Blog 166 – Ratho Farm

Course 66 for 2021 – Ratho Farm, Bothwell, Tas

From just in front of the 1st tee, can you see the pin?

The oldest course in the country

Nomadic_golfer : December 2021

Par 70, 5140m, slope 110, $40 green fee

7 par3s 131-205m, 6 par4s 231-374m, 5 par5s 434-508m

A fabulously charming, unique and quirky experience at Australia’s oldest golf course in the central Tasmanian town of Bothwell. Set on a working sheep farm, this 18 hole course was designed and first played in the 1800’s, yet only completed as 18 holes in the last 10 years after various configurations over the years. The original holes are centred around the farm buildings with some weird and wonderful obstacles and eye-line hazards. The last holes were only opened in 2014 with some expertise provided by Crafter & Mogford, who also assisted with other restoration work.

There is much to read about the history of this place, established by the Reid family who immigrated from Scotland in the 1820’s and brought the game of golf with them. Greg Ramsay, who’s family owns Ratho Farm, has taken it by the horns these days and is responsible for the recent upgrades and surging interest. The old buildings play a part in the course and in providing boutique tourist accommodation. The whole place has a unique and homely feel, added to by the persona of Peter Luke, the GM, a larger than life, laconic, hospitable character who genuinely goes out of his way to ensure you enjoy the Ratho experience.

The course sits on native rye grass fairways and fescue greens, and has the Clyde River to contend with on 4 holes. It is loaded with unique factors and quirks: you play over farm gates, sheep-yards, fences, and a hedge; every green is square/ rectangular shaped; you must open and close about a dozen farm gates; you can be jostling for position with sheep; the last green contains a large chestnut tree and a couple of practice cups; large round hay bales mark the position of some tees; and the par70 course has only 6 par4s with splits per 9 of 32/ 38.

The layout is a real mix: some real tough holes: some really not tough; some great risk rewards, and a couple of bland par 3’s (7 & 13) among what are mostly weird and wonderful designs that get you wondering what is coming up next. There is a strategic element to a number of holes, it is definitely no snack and with the rough at calf height in some places, and all those different hazards to negotiate, there are plenty of opportunities to part with your pill!

I could describe about 15 holes here with enthusiasm, but here are 5 that intrigued me:

  • 3 of the par3’s on the front 9 being:
    • 1 (164m playing diagonally over a sheep-yard between farm buildings, and it’s tough to pinpoint where you are going from the tee);
    • 4 (175m alongside the Clyde River with the the green nestled in against the water. Don’t miss right);
    • 8 (another long, 205m par3 that takes some time to work out where you are going. You can just see the pin between a hedge and some bushes, as the teeshot must carry the hedge and negotiate a few fences and a power-pole!);
  • then 16 (drivable 242m par4 offering a few options off the tee, with the river cutting across diagonally in front of the green); and
  • 18 (445m par5 sweeping left around swampy wasteland with a few different target areas along the journey, which does offer up a narrow gap between bushes to have a crack in 2. Otherwise, the conservative option will necessitate a 3rd over these bushes to a green sitting in the homestead gardens, complete with chestnut tree, a bush and practice holes sharing the putting surface ).

Overall, this is more than a collection of golf holes, it’s a property that is steeped in history and provides a unique experience that any golfer who lives in, or visits Tasmania, must enjoy. It’s rustic, charming, surprising but definitely not immaculate; that’s part of the package.

*Note: the Clyde had runneth over a couple of weeks before my visit and impacted the last 4 holes. The cut grass on the fairways and the colour of that 16th green in these following photos were temporary only