put fuel in, the rest was free. I rang a good friend of mine, Ack Weyman, who worked for Council at the time, he said yes and the fairways were knocked down and heaped up.
“I often saw Ack and one day he asked how everything was going, and I said jokingly, ‘Good, but what we really needed was a grader to level it out a bit’. We couldn’t believe it, the next weekend out came Ack in a grader.
“How did we mow? Well a lot was done by Christine Taylor pushing a lawn mower. When it wore out, she brought over an old ride-on. With all this being too much, we ended up getting some old gang mowers and an old tractor.
“Christine and Michael Taylor supplied endless amounts of raffle trays consisting of fish, prawns, lobsters, oysters and mussels – what a team we had!”
The excavator driven by AckWeyman
August 1984 – mound in front of 9th tee (today’s 6th)
Looking up the 1st fairway (today’s 7th) back towards the Bowling Club
A notice to members dated June 13, 1984, notified members that the annual fees would be increased to $25 and $12.50 for juniors, and that it “is anticipated that the Club will have at least 6 holes playable using temporary greens by Christmas ’84, with final completion scheduled for Christmas 1985.”
The steering committee’s cost estimates were as follows;
Initial burn-off $ 500
Clearing and disposal, site survey and hole design $ 2 000
Earthworks $15 000
Provision of water supply $ 7 000
Toilet facilities $ 3 000
Seeding of greens, fairways and tees $ 9 000
Tree planting $ 1 500
Landscaping/course preparation $ 2 000
TOTAL $40 000
In 1984/85, Narooma Bowling Club allowed the workers to collect turf from a bowling green that was being resurfaced. This enabled the laying of 5 or 6 greens, to be playable by the Spring of 1985. This process was repeated in October of that year with a donation from the Bodalla Bowling Club. These donations were a God-send as they cost nothing. Mick Quinn was appointed as the first greenkeeper.
October, 1984 – turfing the 5th green (today’s 2nd)
Removal of turf, Bodalla Bowling Club, Oct. 1985
Laying of turf on 2nd (today’s 8th) green
Laying of 1st (7th) green
Old 9th (today’s 6th) green
Old 3rd fairway (today’s 9th)
From then on, members were asked to “stick-pick” as they walked the rough fairways. Ron Cox recalls walking along the present 1st fairway in a line of 14 men strung across, filling their buckets with sticks and tipping them into a large pile, later to be burnt. “Sure, what we had was rough, but it was ours and we enjoyed it!” wrote Warren Wenban.
Old 3rd fairway (today’s 9th) from the tee
Formation of the 2nd tee, now the 8th
Countless working bees were an integral component of course construction and maintenance in those early days (nothing has changed!!). Anybody who could lend a hand in the smallest way was most welcome. Many adults and children would turn up after work and on weekends to hand mow, hand water, rake, stick-pick, lay turf and so on. These bees were often concluded with a barbecue and drinks, usually under the canopy of the giant Moreton Bay fig tree, some sessions lasting all night! The fig tree was listed under a protection order, but our cunning locals cut an entrance through the overhanging branches which reached to the ground. Inside was a cosy, warm cavern – just right for a party!
Images of the very first working bee barbecue under the fig tree, January, 1984
Looking down from the 8th (5th) tee to the 5th green on the right (today’s 2nd)
The fig tree today – a symbol of the resilience of the local people
Working bee, October 1984
Pat Dunwoodie, Jacqui Morton and Elvy Barker resting after a working bee, Nov. 1984
Peter Douglas and Wally Barker on the club’s first tractor
Mick Quinn hand mowing, August 1985
David Fenner on a “flexi” – October 1985
Turfing the 5th (2nd today)
The 1st green (today’s 7th)
Reticulation work – Nov. 1984
Ron Cox: “Wally Barker asked me if the members would put down a concrete slab, would I be able to help with building. I said yes and donated all the materials. With the help of my two employees we locked it up in two days (another party).
Plans for an amenities block were approved in 1986, and a government grant in 1987 enabled an extension to the original clubhouse. In February, 1989, the present clubhouse was completed with a Junior room and a machine shed.
Ron Cox: “Then the big challenge was put out to build an amenities block, all done by about three opposition bricklayers. All got on well and the job was done – for a carton of beer of course. They also bricked up the footings for the new clubhouse extension. Harry Watkins was our plumber – what a big save! Being a broken-down builder, I again got involved, cut out all the frames ready to be put together.
“During the next few days, some of the ladies asked where we were going to have our Melbourne Cup. I said why not in the new clubhouse? They sort of laughed it off, as all we had done was the foundations. I got on the phone thate night and rang builders, plumbers, bricklayers, plasterers and some labourers. The goal was to build the club over the weekend. Come Saturday, about 16 people turned up and on Sunday around 26. We divided them up into two teams and the club was locked up on Sunday night – two cartons of beer. Brian Humphries helped me finish outside on Monday and on Tuesday Melbourne Cup was held- -what a celebration! It was on Tuesday that Ian Wong turned up with the new bar and Brian Humphries did all the plaster work. Two work experience people we had working on the course turnd up on Monday and drove out again – they thought they were in the wrong street. They couldn’t believe their eyes! Another guy we only knew as Pepi made all the pine furniture.”
Side view of original clubhouse and toilet block
Rear of clubhouse ready for machinery shed
Machinery shed completed September 1985
The clubhouse April 1985
The date of this publication is uncertain.
Ron Cox: “Then came the dam. It was about the time the sewerage was being put on (in Tuross). One of the bosses said it looked like we needed a dam. They were told we had no money to do anything like that and he said leave it with him. The dam was surveyed and the next weekend every machine and truck arrived and in two days the dam was completed. The payment was two cartons of beer and a free barbecue.” A sign was erected in the middle of the dam announcing it as “Brennan Dam” after the instigator of the scheme. Unfortunately, that sign has disappeared.
Warren Wenban: “I had to leave the area (1984) while the course was in its early stages. On my return I was dismayed to find that the first fairway was cut in half by a dam that was planned to go where the machinery shed now stands. The (original) layout was planned to take advantage of every yard available for the best possible course rating. It would be interesting to know the reasoning behind the dam placement, but I would lay good odds that whoever made the decision was no golfer.”
Although the dam was never used to water the course, it was required by Council to “ensure that the water storage dam acts as a run-off control pond, and as a nutrient and sediment trap.” (Lease Agreement, 1996).
During one particularly long drought season, the local volunteer fire brigade truck arrived and pumped the dam’s water as far up the slope as it could to irrigate a couple of fairways, which were like deserts. Fortunately, in 2005 the Bingi Sewerage Treatment Plant was connected to the golf course to supply unlimited, nutrient-rich water to tees, greens and fairways. The course was no longer reliant on town water (expensive) nor subject to water restrictions during Summer.
“Brennan Dam” 2012.
The effluent pond at the 5th tee, 2012.
The Grand Opening
In January 1985, with six holes playable, the first “official” stroke was played by Dennis Morton on “Opening Day”. This occasion marked the end of a long struggle to get the Tuross Lakes Golf Club up and running, and also – unknown to the participants of that day – the beginning of many years of further developments to create one of the most picturesque golf courses on the Far South Coast.
Below: Mike Gatty, Pat Dunwoodie, Jacqui Morton taking the pledge on Opening Day, Jan. 1985
Dennis Morton making the first “official” stroke on the new golf course.
Ron Cox: “It was around this time (??) Graham Calcutt arrived with a donation of some 350 trees and shrubs for our course, so on the Saturday Glen Shearer, Graham and myself repotted the lot. Thanks to Graham, most of them grew and can be seen all over the present course.” Graham was a landscape designer/horticulturist who was extremely generous with his monetary contributions. He died in 2011.
Water was a major worry for the fledgling club. Using town water was expensive, and if it didn’t rain sufficiently during hot summers, the fairways and rough would turn to powder. There was a rumour that Harry Watkins, resident plumber, connected the course to the town water supply unbeknown to Council so that “free” water could be obtained. Harry was a great character who entertained everybody with his wonderfully irreverent sense of humour. He died in 2005. In the late 1980’s, two goats were tethered on the slope leading away from today’s 6th tee to keep the scrub down. Unfortunately, some local dogs attacked them and they had to be put down. Harry did this with a rifle, much to the annoyance of the neighbours who complained to the policeafter hearing the rifle shots.
Wally Barker checking a green sprinkler.
Sprinkler working on 5th green.
Rodger Chappell, signwriter, after he and Bert Hewett erected this sign.
Most of the signs on the course today are attributable to “Chappo”.
Looking up the old 9th (6th) fairway towards Allenby Road 1984.
The 8th (5th) green 1984.
Top: Car park area, Nov. 1984.
Bottom: 7th green (today’s 4th).
Top: Dec. 1984 – the high side of the 6th(today’s 3rd) fairway.
Bottom: Dec. 1984 – the 8th (5th) fairway.
Start of 4th fairway (1st) being filled with excess earth from sewerage scheme.
Front tier of 2nd (8th) green April 1985.
Sand in readiness for construction of 3rd(today’s 9th) green, April 1985.
4th green (today’s 1st), April 1985.
Greenkeeper, Paul Van Den Heuvel inspecting the extended 4th tee.
Barbecue in the uncovered beer garden.
The first Tuross Junior Tournament.
The “old” clubhouse in 2002.
Front of the old golf club, 2002.
Always struggling to keep its financial head above water, the Club agreed to amalgamate with the Bowling Club in 2000 to form the Tuross Head Country Club. With its limited finances, the club could not afford the equipment necessary to maintain and further develop the golf course. Often referred to as a “goat track” or the “Royal Rockpile”, the course today has earned a great deal of respect from visiting golfers with its well-grassed fairways, slick greens, vastly improved, levelled tees and thicker rough.
The old problem of the ball travelling across two fairways down the slope has been eliminated to a large extent. Cart paths have been added, new boxed tees built and huge amounts of soil have created flat landing areas at the lower levels of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd fairways. Drainage in troublesome areas has alleviated the problem of fairways becoming bogs after heavy rain. Much work is yet to be done, but the old spirit of volunteer labour will keep the course advancing.
The Final Word
Warren Wenban: “To those who said we couldn’t do it – have a look at the place now!”
Brendan Jones after winning the Mitsui Sumitomo Taiheiyo Masters in Japan, 2007.
Local Golfer Makes it Good.
Brendan Jones, son of locals Trevor and Margaret Jones, turned professional golfer after becoming the Australian Amateur Champion in 1999. Brendan spent his early years growing up in Tuross Head and played much of his junior golf on the Tuross Golf Course. Brendan spends most of his career playing golf in Japan, but has also participated in the World Matchplay Championships, represented Australia in the World Cup, as well as competing in some major tournaments in America and Australia.
Hector McWilliam, owner of Tuross Lakes Estates, who bequeathed the golf course land to Eurobodalla Shire Council to be used as “Public Reserve”. Born 1877, died 1974. He was responsible for the planting of the many beautiful Norfolk Island pines that dot the headland.