Blog 178 – Oatlands

Course 5 for 2022 – Oatlands GC, Tas

Approach to 340m 5th

A ripping old track, put it on your ‘must-plays’

Nomadic_golfer : January 2022

Par 70, 5414m, slope 109, $15 green fee

4 par3s 125-140m, 12 par4s 280-372m, 2 par5s of 480m

I can’t believe no-one told me about this place. Dates of first play on this old gem are not clear but it was well before 1900, making it one of the oldest courses going around. Ratho Farm proprietor Greg Ramsay has some magic old photos from the turn of the 20th century where locals turned out for ‘afternoons of golf’ just as they would for afternoon tea. Around this time, there were 2 courses in Hobart, 2 in Launceston and quite a few in this midlands area where local farmers carved out some holes and invited everyone around to play this latest trending game.

The original routing was on the current land and an adjoining parcel, which included a very special hole called ‘the cave hole’ which crossed a lake and then over a corner containing an aboriginal cave, complete with artefacts. This hole was cut from the course as the farming landowner wanted to compact the golf course and maximise his grazing land. Tasmanian great Peter Toogood, helped the redesign which catered for this change.

The current 9 holes is a magnificent, natural old layout that does as good a job of blending the local native land characteristics into the course as you will see. Sandstone that runs along in front of the first tee and forms a magnificent backdrop to the par3 6th, and multiple lagoons (one major lagoon) that a number of holes use integrally, are the standout examples.

It’s fair to say I got a bit excited with the land/ layout/ aesthetic here. From the narrow dirt road up into the ‘carpark’, some barbed wire before the clubhouse, there’s character everywhere here and nothing pretentious. Its the same on the course; every hole has some unique, defining characteristic and the routing of those first 7 holes, in particular, is spellbinding. It is an open looking course with most of the holes set in a valley below the clubhouse and first hole, which sit atop a small hill/ rise, making almost the entire course visible from the clubhouse.

The tree count is low, a sparse population of very large pines plays the major tree role, with a small number of gums present also. It is not long and it is bunkerless, with the course’s defences being the lagoons and the long gnarly rough that the locals call the “snags”. The design has strategy at it’s core; from the outset, the tighter lines give you the shortest routes and easier approaches. From the 1st tee, you get this rustic, ageless, natural vibe. That 1st is 280m, initially over long grass and sandstone with a diagonally framed fairway looking at you from short left and 3 or 4 pines creeping out from the right.

The first encounter with the main lagoon is on the 340m 2nd, where it runs down the left of a beautifully undulating fairway that has a couple of pines on each side and a grassy, sandstone based mound on the right of the green. The 125m 3rd is superb, across the lagoon to a tear-drop green that narrows on the water-neighbouring left and plays into the prevailing breeze. I won’t describe them all but 5 is a stunning 340m left to right par4 with a row of pines left starting at about 180m just inside an OB fence, and a couple more pines on the inside corner to a green protected by a thick grassy mound and low-lying trees on the left; and 6 is the 140m par 3 with farmyard left, played to an elevated, shallow green with a very large exposed sandstone as the backdrop.

Condition was fine. Fairways are a native rye, and they get plenty of effluent water. Tees are well kept, flat and tight. Greens are a mix of a number of grasses (looks like some sort of bent in there), watered from a bore and were sound, apart from a couple that are currently being nursed back to health.

Overall, this is a fascinating short, 9-hole country track steeped in history of high design merit and mediocre condition, that is a must-play if you are playing golf in Tassie. My only wish was that I had some sun/ better light to capture some photos that would do this place justice.