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The Norfolk Island Golf Club

The Norfolk Island Golf Club

When the first resident of the house located at No. 1 Quality Row and now used by the Norfolk Island Golf Club left the Island in 1848, his departure was dramatically recorded in the Hobart Town Courier. Of Stipendiary Magistrate Samuel Barrow they reported: “…the feeling of the prisoners is so strong against him that he was said to be a doomed man if he returned”.

Samuel Barrow arrived on Norfolk just after the reformist Commandant Alexander Macconochie had been replaced by Major Joseph Childs. Childs’ orders were to rein in perceived convict excesses, lapsed discipline and insubordination. However, as a weak man inexperienced with controlling convicts, Childs quickly found himself totally out of his depth and that his newly appointed, overly zealous Stipendiary Magistrate was more than happy to carry out severe discipline and punishments. However Barrow’s vindictive nature found him also engaged in conflicts with the officers and he quickly became equally un-liked by both convicts and officials.

After Chaplain Thomas Rogers became the victim of Barrow’s churlish reporting of a perceived inappropriate response to rowdy convicts, Rogers countered with: “I have the most distinct recollections of Mr Barrow cursing and swearing and damning at the men – rising up in his stirrups and clenching his hand and shaking it at them with the most furious gesticulations – and in the most exasperated tones of voice telling them that he defied them – using Gods holy name at the same time in the most profane manner!!! … Mr. Barrow has himself incurred the displeasure of the mob since he came here by his vain glorious boast of making his word law among them: He knows how they threatened to rush him for that indiscreet declamation”.

On moving into their new home Barrow and his wife issued calling cards announcing that “Mr & Mrs Barrow ‘at home’ every Thursday evening at eight o’clock”. Apparently not one person visited.

It is hard to imagine any greater contrast to the deathly quiet and lonely Thursday evening atmosphere in the Barrow household, to the current very social (perhaps even slightly rowdy!) comradery to be found following a competition match or tournament at the Norfolk Island Golf Club. Indeed the Club’s reputation is founded on its open friendliness and genuine welcome to members and visiting golfers. Any sudden shudder or sense of foreboding felt today must surely be the ghost of Samuel Barrow – and not the anticipation of a roasting by fellow members from a poorly performed round!

The Club Professional Andrew Umlauft, known as Umi, has his Pro Shop located in the separated back annexe, or kitchen area. With the walls stripped bare to expose the original sandstone, the Shop cleverly manages a modern function without compromising the ability to conjure the movement of convict servants stoking fires and preparing meals for Barrow and subsequent Stipendiary Magistrates.

Most likely the sheer beauty of the World Heritage listed Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) that the house is situated within, would have been lost on both Barrow and the convicts of his era. Sitting on the Club verandah overlooking the course, the left hand view overlooks the historic cemetery and pounding surf of Cemetery Beach. Looking straight ahead down the 3rd/9th fairway, glimpses of both Nepean and Phillip Islands appear; while to the right the complex of Government House buildings peeps through surrounding Norfolk Island Pines. Commenting after the 2017 Veterans Tournament a recent Trip Advisor contributor summed it up with: “Winding through historical areas and beach scenes, with the grand Norfolk pines all around – really enjoyed our round and a quiet drink on the verandah of the historic building that serves as the clubhouse”.

However perhaps we actually have Samuel Barrow to thank for the very fact the verandah is located looking out over today’s golf course. Though the report is unsubstantiated, it is said the reason this house is the only one on Quality Row reversed in its orientation so the verandah is at the rear is due to Barrow’s demands, as otherwise he would have had to suffer a view over the lower class soldiers living in the duplex across the road. Perhaps a thankful legacy of his imperious nature!

The Veterans Tournament kicks off the Club’s annual event calendar each February attracting aged fifty plus golfers from around Australia and New Zealand. Combining a great week of competition, socialising and holidaying this week regularly demonstrates that age certainly does not weary Vets golfers! In recent years the Tournament has attracted visiting groups from Vets golfing associations, no doubt creating some friendly inter-club rivalry. With three age Divisions there are medals and trophies for each together with daily Stableford prizes.

Today’s Vets golfers would more than likely be a little surprised to learn that playing a game of golf up until 1986 meant dodging freely roaming cattle. Protective fences surrounded each green so at least those areas were not destroyed by the impact of cow’s hooves (the green keepers must have been very patient!). In addition to fenced greens, the course appearance has undergone big changes since the very first ball was driven down the first fairway by Lottie Stephenson in 1927. At that time it would have seemed sparse in comparison to today’s growth of Norfolk Island Pines, most of which were planted in the early 1950s to prevent sand encroachment and to beautify the area.

The largest plantation of Pines backs onto the course from behind Emily Bay following a dogleg edge on the 8th/17th par 4 hole. The tee is located on a cliff-edge at the highest point of the course alongside the remains of a Second settlement windmill, with the green hidden by the bank of 30 metre plus tall trees. Most golfers will see their balls land well before the left hand turn to the hole, however the best chance of seeing big hitters reach as close as possible, is during the Hardy’s Wines Pro Am Golf Classic. With the amateurs and Pro’s playing alongside each other, the amateurs play a 72 hole stroke/stableford event for $13,500 prize money, while the Pro’s compete over a 72 hole stroke event for a prize pool of $20,000. The Classic consistently boasts a full field of local and overseas competitors and is a truly fantastic week on the island.

During its penal era the area of the golf course was known as ‘Garrison Farm’ housing the garden and farm areas of adjacent Government House. As the ‘Governor’s Lodge’ it was where subsequent Commandants and their families lived up until the close of the Settlement in 1856. Today, the Governor’s Lodge is the name given to a hotel located close to Burnt Pine town centre and becomes the focal point for visiting golfers during each November’s Governor’s Cup Tournament. This Spring time 3 day teams tournament attracts strong repeat competitors and is run as a 4 Ball Best Ball, 2 Person Ambrose and 4 Ball Aggregate Stableford format.

Whether visiting golfers play at one of the annual tournaments (there’s also June’s Castaway Bounty Open and December’s Stolley Shield), or not so serious golfers include a quiet game or two during their holiday, everyone will encounter a genuinely easy and welcoming Club atmosphere. The course has moments of deceptive difficulty (watch out for the longer grass traps) and the signature 4th/13th includes hitting over the beach to the green’s small putting surface. Sitting on the verandah after a game it may just feel like golfers have found ‘golfing nirvana’ – but watch out for that sudden shudder up the spine as the menacing ghost of Samuel Barrow walks past.



Image Credit: Robin Nisbet


Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 02 Issue 02, 2018. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.


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