Almanac Book Extract: ‘The Golf Courses of Vern Morcom’ – Toby Cumming

 

An excerpt from The golf courses of Vern Morcom

Toby Cumming

 

One way to consider Vern Morcom’s legacy is to ‘build’ a composite course of his. I have collated an 18-hole Vern Morcom layout that includes some of the best holes from his best courses (see Table 1). Holes were eligible for inclusion only if Vern designed them, and they still exist to be played. All holes had to be selected in position (e.g., only 1st holes could be chosen for hole 1), and no course could contribute more than one hole. Distance listed is the current length from the back tee.

 

Table 1. A Vern Morcom composite 18.

Hole

Club Par Metres
1 Leongatha 4 370
2 Spring Valley 4 386
3 Curlewis 4 310
4 Anglesea 4 372
5 Gisborne 4 342
6 Rosanna 3 159
7 Traralgon 5 532
8 Long Island 4 310
9 Royal Hobart 5 491
Front 9 37 3272
10 Bordertown 4 329
11 Devonport 4 384
12 Warracknabeal 4 280
13 Donald 4 374
14 Grange East 4 373
15 Trafalgar 3 173
16 Blackwood 4 398
17 Torquay 3 132
18 Cobram-Barooga Old 5 504
Back 9 35 2947
Total 72

6219

 

 

 

Vern may have questioned the balance of this layout; both 9s start with five par 4s, and the outward half is considerably longer than the inward half. Overall length of 6219m makes it a respectable test for the present day. There is great variety in the three short holes and a strong mix of topography in the three par 5s. Many of Vern’s classic two-shotters are here and, as you would expect, there is no shortage of doglegs.

 

Appropriately, the opening hole is the 1st at Leongatha, a club that holds its Morcom history close to its heart. Not an easy start, with the beautifully built, single-bunker green complex intolerant of poorly struck approaches. Spring Valley is Morcom’s most complete and refined course, and its 2nd hole is a standout in the genre of strategic par 4s with opposite-side bunkering. A high hole that is exposed to the breeze, Curlewis’ 3rd does not force anything on you; all the decisions are yours. Michael Clayton wonders whether this might be the best hole that Vern Morcom ever designed (Clayton, 2019). Though Anglesea’s front 9 has changed markedly from Vern’s original holes, today’s 4th is a survivor, and it is a perfect fit for the side-sloping ground. Gisborne’s 5th makes the most of the wavy terrain, with its green shaping rewarding a bold right-side line from the tee. The first one-shotter is Rosanna’s 6th, a hole of unremarkable topography but of very satisfying design. Vern favoured the inclusion of a legitimate three-shot par 5, and here it is Traralgon’s 7th, which drops through two dips in its 532m journey. Long Island is not a Morcom course, but there is no doubt that he was responsible for the fantastic little 8th as part of his design changes. Though short, its ridgeback fairway and domed green make it a tentative golfer’s nightmare. Royal Hobart’s 9th may have succumbed to the march of technology for the better player, but for the club golfer it remains a prime example of how to bunker a par 5 to make you think on every shot.

 

Though essentially straight, Bordertown’s 10th curves gracefully through the stringybarks. Its excellent, uncomplicated green sits on a little rise. Like Traralgon’s 7th, the 11th at Devonport asks the player to navigate across two deep gullies – a demanding hole built on a grand scale. Just 280m, Warracknabeal’s 12th is lent an air of mystery by a low transverse ridge; only the top of the pin is visible from the tee. Brilliant bunkers are cut right up to both sides of the green, ensuring that no length of pitch is entirely nerveless. The 13th at Donald is included as a representative of all the courses that Vern designed in parched inland country towns, usually, at least initially, with sand scrapes. Its sweeping arc is a stunning departure from the unrelenting flatness of Donald’s other holes. Doglegging left, Grange East’s 14th crosses two ridges before terminating atop a third. It is authentic Morcom (Greg Norman barely touched it in his redesign) in authentic surrounds – on the left is one of the last remaining native plant communities from the old belt of red sand dunes west of Adelaide. Trafalgar’s 15th showcases Vern’s ability to create a quality par 3 from a side slope and an underside bunker. The right-angled 16th at Blackwood has an incredible setting, skirting a deep ravine filled with dense native bush. Hitting your drive, on whatever line you’re confident enough to take, will live long in your memory. Torquay’s spectacular drop-shot 17th, always entertaining to play, is heavily affected by the wind that buffets you on the dune-top tee. Leongatha was an appropriate place to start, and Vern’s fine Cobram-Barooga Old is an appropriate place to finish. From its tee, the par 5 18th is an alluring S-shaped curve as it climbs gradually to its distant conclusion. That the hole is attractive, interesting and strategic without bunkering on the drive or at the green speaks volumes for its design.

 

 

To read more from Toby and check out his book The golf courses of Vern Morcom, click HERE

 

To read Peter Baulderstone’s review of this book, click HERE

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published early in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE

 

 

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