Playing the Grotto

Healesville Golf Course's 10th hole 130m Par 3.

On an August afternoon before lockdown, picking her ball from the cup on the RACV’s 9th green, Diana Viggers turns towards Mt Lebanon and takes the short walk to the 10th tee block to play a few holes on the back nine.

For most golfers they’re required to flight their ball into the breeze across a gully 130 odd metres to the par 3 “Grotto”. An elevated green surrounded by cavernous sand traps, similar to the one you might find at South Shields on the North Sea coast; here the key is accuracy, as many discover.

But how most play the game may not be as others do. It’s easy to forget that golf is also played by beginners, young and old, with varied abilities who approach the challenges of the game and the course differently.

Whether you are on your own, out with friends, competing against the course in competition or like Diana Viggers who took up her RACV golf membership in 1999 to play with her husband Jim, having retired from her teaching career, the game welcomes everyone.

Two decades on Diana may not have the striking power she once had, but she’s still playing and that’s what it’s all about.

“I enjoy the companionship of friends, the exercise, the wildlife about course and thanks to a Stableford system, I’m encouraged to carry on”, she said

Developed by Dr Frank Stableford (first played in 1898) points are scored based on the number of strokes taken at each hole. Rather than the traditional method, where the aim is to have the lowest score, the objective here is to have the highest points score.

Placing her ball between the markers on the ladies tee block, Diana hesitates momentarily taking notice of the pin position. For the ladies the journey to the centre of the green is about 110 metres and that’s where the cup is set this day. But that’s not the only problem; between the tee and flag are a mob of roos grazing about the fairway.

Diana turns a little discouraged to say, “I haven’t the strength I once had. If I use my driver here to try and carry the green, I’m liable to end up in one of the bunkers and I’ll never get out of there.”

It’s a normal occurrence to see the roos about the course, especially as the sun falls behind the range and they’ve become used to golfers asking them to help find their ball. They prick their ears and quite often the smallest of Joey’s will pop its head from the pouch and listen.

Addressing the ball Diana shifts her eyes towards the green on the ridge, surveys the gully where a cart path crosses the rough momentarily before the cut fairway grass leads the way up a steep slope. Drawing the club she swings through the ball hitting it well enough to reach the unperturbed roos where it stops in the middle of them.

With the mob watching on, Diana swings an 8 iron into the ball and sends it over the fringe of the green and out of view.

At this point the writer should explain that the Stableford competition allows golfers to deduct their handicaps from the number of strokes taken per hole. A handicap is a numerical measure used to enable players of varying abilities to compete against others based on previous scores.

The better the player the lower the handicap.

Diana has taken two shots to reach the par 3 10th green and under normal circumstances she has one shot left to achieve her authentic par. But as she walks over the slope to the short grass she discovers her ball, although on the green, it never quite made its way up the swell to the top section where the cup has been placed.

Having studied the up slope to the pin, Diana executes her putt allowing for the borrow; she watches it run the slope to right of the flag, but it rolls beyond the hole. It was a difficult putt trying to judge the speed to conquer the slope whilst expecting the ball close in on the cup.

Arriving at next week’s par 3 11th, it had taken Diana Viggers 5 shots from the tee to the drop of her ball; deducting her handicap allowance for that hole her Stableford score was entered as 3 points and that will be more than enough to encourage her back next week.

If you enjoy the exercise, fresh air, making new friends and learning new skills you might like to chat with Ben Eyton-Jones or Ryan Akkers in our clubhouse pro shop.