Riverside Golf Club History

This page is the beginning of a project to document the history of the Riverside Golf Club. If you have any photos, newspaper articles or whatever that could be useful for this project please let us know. Thanks to Michael Holcroft for supplying this starting page. There are more old photos here

Club House, date unknown
Photo of the old club house, date unknown, supplied by Reece Godfrey.

The 1930’s were a boom time for golf. Despite a world-wide recession, golf was really gaining popularity.

By 1934, the year that Horton Smith won the first US Masters, there were already a number of golf clubs operating in Sunraysia. These included Mildura, Red Cliffs, Merbein, Merbein Central and Wentworth.

A group of members from the Mildura Golf Club decided to seek out a location “more suited to the establishment of a golf course” than the land that they were occupying.

The flood plains of Sandilong Park were targeted. The group lead by the, then, Shire of Mildura Engineer; M.K.N. (“Joe”) Johanson, reported back to the Mildura Golf Club Committee that the land could be obtained on (Crown) lease.

A number of Mildura Golf Club Members showed much reluctance to the move. The Mildura Golf Club already owned the land upon which the Mildura Golf Club was laid.

The refusal of the membership to commit to a move, caused a split in the ranks. Those Mildura members who voted to stay in the existing location, designed a furrow irrigation system, that saw the fairways “almost completely covered with grass for the first time”.

The Break Away Group forged ahead, one strongly suggests using the machinery of the Shire of Mildura and “Susso” labour, from the Sustenance Benefits system (an early “Work for the Dole” program).

On 27 April 1935, the Sunraysia Daily carried the story of the Opening Day. Mr Fred Thompson, golf professional was invited to the opening. Mr Thompson was later the club professional at the Glenelg Golf Club in Adelaide.

Sunraysia Daily - 1935
Riverside Links - Experts Warm Praise

Warm praise of the recently formed Riverside Golf Club's links, to be officially opened today, was offered yesterday by Mr. Fred. Thompson. the well-known professional and country representative of A. G. Spalding and Bros. after he had played over the course.

"I can only describe the course as wonderful. It is certainly the best I have played on in the country - and I have played many." said Mr. Thompson. "I cannot speak too highly of it." and the club is to congratulated upon its enterprise. The course should have a wonderful future.

One of the features of the course. Mr. Thompson added. was the fact that there no two holes alike. and that the short holes were natural. The course was decidedly difficult to score on, owing to the the natural hazards, and every shot had to be played.

Mr. Thompson. who was invited to Mildura for the opening of the links, is supervising the final preparation of the course.

Sunraysia Daily - 1935
Riverside Links - Official Opening

In the presence of a representative gathering, the official opening took place on Saturday afternoon of the links of the recently formed Riverside Golf Club. It marked the consummation of an ambitious and highly successful undertaking by the Mildura Shire Council, which was responsible for the provision of this addition to the city's sporting facilities. The ceremony was performed by the Shire President Cr. R. R. Skeat.

Declaring the links open, Cr. Skeat said he did not recall in his experience he did a happier occasion, for, from its inception, the movement for the provision of the links had been marked by a kindness of thought and a willing sympathy. In regard to the work of the Shire Council, every member had done his utmost to foster the enterprise. The links occupied only a portion of the magnificent reserve, and the council would offer no objection to the legitimate use of the remainder of the area for recreation purposes by any public body. Cr. Skeat expressed thanks to the Shire engineer (Mr. M.K.N. Johansen), the Shire foreman of works (Mr. J. O'Reilly), and also the workmen engaged on the undertaking, all of whom, he said, had given good service. They were also grateful to messrs. J.J. Lever and G. J. Richardson, captain and secretary respectively of the club, whose knowledge of the club, whose knowledge of the requirements of modern golf links had been of much value; and to Cr. J.R.S. Lochhead, for his active interest in the scheme. The new links were an asset to the social life of the community, and to local golf, and would facilitate the conduct of tournaments.

In the absence of Mrs. Skeat, through a slight injury, Mrs. Lochhead hit the first ball from the tee.

The provision of the course, and the associated facilities, were carried out entirely by the Shire Council, with the aid of sustenance labor. The work which was intermittent, occupied about six months. Upon the completion of the undertaking, the council, placed the control of the links in the hands of a committee of citizens, and, as an outcome, the Riverside Golf Club was formed.

The officers of the club are: President, Cr. Lochhead: Vice-Presidents, Crs J. Henshilwood and R. Gordon: Committee, Dr. D.M. Seeley and Messrs. J.J. Lever, J. G. Lane Colzey, L.C. Carbis, C. Smith, and M.K.N. Johansen: Secretary, Mr. G.J. Richardson: and Treasurer, Mr. F. d'Emden. Although the club was only recently formed, it had a membership of 90 at the time of the opening of its links.

The links are situated between the racecourse and the river. About 120 acres of the 600 acres comprising the reserve are occupied by them, and the buildings, which are constructed of material from bitumen drums, include a luncheon room, three shelter sheds, and a residence of four rooms for the use of the green keeper.

Mr Thompson played an Exhibition match on 4 May 1935 to attract people to the course. The Sunraysia Daily (on 20 May 1935) reporting that 200 players and spectators were in attendance, and upwards of 150 attending play the following Sunday.