16 Jun 2024 | Clubs and Facilities |

FEATURE: Dusting the clubs off in Quambatook

by Martin Blake

Quambatook image
Russell Waldron at Quambatook Golf Club this week.

Something remarkable is happening at Quambatook Golf Club, deep in the Mallee in northern Victoria.

The golf club shut down four years ago, joining the local football, netball and tennis clubs in closing its doors because it could not find enough players.

With population dwindling – currently around 200 – and the age demographic pointing the wrong direction, there was no other way.

The property quickly became overgrown, unrecognizable from the pristine green oasis that it had been around 2018.

But recently four locals got together, borrowed a tractor from the defunct footy club which is right next door, and mowed four of the original nine holes so that they could hit some balls.

Next, they rejuvenated the sandscrapes and patched up the tees and started teeing it up a couple of times a week.

Then another two keen golfers came along and said they wanted to extend it. The tractor keys were handed over, and four holes became six. Quambatook now has a working golf course again, totally free to the public.

“The course is a bit rough,” said Russell Waldron, one of the locals who has driven the project. “We haven’t had a lot of rain to green it up. But we’re expecting it to improve. The grass is coming through now. We might have to give it a mow shortly.”

What happened to Quambatook GC is reflective a much broader problem in country areas.

“The small farms all get incorporated into bigger farms,” said Waldron.

“Once upon a time there were about 350 farmers in the area and now it’s down to about 15. A lot of country towns are in the same boat.”

The town’s main claim to fame is the annual Australian Tractor Pull Championship, which fills the local caravan park with visitors. But the youth have left town.

“Quambatook doesn’t have a tourist attraction,” said Waldron. “We don’t have a big thing like a painted silo.”

Peter Furey was secretary of the golf club when it closed.

“The last year, the fairways were like a carpet,” said Furey. “You couldn’t get it any better. We tried everything: free golf, free membership, free barbecue, $2 stubbies sort of thing, but no one showed up. You just give up.”

Playing numbers were at 30 on weekends a decade ago, but they dwindled to single figures at the end. “The people here who could play are farmers, and they’re so busy,” said Furey. “The farms are so big and they don’t have the time to commit to it every week.”

Now the community has come together around the golf course. A local quarry donated crusher dust to put on the putting surfaces. The local pub pitched in. Farmers gave diesel fuel for the tractor.

Said Furey: “I’m not sure if we can start the club up officially. But aesthetically it looks a lot better anyway.”

Russell Waldron reckons around eight people are now playing regular golf, although no one actually knows, because there is no sign-in process.

Cold, hard reality suggests that the club may never get off the ground as a formal entity. Even Waldron acknowledges that only a major infrastructure project in the town that brings more population could save the club long-term.

But that’s not stopping them from trying.

This week, a bunch of players came down one of the fairways and found some friends with a camp fire beside the green, and a cold beer was offered.

“We called it The Whackery, which was a joke over a beer,” said Waldron. “Let’s go have a whack. The name sort of stuck.”

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