With record numbers hitting its fairways and a $35 million 4-star Sebel hotel on the way, there’s no stopping Black Bull Golf Club’s charge to become an icon of Murray River golf – and perhaps no finer way for Peter Thomson to sign off on a decorated career in golf course design.
There have been some strange sightings down on the Murray River town of Yarrawonga in recent months. Reports of a giant, Black Angus bull mysteriously popping up in tourist hotspots has left the region a little baffled.
Charlie, as the gloriously bullish statue is affectionately known, has become somewhat of a legend during his social media escapades, but his mission has had nothing to do with promoting local livestock initiatives. Instead, Charlie’s been marking his turf in preparation for one of the most eagerly anticipated golf course openings this year – a parcel of land that will quickly become synonymous with Aussie golf, not just for its bovine novelty factor but for the sheer (not steer!) quality of all 18 holes on site.
So why the bull? Like the iconic lighthouse at Turnberry or Pinehurst’s Putter Boy, Charlie will be the unmistakable centrepiece of the Black Bull golf course, standing loud and proud, protecting his patch of turf. And what a patch it is.
Forget Amen Corner and the Bear Trap. Are you game enough to enter the Bull Ring?
Not That You Needed Another Excuse
Just when the banks of the majestic Murray River couldn’t get any more appealing for travelling golfers, five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson comes to the party with a design brief from cashed-up developers and one of the most respected families in Australian professional golf. His mission? To transform a former Black Angus cattle stud into a golf course that would not only attract die-hard lovers of the game but offer world-class resort facilities to further boost the tourist appeal of one of the fastest growing regional hubs in the country.
The Victorian town of Yarrawonga is no stranger to golf excellence. Yarrawonga-Mulwala Golf Resort – situated on the New South Wales side of the iconic stretch of water – remains Australia’s only 45-hole golf facility, boasting three distinct examples of riverland golf with a resort lifestyle to match. The town is also home to Glenn McCully Golf Schools, founded in 1984 and still fixing the swings of visiting golfers from every corner of the country. Head pro – and son of founder Glenn – James McCully is the driving force behind Black Bull golf course, a key part of a much larger residential development by Silverwoods that aims to improve the infrastructure and facilities associated with golf in the Murray region.
“We are a tourist town … a tourist destination,” says McCully. “When people come to Yarrawonga they want to have a good time and those that play golf want to play as many quality courses as they can. What we’ve done (with Black Bull) has added another great course to that list – one that I personally think could be the pick of the bunch once it has matured. It’s been an exciting project to manage but we’re only halfway there. The best is yet to come.”
The Right Man For The Job
With a links-style layout firmly in the developer’s blueprint, the design team of Thomson Perrett seemed an obvious choice for such a theme. “The wide-open farmland naturally lended itself to a links course,” says McCully. “When you combine that with the fact we are just a two-minute drive from the town centre, it’s a truly unique offering here on the Murray River. Peter Thomson knows better than most what goes into a great links course and he and his team have done a great job creating what I think will quickly become one of the best regional courses anywhere.”
With its first sod of soil turned in 2010, the course officially opened in February in conjunction with the Victorian Seniors Open – a tournament it shares with neighbouring Yarrawonga-Mulwala that again welcomed household names like Terry Price, Mike Harwood, Rodger Davis, Peter Fowler and defending champion Lucien Tinkler. And the early signs suggest that Black Bull’s Grand Prix Couch fairways and G2 Bent greens will certainly meet expectations for those looking for year-round quality and fun on the Murray.
“The course is in unbelievable shape, better than we ever could have imagined,” says McCully. “The early signs suggest we have a massive year ahead of us. Patronage has been amazing. We’ve had record numbers coming through and word is spreading quickly, particularly on the back of our celebrity ambassadors, AFL legends Billy Brownless and Sam Newman.”
Brownless, who grew up in nearby Jerilderie, an hour’s drive north of Yarrawonga, is passionate about the region and sees great value in what McCully and his team are doing at Black Bull. “As a local from the area, I really know the difference this will make to the region and how valuable this will be for the close-knit community,” says Brownless.
McCully says a record year in land sales combined with the huge growth of Yarrawonga in general has played a significant role in Black Bull’s rapid rise. “We’re suddenly a tourist hotspot for people wanting a country lifestyle with city benefits,” he says. “But we can’t take anything for granted. We still want to know what we’re doing here is being well received.”
So what’s the early feedback?
“The easiest way to explain that is people walk off the course after 18 holes and re-book for next year,” says McCully. “It doesn’t get any more positive than that.”
With a state-of-the-art driving range – aptly named “The Bull Pen” – now complementing a fully-stocked pro shop, golfers have everything they need to make their Black Bull experience a truly memorable one.
Test Yourself In The Bull Ring
Most courses have a signature hole. At Black Bull there are three.
Building on the rich Black Angus history, McCully and his team have delivered a stretch of holes he hopes will create as much excitement and novelty for those that play than Amen Corner.
Beginning at the 384-metre par-4 fourth, where you officially enter “The Bull Ring” under giant wooden pillar framing, you are greeted with one of the most daunting tee shots to a rolling fairway. Players also have to contend with a water hazard looming on the right, with an approach shot to a semi-blind, two-tiered green. Survive this test and it’s onto the 150-metre, par-3 fifth. With water all the way down your left and greenside swales to your right, accuracy is an absolute premium.
Finishing the fab three is the short par-4 sixth where you are tempted to go for broke or lay up to avoid more water and bunkering. It’s a peach of a hole that, like the previous two, has all the ingredients to spoil your day if your ego takes over, all while Charlie watches on from a hill above. Get your phones and hashtags ready, folks: #isurvivedthebullring
Now This Is Living
No world-class resort is complete without the cream – accommodation and food. The final piece to the Silverwoods puzzle will be complete when its luxury international 4-star boutique hotel and serviced apartments stands erect on the shores of stunning Lake Mulwala.
The Sebel, Yarrawonga will feature a fine-dining restaurant, bar bistro, day spa and function facilities set right on the waterfront precinct at Silverwoods. So impressive will the facility be that golfers will be able to arrive for their tee-time by boat, check-in to the hotel and be on the first tee within minutes.
There will be 120 rooms with a variety of configurations, 60 of which will be sold to investors and permanent residents while 60 will be available for holiday stayers.
Murray River Tourism estimates the development will drive an additional 20,000 room nights to the region every year, based on 48 per cent occupancy on 110 rooms. And you can bet one of those will be Brownless [pictured above with Newman].
“Knowing when this amazing facility will be complete, I can’t wait to head up there and enjoy a beer overlooking the magical Lake Mulwala,” he says.
BLACK BULL GOLF CLUB
1-7 Silverwoods Boulevard,
Yarrawonga, VIC 3730
Phone: (03) 5744 0044
Green fees: $45 (18 holes), $25 (nine)