Black Bull was the last design of 5-time Open Champion, Peter Thomson. But it was the first golf course built on the southern or Victorian shore of the Murray River in decades. This was not a gamble based on poker machine revenue which has funded other golf courses on the Murray River. It cost $22 million to reclaim and build the golf course from a flood plain by the shores of Lake Mulwala . The land was previously owned by the Bott family who for three generations raised the best breeding Black Angus bulls in the country. Hence the name of the course.
The first thing that strikes you after arriving at the course is the rolling ground that the course has been routed across. A large amount of earth has been moved to create this landscape. As you navigate your way around the course it strikes you about the intelligent design that Thomson/Wolveridge have done to make this course playable for all standards and yet challenge the best players. This is always the exacting compromise that resort courses like this strive for but many fail.
There are lots of bunkers but they are well spaced, only catching the really bad or poorly thought out shot. There is water as well but it is well back and if you play within yourself, you will not lose many balls. The fairways are relatively easy to hit but the challenge for the better golfer is hitting the greens which are contoured (but not overly so) and well bunkered. There are no forced carries to make the fairways and players can choose a variety of tees to play from. Off the tips it is over 6200m in length and it plays a little longer than that with a few par 5’s under 500m and some long par 3’s reaching close to 200m in length. The bent greens and couch fairways were in superb condition even when I played it in the middle of winter.
The Bull Ring or bust!
Just after you have started your round , you encounter a tough stretch of holes from the 4th-6th. It is long uphill par 3, followed by an uphill par 4 and a long 400m par 4. They are hard holes and are mean’t to be a signature stretch like “Amen Corner” at Augusta National or the “Green Mile” at Quail Hollow. Tough as they are (and I did hop onto the bogey train around there) my favourite holes were the concluding 16,17 and 18th. The 16th is a 150m par 3 across a bend in a lake and the 17th is a classic Thomson design of a 348m par 4. It has a large pot bunker in the middle of the fairway, the straighter and more narrow route gives you an easier shot to a well bunkered green, the broader right hand line gives you a shot across the bunkers beside the green. The 18th is 478m par 5 which feels like Thomson’s beloved links golf. You feel like you could be at Turnberry but you are actually at Lake Mulwala.
Eventhough the course is mostly straight up and down, there can be some travel between tees. There are golf holes going everywhere so if you are carting or walking, keep a lookout on the GPS or your course map because you can easily walk onto the wrong hole!
The gamble seems to have paid off with the course being the highest rated Murray River course in the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 courses. Across the road, the Sebel Yarrawonga has opened, giving you a 4.5 star boutique hotel experience just after you have put the clubs away. It is one of the accommodation options we can provide for our clients. Ten minutes down the road is Yarrawonga-Mulwala Golf Club with it’s 45 hole golfing and club mega-complex waiting for you. It is no wonder why the Murray River is Australia’s favourite golf destination. Contact us if your group would like to have a Capital Bucketlist Tour to this region.