Wimmera Golf Trail




Good day there, I’m Wallace Long. Welcome to Great Golfing Road Trips Australia. This podcast will be uncovering great golf courses that are within an easy drive of capital cities around Australia. In each episode, my guest will share local knowledge on where to stay, dine, and play during a road trip.

And if you’d like to find out more about this podcast, you can jump on our website, Let’s get the car started!


Hi there. It’s great to have your company. Today we’re heading to Horsham Golf Club in Victoria and catching up with PGA Professional Cameron Howell.

As an elite player, Cameron won both the junior and men’s Victorian amateur titles. He’s won over 60 Pro Am events on the Australasian Tour and been a club professional for 25 years. He’s played over 600 courses across the world and is a top 100 golf course rater. He loves nothing more than playing, talking and studying golf course architecture.

In this episode, Cameron shares his great golfing road trip, the Wimmera Golf Trail.

We’ll hear about four superb country courses, large courses, Santa Ana couch fairways, and country hospitality. Cameron tells us how ‘a little bit of the Melbourne Sandbelt made its way to this beautiful regional area’. He speaks of his love of golfing road trips, the excitement he gets when discovering a new golf course and meeting new people along the way.

If this episode sparks your interest to get in the car and explore the Wimmera Golf Trail, head to our website for all the local intel. Cameron joins me next.


Cameron Howell, welcome.


Thank you, Wallace. Thanks for coming.


This is about your great golfing road trip. Tell us about the Wimmera Region and what you’ve got in store for us.


Well, the great thing about the Wimmera region is we’ve got several really good golf courses, and you can hop in your car in the morning in Melbourne or even Adelaide, and you’re on the tee at 12:30.

The great thing about Horsham Golf Club is we can accommodate you seven days a week here.


So tell us about that trip, if we’re leaving from Melbourne CBD, how long is it? And on the way, where would you be stopping for a coffee?


Let’s say you leave Melbourne at eight o’clock, probably refuelling Ararat or Stawell and convenient places there to get a coffee, speaking from experience going up and back, and good coffee everywhere along there.

And then next thing you’d be in Horsham by probably 11:30, 12 o’clock.


So what’s that, about three and a half hours?


Three and a half, three and three quarters.


So arriving in Horsham, tell us about Horsham Golf Course.


It’s a very easy walking course. It’s relatively flat. There’s some slight undulations. There’s none of those cardiac hills or anything that you get at a lot of golf courses. One can walk around here quite easily, and if you elect to take a cart, got plenty of carts for people to use here.

We’re actually on the second site. Originally it was along the Wimmera River, and then they moved out here in the late 40s, early 50s.

Probably the forefathers had the foresight then of finding this land that was actually on sand. So we’ve got 8 to 10 metres of sand all the way through the golf course and through the facilities. And it’s quite a unique sort of thing because we’ve got this wonderful farming land, that grows lots of things and it’s all clay, but we’re actually here on sand.

So whether it’s heavy rain, light rain, it all just goes through. And then we’ve also got a wonderful combination of some really good water facilities. It’s a very good place to grow grass.

We’ve got 18 holes. We’ve got a modern day clubhouse that now is 13 years old, fully stocked pro shop, dining room, it’s more cafe meals, coffee, sandwich, a cake, practice facilities.

We’ve got a driving range, much the envy of a lot of CBD courses, because we’ve got plenty of land here. It’s really like a little miniature sandbelt golf course because back when they’ve moved from the riverside out to here, they employed a guy called Sam Berriman.

Now Sam Berriman was the superintendent at Huntingdale Golf Club and also as a side gig was a golf course designer. So he did a bit of work at Huntingdale, Cranbourne Golf Club, which is down in Melbourne also, La Trobe Golf Club. We were very lucky because he brought the sandbelt designs to here at Horsham.


And the fairways, what grass are they?


So we have a mixture of Common Couch and Santa Ana Cooch, but predominantly Santa Ana Couch, with bent grass greens.


So Cameron, if we’ve got a group, what can they expect when they arrive at Horsham Golf Club?


Well, it’s a regular thing that we get lots of visiting groups, whether it be a couple’s trip or a boy’s golf trip, or it might be one of the social golf clubs from Melbourne or Adelaide coming through.

First thing we’re going to get Wallace is you’re going to get country hospitality. It’s a very friendly club. The staff are very friendly and very engaging, whether they’re here with us for a day or two days or three days, we sort of try and get to know them and try and get to know us because we want them to feel at home.

We can accommodate groups in the morning and the afternoon. It’s very easy and the members will sort of part the sea to let them come and play or join up and play with them. And again, when they finish, there’s plenty of hospitality in the bar and the cafe there. We want them to actually not only enjoy the golf course, but really have the experience of a friendly atmosphere.


Tell me about the course. You’ve talked about very much a links style bunkering or Melbourne sort of sandbelt bunkering. For different handicap rangers, what’s the course like?


So I’ll sort of wind the clock back a little bit. In 2009, Wallace, we had about 15,000 pine trees and it was surrounded, it was thick woods, a lot of people probably that have played previously and tea tree.

So a lot of times you’d be playing one hole and you couldn’t see the next hole and I can remember playing here in the late 2000s and early 2000s and you’d be in the fairway and there’d be overhanging branches from the pine trees. And then one of those devastating bushfires come through and wiped out all those trees and the clubhouse.

So, courtesy of that is, we’ve now planted between 13 and 15,000 more native Australian fauna, more gum trees and wattles. So then the golf course now plays significantly wider than what it did before 20 years ago, courtesy of the pine trees not being there. It’s a wide golf course, but you’d actually have to play down a certain line to give you a better angle into the pin.

It’s not an overly long golf course. It’s about just on 6,000 metres from the back tips, but it plays a little bit longer than that, than the yardage reads because of the lush couch fairways. Sometimes you think you hit a good drive and it doesn’t quite get the run out because the lushness of the couch fairways.

And so it’s very accessible for all handicaps. It’ll challenge the scratch player all the way through to a high handicap. They’re not going to be sorting out, geez, all these holes are tight. There’s enough room for everyone to actually play and enjoy the game.


In April you’ve got a tournament that runs over five days and also you’ve got the Senior Amateur in October each year. Tell me about the people that come to that and the experience they enjoy?


So we, we have our annual tournament, which runs five days, Wednesday through to Sunday, with a mixture of events. It gets serious on the Saturday where they play 36 holes or 18 holes stroke. And then we have some mixed events and some four ball events and generally the four ball ones are the most popular one.

And so we’ll get people from all over. We get lots of people from Adelaide, Melbourne, lots of other regional golfers will come and enjoy the hospitality for two or three days. And then later in the year we have, uh, in October now, we’ve just moved it, we have the Horsham Senior Amateur. So, this is your sort of more serious golfers that are over 55 golfer.

And we were lucky enough a couple of years ago to have, due to COVID, they couldn’t play down in the CBD in Melbourne, so we hosted the Victorian senior amateur for two years in a row and then that has spawned this event being the Horsham Senior.

So a lot of you serious amateur golfers and some of these amateur golfers have played for Australia at amateur golf level and we get them down from Sydney or up from Melbourne and it’s really exciting because some of these guys are still in their 60s playing off plus two and plus three. There’s always some good golf being played around that sort of time.


Golf course rater Craig Smart said ‘that Horsham has improved noticeably during the past few years and it must be now considered as offering one of the best value for money rounds in the country.’ Where’s it ranked?


As we know, there’s several rankings. Probably in the two main magazines, we sort of just sit outside the top hundred. And then for public access courses, we’re in about 60th to 70th in the country for that.


What does it cost to play this best value for money course in the country?


It’s $50.00 for 18 holes and $35.00 for 9 holes.


And what about if somebody wants to hit some golf balls prior on that beautiful driving range?


Your small bucket for 35 balls is $6.00, or the large bucket, which is about 100 balls, $15.00.


And if they need a motorised car?


$40.00 for 18 holes.


Cameron, you’ve just done the driving range. What’s next on the agenda for the Horsham Golf Club?


Almost 18 months ago, we were very lucky to have Mike Clayton brought Mike DeVries through. Mike does work down at Port Fairy. And has done some wonderful work down there. They came up and the brief was, we’ll make a few notes of what we can do, make some changes and make the golf course better.

And what can we do under our own steam? We have a wonderful volunteer base here, along with the course staff. And for the next three or four hours, we walked around and took notes and Mike DeVries and Clayts are very passionate about what this place could become. As Clayts has said in written articles, he thinks that we could become one of the best country courses in Australia. We’re close to it, but he wants us to get better. And we’re going to get better.

The next phase from the driving range, we’ve got a 15 page report and so we’re in the process of just sort of ironing out what tasks do we do first and make Horsham one of the best country courses in Australia. We can really do a good job with their guidance.


We’ve headed out of Melbourne, we’ve made it to Horsham, had a bite to eat, and we’ve played a beautiful 18 holes at Horsham Golf Club. What are the options overnight? How far out are we from town and what are the options for accommodation and also dining.


We’re a few kilometres out of town. Go back into town, you can always go and stay, if you’ve got a van with you, the new local caravan park has been renovated along the river. Beautiful spot there along the river amongst the trees. Or there’s numerous motels throughout town. You can stay in one of the motels and then you could walk to two or three of the pubs off for some really good country meals.

We’ve got two Thai restaurants. Of course, I’ve got one of my favourites. They’re very good quality Thai restaurants, equal to anything you get in the CBD.


Cameron, thank you. That’s day one done. After the break, we’ll head into day two.


Cameron, day two, where’s breakfast?


Well, I’d go to the Farmhouse Cafe. Best coffee in Horsham, apart from Horsham Golf Club, of course, Wallace. Get a little cheeky bacon and egg roll, hop in the car, and about 40 minutes later, 45 minutes later you’ll arrive in Nhill. Then a couple of kilometres off the road, you get to the golf club out there.

And now Wallace, Nhill Golf Club is possibly the best golf course for population or size of town in Australia. It is unbelievably good. The population in Nhill is probably about 2,000. The golf course is phenomenal. Again, very gifted because it’s out on sand. Beautiful couch grass fairways. Beautiful greens.

Just immaculately looked after. It’s a one man show out there with the superintendent and his team of volunteers and you’re going to find an incredibly presented golf course. It’s like several golf courses in the region here, most of the time it’s an honesty box. You fill out your envelope, put your money in the slot and go down the first hole there.

Long par four, beautiful tree lined with pines both sides. As you discover more and more holes you’ll really get the appreciation of how good Nhill is. Got some wonderful par threes out there.

You’ll get a beautiful view back out towards the town and then back out to Little Desert and some of the nice farmland.

And then you’ll finish and drive your way back to Horsham. Mr Lee out there is a little takeaway bakery. You’ll want to pop in there before you come back to Horsham because it’s worth a visit.


We’ve got a couple more courses to look at on your Great Golfing Road Trip. What’s next on the agenda?


You could always sneak a few holes in at Dimboola on the way back to Horsham. Dimboola is a wonderful sand scrape golf course, being sand greens, cut through this beautiful big Australian gum tree forest. Big wide fairways, immaculate fairways.

For those that haven’t played sand scrapes, sand scrapes are closed for the course of the summer and then reopen again, sort of late April, early April, depending on the seasonal or grass, and then back grand final day, they close.

Dimboola is one of the true surprises of me being recently moved to Horsham, cause it’s on a big scale and it’s just a wonderful golf course. If you’re in the area, you’ve got to play it. So even if you’re on the way back from Nhill and you snuck nine holes in there, again, an honesty box, put your money in the slot and go to the tee.

It’s worth nine holes, or you could even maybe plan to come back the next day.


You were generous enough to give me some time yesterday and we walked the course. And I was taken by the quality of the fairways and also the enormous nature of the land. It’s a big course, isn’t it?


Yeah, it’s on quite a bit of land.

They utilise a dry creek bed that runs through there and it sometimes runs along the side of the fairway, across the fairways. It’s really been well put together and I think the golf course was sort of built in the 50s or the 60s. Two brothers that were engineers, that lived in town. They must have had some golf course knowledge because they really put it together.

And the routing is something special.


It certainly is. It was really impressive. Could you explain the way that the fairways are seeded each season?


So early spring, they let the fairway grass grow up to a good height, and probably almost around knee height. The seeds are hidden in the top of the grass, the dry grass that then gets drier as the Australian summer takes place.

Round about March, they then start to cut it, and then the seeds fall from the grass and lay on the ground, and then hopefully you get some autumn rains. And then all of a sudden the fairways come to life, so they go from nothing to just beautiful grass. The fairways are outstanding in the wintertime.


Now Cameron, we move off to the other option, which is Warracknabeal. Can you talk about Warracknabeal?


Warracknabeal is a little town northwest of Horsham. There’s probably a 35 minute drive up there. Very similar to a Horsham Golf Club. It’s out of town and again on this sandy soil, again you’re surrounded by farmland which is on the clay and they’ve found this sandy soil, surrounded by pine trees on a very big property out there that adjoins the farms.

It’s like a smaller version of Horsham. A little shorter, smaller greens, but again, it’s got that sandbelt bunkering. And again, I think the green fees are nominal up there, again, $10.00 or something. And for $10.00, it’s quite an amazing course. Again, you’ve got Santa Ana fairways and Santa Ana greens up there.

They went away from Bent grass about 15 years ago. That was through one of the major droughts of the early 2000s. They decided to just make it Santa Ana. And they putt very well though. They get them to a nice level. It’s a really wonderful little golf course.


Day two, we’ve got three courses, Dimboola, Nhill and Warracknabeal as options to play, depending on the time of the year.

We then come back, have another night in town. And day three, the morning is Horsham again, lunch, and then head back home. So in three days, you can get access to this beautiful part of the Wimmera region, which is in close proximity to Melbourne CBD and also to Adelaide as well.


That’s right. I mean, you could play here in the morning and then, you’d be home in bed, just a normal time, ready for work on the Monday morning. And again, make sure you get your petrol it if you’re going back to Melbourne at Ararat, because that’s the best priced petrol.


I think a free plug for Ararat service station, but I’m sure there’s more than one there.

Cameron, in wrapping up, and thanks again for sharing your Great Golfing Road Trip. What is it for you? In regards to, what is the sense of the great thing about getting on a road trip with your mates and experiencing the regional areas?


Well, it’s the excitement of packing the car up and putting your clubs in the back, and the good banter in the car as you’re driving to your destination.

Someone’s always saying how well they’re playing and they generally play poorly on the trip and the chap that’s playing average, he said, Oh, I don’t know where I’m going. He ends up winning the boy’s golf trip, or the couple’s golf trip. It’s the excitement of going and discovering new golf courses, meeting new people at these destinations, whether it be the golf club or even the local restaurant or the local pub, chatting to some of the locals.

It’s just getting out and about. Then planning the next road trip on the way home. Righto guys, where are we going to go next?


If this episode has sparked people’s interest in coming to Horsham in the Wimmera region, what do they do? How do they get in contact with you?


I’m happy to talk people through, just pick the phone up and call the golf club.

If I’m not there, I’ll call you back and talk you through all what you need to know, help you with where to stay. What days you should be playing at all these different golf clubs. If you need a cart at some of these golf clubs. Some of the golf clubs haven’t got carts, but the locals come out and lend you their carts.

You really get the country hospitality.


Cameron, it’s been brilliant. Thanks so much for your time.


Thank you, Wallace.


It was terrific to catch up with Cameron Howell and hear about the Wimmera Golf Trail. Three and a half hours from Melbourne, four from Adelaide. What an amazing set of golf courses. A must visit. All the info on the courses, accommodation, ideas, places to Tweet will be on our website,

Thanks to Nhill, Dimboola and Warracknabeal golf courses, and a special thanks to the team at Horsham.

If you have a suggestion or comment, drop us an email,

Great Golfing Road Trips is on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

I’m Wallace Long. Thanks for your company.