The pear tree

The 7th hole, 348m, Par 4. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

The RACV Healesville Golf Course presents some confronting challenges for golfers, particularly around the greens; so it’s well worth a moment to take in the surroundings and there’s no better example than when you arrive at the 8th tee block. From here you can look out over the course and the valley beyond.

Not only is it a magnificent scenic view but it also opens a window over the pear tree green where all its secrets are laid bare.

But how many golfers have arrived at this tee, unaware of what they can learn? I raised this question to fellow member Rob Johnston over a few beers last Thursday. Surely he, a surveyor, would have taken all this in.

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “I have studied the view from the lookout and it certainly gave me a better understanding of the greens intricacies and the best way for me to approach it.

“Of course it’s dependent on pin position, for example the saddle; to the high side in summertime, when the greens are hard and fast. It’s there your ball can run well off the back or reverse back down towards the 8th,” Johnston explained.

Johnston has been playing competition golf for 26 years on this course. At his best he was off a very respectable 16 handicap and last week he found himself in good form as he arrived at the Par 4, 7th.

As a right hander, Johnston knows that the guardian of the fifth won’t be worrying him, nor will he have fear of losing his ball into bush land that runs up to Ryan’s Road.

To the right, the fairway is lined by a variety of trees, but tragically the old Packham pear tree, an iconic symbol, is missing.

Long time golfing member Dickie Taylor reminisces, “It was such a magnificent tree, I doubt you could grow one as fine these days.

“Each season golfers would fill their bags with its fruit and in autumn the colours were spectacular. It must have been a heartless soul who ordered its removal.”

Further on up the fairway is the only bunker. It sits to the left of the fairway and from a distance the size of the green it protects is disguised. It does, however, offer the unsuspecting fair passage to the saddles putting surface to the right and good luck with that.

“I always try to hit my drive up the centre right of the fairway as close to the 150 marker as I can. From that position depending how far I’ve hit my drive; I’ll have a shot over that bunker to the green or I’ll lay up beside it,” Johnston said.

And he is right, the sand trap certainly makes you think twice about your next shot in; but either way, his third will have to get in close to the pin on this very difficult green if he’s to earn points.

From the Junction green on the 6th, you can find the 7th tee block, beside the 5th and on a busy day golf balls are liable to fly in all directions. It’s here that Johnston finds a place to tee up, steps back and looks up hill to find the distance flag pin.

With hands and arms Rob swings into the breeze, it’s a well timed strike and on a good day his ball would have run to the 150 marker, but still it’s in the middle and executed to plan.

Johnston second, a hybrid club sends his ball into the strengthening breeze where it seems to be suspended in mid air momentarily, before dropping to the right of the sand pit. His critical third is a confident chip that runs from the saddle to leave him a 4 club length putt.

But Rob has always had good hands on the short grass and he exits the pear tree towards next week’s Par 5, 8th “The Lookout” with 4 stableford points.

For the ordinary golfer, having a good result on any hole; keeps us coming back each week and if you are thinking about taking up the game, why not join us… out on the course and let’s hope that is soon rather than later.

Members will have the opportunity to take on professional Ben Eyton-Jones this season with administration reviving the popular “Beat The Pro” competition.

It is certainly shaping up to be a busy season and with renovations coming along well, there’s no doubt it should be a good social calendar… and let’s not forget; the second round of the Donna Buang Challenge away.

Congratulations to last weeks winners:

Tuesday Stableford

Allan Davidson 40 points

Craig Stewart 39 pts

Harry Leigh 38 pts

Thursday Mixed Stableford

Ian McMinn 42 points

Grant Handasyde 37 pts

Barry Rust 36 pts

Hats off to the ladies who played through the rain on Wednesday to take out the Goldie Locks Challenge.