Familiar French proverb wisely suggests, “follow the river and you will find the sea”.

But in the case of Australia’s famous Murray River, you’ll discover an ocean of breathtaking golf long before you reach its salty mouth.

The mighty Murray is the third longest navigable river on the planet, and for all the noise it makes in the travel world it has been somewhat of a sleeping giant in golf circles. With 37 courses lining its historic banks, this majestic stretch of water has always offered more than just a rich education on Australia’s pioneer settlement, legendary fishing and a scenic border separating New South Wales and Victoria. For local tourism, the sight of 19th Century paddle steamers, dusty saw mills and age-old blacksmiths in full flight have never lost their appeal. The challenge has been convincing the nation – and the world – that the Murray is actually a destination worth visiting for its fairways alone.

The first step to achieving this was to create a marketing body to spread the gospel about golf in the region – and so “Golf On The Murray” was born. The next – and perhaps critical – phase was to add credibility to the Murray’s push to become a legitimate hot spot for golfers, young and old. Cue to the Australian Golf Industry Council’s annual tourism report card, which just ranked the Murray River as “the most frequently visited golf destination by the core golf tourist
in Australia” following a nationwide survey prepared by Golf Business Advisory Services.

The Murray leapfrogged the Gold Coast into the No.1 position and can now also claim bragging rights over perennial golf favourites, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula (3), Northern Tasmania (4) and the Sunshine Coast (5) as the new must-do golf trip Down Under.

“It’s fantastic to have the Murray Region recognised as the No.1 golfing destination in Australia,” says chairman of Golf On The Murray, Greg Roberts.

“The recognition is a testament to the quality golf courses, superb weather, great service and relaxed natural environment that all results in a special golf experience that is great value for money.

“People are often surprised at the turf quality and challenging layouts that are available along the Murray Region.”

With 300 days of clear, blue skies every year, 37 layouts all offering 18-hole rounds for under $50 and unrivalled history and culture off the course, experiencing what Murray River golf is all about is really a no-brainer for families on a budget.

Over the coming pages, we highlight six must-play clubs to build your Murray River itinerary around…

Commercial Golf Resort Albury
Commercial Golf Resort Albury

1. Commercial Golf Resort Albury
Since its introduction to the Aussie golf circuit in 2004, the Commercial Golf Resort in Albury has quickly grown into one of the region’s best courses following a $1.5 million upgrade.

Such an investment has delivered an impressive 18-hole championship layout that offers the highest level of service. Highlighted by undulating, tree-lined fairways and what many regard as the finest (and the firmest) greens in country New South Wales, Commercial Golf Resort leaves many other drought-stricken courses in the area green with envy with its year-round conditioning.

Located in the heart of Albury’s thriving business and shopping district – a three-and-a-half hour drive from Melbourne or five-and-a-half from Sydney – Commercial Golf Resort is surrounded by an endless range of accommodation options. But the club itself makes things easy with its own 4-Star resort sitting just 100m from the clubhouse that comes with modern and spacious rooms, a barbecue area and a pool all within landscaped grounds.

What we loved: The convenience. Considered the gateway to a range of regional touring experiences, including local vineyards, snowfields and restaurants, the Albury-Wodonga region is easily accessible by both rail and air and is, geographically, the ideal starting point or finish line to your Murray River golf escape.

530 North St, Albury NSW 2640
Ph: (02) 6057 2801
Email: [email protected]
Web: commercialclubalbury.com.au

Rich River Golf Club Resort
Rich River Golf Club Resort

2. Rich River Golf Club Resort
There aren’t too many prettier regions in Australia than Echuca-Moama, so it comes as no surprise to learn the Rich River Golf Club Resort is one of the most popular golf stopovers on the Murray.

Less than three hours from Melbourne, this popular historic town – split into two parts by the Murray River – was recently voted No.35 in the top 100 towns to visit in Australia by tourism bodies. It clearly prides itself on being at the forefront of Australian tourism. The main street of Echuca is particularly eye-catching, lined with dozens of boutique stores and inviting cafes, while the vintage chocolate and lolly shops are always a huge hit with the kids.

Rich River itself boasts an abundance of activity options including two championship golf courses, a 17-bay driving range, while the croquet, bowls and tennis facilities are a great way to unwind away from the fairways.

The James Maiden Bistro offers dining options to suit all tastes and budgets, with specials available every night of the week. This culinary gem actually served up the best steak we had on the Murray for the week.

Stay and play onsite with Rich River’s 63-room motel complex adjacent to the clubhouse, complemented by two outdoor pools, spa and barbecue areas.

What we loved: Make sure you head into town and take a stroll back in time through the historic Port of Echuca and cruise down the mighty Murray on one of several 19th Century paddle steamers on site.

Twenty Four Ln, Moama, NSW 2731
Ph: (03) 5481 3333
Email: [email protected]
Web: richriver.com.au

Sporties Cobram Barooga Golf Club
Sporties Cobram Barooga Golf Club

3. Sporties Cobram Barooga Golf Club
Back on the NSW side of the Murray is a stunning 36-hole golf complex in Sporties Cobram Barooga Golf Club. It is here that history meets the new age, with the club’s iconic Old and West courses now complemented with a brand new 18-room accommodation offering and arguably the most impressive clubhouse facility on the Murray.

A truly authentic Murray River experience awaits you on the Old Course, which is carved out of large stands of red gums and other plants native to the Murray River region. This layout is not long by modern standards, however its narrow fairways and well-placed hazards have seen it stand the test of time.

The West Course is the newer of the two and slightly longer. This is more of a traditional, resort-style layout with wider fairways and larger greens with more severe slopes the key features.

Off the course, the new-look clubhouse is ready to cater for the visiting golfer seven days a week with an impressive menu available from breakfast through to dinner. Cobram Barooga’s pro shop is also one of the best stocked in the region with two PGA professionals available for lessons. Interestingly, the club has the only Trackman launch monitor facility between Melbourne and Canberra. Just 30 minutes up the road from Yarrawonga makes this place an absolute lock on your Murray River itinerary.

Why not try Barooga’s El Sierra Motel, located halfway between Albury/Wodonga and Echuca/Moama? It offers 40 well-appointed motel units suitable for couples, families and large groups.

What we loved: The new clubhouse is seriously impressive, while locals will tell you their two golf courses combined are the best in the region. What’s not to love about that?

Golf Course Road, Barooga NSW 3644
Ph: (03) 5873 4304
Email: [email protected]
Web: sporties.com.au/sporties-cobram-barooga-golf-club-house

Tocumwal Golf Club
Tocumwal Golf Club

4. Tocumwal Golf Club
At last, the secret is out. Historic Tocumwal is no longer famous for just the elusive Murray cod. According to locals, its golf course is unsurpassed – and they may have a point.

Host of the annual Southern PGA Trainee Championships, this magnificent 36-hole championship layout offers a sandbelt challenge to golfers of all levels and is just an easy three-hour drive from Melbourne.

Two immaculate courses with firm greens and gently undulating fairways cut out of wintergreen couch, Tocumwal Golf Club is yet another Murray River surprise packet that shows no signs of being in a drought-stricken region.

The 18-hole Presidents Course of 6,066 metres is highlighted by deep bunkering and tree-lined fairways synonymous with the region, while the links-style Captains Course (6,272m) has more water in play across nine original and nine new holes.

Uniquely, the holes on both courses can be arranged into four composite courses offering the golfer up to six different course combinations. Voted in the Top 100 of Australia’s Best Public Access Courses in 2011 (The Golf Course Guide), Tocumwal is a course that never closes its gates – regardless of the weather.

What we loved: The location! Just 15 minutes down the road from Barooga, Tocumwal Golf Club is a hidden gem that has often been overlooked by touring golfers not realising how close it is to neighbouring courses. Not any more.

Barooga Road, Tocumwal NSW 2714
Tocumwal Golf Club
Ph: (03) 5874 9111
Email: [email protected]
Web: tocumwalgolf.com.au

Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort
Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort

5. Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort
Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort could have a world-first on its hands. Already Australia’s largest public-access golf resort with 45 holes spread across three separate courses, Australian Golf Digest editors were left scratching their heads as to whether it’s the only golf course that has its own movie cinema. The resort has combined the elegance of a fully licensed lounge bar with a state-of-the-art blockbuster movie experience that has to be seen to be believed. Furnished with 46 plush leather recliner seats and 14 leather non-reclining chairs, 3D-capability screen, projector and digital sound system, watching the latest flicks on the Murray comes at a price ($15 for visitors!) that would leave metropolitan gold class cinemas for dead.

Of the three golf courses, the Murray Course is arguably the most authentic Murray golf experience you can have, sitting right beside its namesake river, and meandering through towering river gums and sandy river flats. This course favours the straight hitter, as many billabongs and lagoons are eagerly awaiting wayward balls. Its pedigree is impeccable, as it was designed by Aussie legend Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge.

Named after neighbouring Lake Mulwala, the Lake Course overlooks this beautiful waterway. Here, you’ll find strategically placed lakes, undulating greens, 56 bunkers and lots more to test your ability, with a particular emphasis on precision around the greens.

And if you’re a novice or tight for time, the shorter Executive Course is the perfect fit. Set in beautiful parkland, it’s more lenient for beginners but still provides plenty of challenges for more experienced players.

If you’re looking for more than just great golf then you’re in luck at Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort.

Take a dip in the solar-heated pool, play tennis, workout in the fully equipped gym, pamper yourself with a massage, play barefoot bowls on one of two well-tended bowling greens, enjoy a game of croquet, or book a tour of the local Rutherglen wineries to taste of some of the world’s best fortifieds. Having just hosted the Senior Victorian Open and with the resort’s annual May Tournament around the corner, there has never been a better time to play this iconic layout.

What we loved: Split decision between the 18-hole Murray course and the resort’s in-house movie cinema. The former is Aussie golf at its organic best, while the latter is the most innovative family attraction we’ve seen introduced at a golf course.

PO Box 47 (Golf Club Drive),
Mulwala NSW 2647
Ph: (03) 5744 3983
Email: [email protected]
Web: yarragolf.com.au

Murray Downs Golf and Country Club
Murray Downs Golf and Country Club

6. Murray Downs Golf and Country Club
Still the premier championship golf course on the Murray River and ranked No.81 in Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Golf Courses, Murray Downs Golf and Country Club has all the facilities to match its stellar reputation. Widely regarded as one of the best regional resort courses anywhere in Australia – let alone the Murray – this Swan Hill-based layout is an absolute must-play for golf purists.

Large, firm, undulating greens are always perfectly manicured at Murray Downs despite its hot summer climate, while strategically-placed water hazards and endless bunkers will have you believing you are playing on the Gold Coast, not on the Mallee plains.

Said water hazards come into play on the par-3 fifth – a huge water carry over a lake that follows the hole all the way to the green. Fall short or left in the bunkers guarding the green and a big score can be had.

Like most good courses, Murray Downs rewards the good shots and penalises the bad and inevitably has you coming back for more.

After your round you can settle back in the lounge with a drink from the bar and enjoy the panoramic views in armchair comfort. The club is known to provide live entertainment and also has the best supervised children’s facilities on the Murray River.

With 50 hotel-style rooms and self-contained apartments on site, guests at Murray Downs can enjoy a hit of tennis or sit back, relax and take in the tranquil surrounds by the large tropical pool, before capping off the perfect day on the Murray with a spa.

What we loved: The course. Rose three places (No.81) in the Australian Golf Digest Top 100 Courses ranking this year and continues to be the benchmark in the region. Throw in its leading childcare facilities and this is the ultimate family golf destination.

Murray Downs Drive,
Murray Downs NSW 2735
Ph: (03) 5033 1422
Email: [email protected]
Web: murraydownsgolf.com.au

What Can You Get For $50… 

Black Bull Golf Club is eyeing off a place in Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses ranking. INSET: AGD editor-in-chief Brad Clifton was brave enough to enter The Bull Ring during a recent trip.
Black Bull Golf Club is eyeing off a place in Australian Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses ranking

STEP aside Amen Corner and The Bear Trap, there’s a new stretch of iconic holes in world golf and it’s called The Bull Ring. Part of the new must-play Black Bull Golf Club, on the banks of Lake Mulwala in the Victorian town of Yarrawonga, this is a fantastic new course.

Just when you thought The Murray River region couldn’t get any better for bargain golf, a potential Australian Golf Digest Top 100 layout arrives that you can play for under $50 … no bull! Well, actually, there is a bull and his name is Charley – a big, masculine, bullish statue set to become the centrepiece of a course designed by Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett, and managed by the legendary McCully family – owners of the longest running privately-owned residential golf school in the country.

This exquisitely landscaped layout wraps around the waters of Lake Mulwala and has clearly been designed to excite the imagination and test players of all levels.

Formerly home to some of the best Black Angus cattle money could buy, this flat piece of land has been transformed into a little slice of Murray paradise that will soon be accompanied by a $35 million Sebel hotel and marina precinct.

“Golfers will be able to arrive for their round in style, hopping off a boat and being driven straight to the driving range or first tee from the marina,” says club pro James McCully.
“I can’t think of too many golf courses that offer that.”

While the luxury hotel and marina set-up will add some serious wow-factor, golf at Black Bull will be all about The Bull Ring. Players literally enter ‘the arena’ under an arch made from old Port Melbourne pylons at the 15th tee. From here, it’s three holes of red flags and torturous golf if your game is off.

“What we’re trying to do is create some fun and give golfers a lasting memory that will bring them back,” says McCully. “Purists won’t like the novelty of The Bull Ring, but the amount of people who have to take a ‘selfie’ before they walk onto the 15th tee is exactly why we’ve done it. It’s creating a fun, bucket-list item that people can tick off.”

The 180m par-3 15th is tough, particularly if you disobey Thomson’s advice to not miss the green short, left or right. The par-4 16th has hazards everywhere ready to ruin your day, while the par-4 17th is 400m from the tips and more than likely straight into the teeth of strong winds.

Australian Golf Digest columnist Andrew Daddo recently visited Black Bull and was impressed to say the least. “Black Bull was one of those really great golfing surprises – a bit like finding a $20 note blowing across the sand at the beach,” says Daddo. “You think you know what’s going to happen when you visit the Murray; there’s an expectation of the courses you’ll play, and then you get to Black Bull and you’re even more pleasantly surprised than you could have imagined.” So the question is – are you game enough to enter The Bull Ring?

1 Phillip Hyland Drive,
Yarrawonga VIC 3730
Phone: (03) 5744 0044
Email: [email protected]

AGD editor-in-chief Brad Clifton was brave enough to enter The Bull Ring during a recent trip.
AGD editor-in-chief Brad Clifton was brave enough to enter The Bull Ring during a recent trip.

Give these a crack…
Boasting more than 18 holes seems to be a theme with Murray River clubs and Corowa Golf Club is no exception. Situated in the heart of the Rutherglen wine district and an easy 30-minute drive from Albury-Wodonga, Corowa has a sizzling 27-hole championship golf course, pro shop, modern clubhouse and motel ready to welcome you. Play and stay packages start from just $175 per person.

Meanwhile, another classic Murray River experience 20 minutes from Albury is Howlong Golf Resort. “Here you can enjoy a mid-week or weekend getaway without having to leave the resort,” says Howlong Golf Resort’s Natalie McLarty.

Something different down in Yarrawonga
Waterfront Holiday Houses is Yarrawonga’s largest provider of premium waterfront houses, apartments and villas with over 30 stunning properties available for holiday rental in Yarrawonga and Mulwala. Specialising in golf accommodation, they have properties that allow groups to twin share and save money or stay in a single room for extra privacy.

Golf on the Murray River

All of their properties are self-contained with excellent socialising spaces, from two to six bedrooms and most with lake frontage.

Their partners Redgolf will make all your golf, social and travel reservations and can even drive you to the wineries. After all, what’s a holiday to the Murray River without golf and wine? Discover more about the Murray River at MurrayRiver.com.au