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30 October 2019
By Lotte Reiter
For a casual passer-by today, an empty paddock a few kilometres south of Rupanyup might appear as nothing more than, well, an empty paddock.
Look through the eyes of former Rupanyup resident Merna Dunlop, however, and fairways bustling with rural golfers eager for a Sunday tee-off emerge. Where, as the image continues, a six-hole course surrounds the Dyer estate family farmhouse and players – teachers, storekeepers, bank employees and farmers – travel from surrounding areas for some friendly competition in the colder months.
It’s a story, Mrs Dunlop said, known and told by few – the story of defunct Dalcross Golf Course.
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“I don’t think many people know about Dalcross anymore,” she said.
“And I suppose nobody else has ever thought to research it. But this place existed and there are many more defunct golf courses in our regional area that have stories to tell.”
Mrs Dunlop, who lived in Rupanyup for 40 years and has an even longer-lasting golfing passion, said she always knew the Dalcross story.
She said the course, built on a Mr W.J.L. Dyer’s farm in the Dalcross area, operated about 100 years ago, during the time of the First World War. Mr Dyer constructed the small private course around his home.
Rupanyup had a public golf course at the time, but golfers were not allowed to play on a Sunday, so they would make the trek to Mr Dyer’s property for a hit instead.
The Dalcross story was a fragmented one, mainly spread by word of mouth.
But Mrs Dunlop started to collate its history, with the help of friend Amy Hurley, and gathered a few pieces of Rupanyup golfing memorabilia over time.
“I moved to Horsham with my husband Norm and we had the golf shop – Dunlop’s Golf Land – in Firebrace Street,” she said.
“Jessie Florence, who lived firstly on a farm north of Rupanyup, used to ride her bike to golf on a Saturday, with her golf bag slung over her shoulder.
“When living in Horsham several years later, she had a garage sale, where someone bought her small golf bag she would play with, and they brought it into our shop.
“Then Jessie came in one day and realised – ‘oh, that’s my bag’. It had her initials on it as well. There were two golf balls in there, they would have to be about 100 years old now.”
Mrs Dunlop said the golf balls were ‘altogether’ different from those that golfers hit today and provided a small snapshot into what golfing would have been like in Rupanyup and other regional courses a century ago.
“One has round dimples and one square dimples, both in their original Spalding packers – it’s the first one with square dimples I have ever seen,” she said.
“And these are smaller balls than what they use nowadays. I think the inside of the ball would be rubber or elastic wound around a core. Everything has changed, and for the better. Golf bags back then could have had one or two woods, a few irons and a putter. In Jessie’s bag for example she had a Bobbie Locke No. 2 wood, and a Mid Iron No. 2 Defiance iron, which has 180 yards written on the base of the iron.
“The other iron was a Mashie, a No. 5 iron with 145 yards written on the base of the club. These two irons and the putter had hickory shafts, there was four rubber golf tees, and of course, a scraper, which had to be 21 inches wide, usually home-made.”
Far from average
The holes and game-play of Dalcross were far from a typical course many golfers would be accustomed to today.
Mrs Dunlop has an original golf card from the defunct golf course, with hand-written ‘local’ rules on the back, scribed in pencil. A round of golf typically consists of 18 holes. The Dalcross Golf Course only had six.
Mrs Dunlop said golfers had to play through the course three times to make up 18 holes.
“Amy Hurley’s friend recollected the position of each fairway around the home, with the first hole starting near the kitchen,” she said.
“The second hole went down to the windmill dam and hole three crossed the channel. Hole four, probably a dogleg, went through a paddock near where a crop was sown, and continued around behind the pig sty. Golfers then had to hit over the tennis court near the house – I dare say the tennis court fence was not too high!
“The last two holes golfers hit toward Stawell-Rupanyup road. There was also a rope with a tin attached down the well, to retrieve any stray balls.”
On occasions, golfers and perhaps tennis players in the summer months would stay for tea and have a ‘singalong’ around the piano.
A newspaper clipping of the time reported there was a foursome golf competition between Rupanyup and Dalcross, with teams of seven pairs each.
Dalcross, the local team, won the event. After playing, the visitors were entertained with an afternoon tea provided by Miss Dyer.
Mrs Dunlop said she was unsure of why Dalcross eventually closed – ‘I suppose they must have said you can play in Rupanyup on Sunday perhaps’ – but her research shows there are many interesting stories hidden in history, even in an empty paddock a few kilometres south of Rupanyup.
Mrs Dunlop is now busy exploring the history of other defunct courses in the region. A former Lubeck course is next on the list.
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 5 is available online. READ IT HERE!