Bar/fly: Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria

By Cameron McMillan

Cameron McMillan heads for the 19th hole at Barwon Heads Golf Club - The Members' Lounge.

Members of the lounge at the Barwon Heads Golf Club had all the answers to fixing their national cricket team. Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Members of the lounge at the Barwon Heads Golf Club had all the answers to fixing their national cricket team. Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Big leather couch, massive fireplace to match, above which honours boards record previous Barwon Heads Golf Club champions dating back to the 1930s. It's what all 19th holes should be but very few are these days. A place where men sat, drank cold and cheap beer after a round of 18 holes and talked about sport, politics and dames. Did Bradman still have it? Was Menzies just a marionette for Chamberlain? What about that Greta Garbo?

These questions would have been answered here. This is golf. Or what it used to be.

The Barwon Heads' 19th hole, an 80-minute drive from Melbourne, is a lovely setting with panoramic views across the course's 346m par four 18th and in the opposite direction an outlook towards Bass Strait. I instead chose to sit in a small corner of the world where golf and history stood still. It also had a 42-inch TV showing the opening Ashes test.

"How are we doing?" an older patron asked. I was still expecting Bradman to waltz out to the crease any minute. Just $4.40 for a schooner of Carlton Draft beer was also aiding the illusion.

"We? It's not 'we', mate, I'm from New Zealand, but your men aren't doing too great right now."

We were quickly joined by four other octogenarians who, like all octogenarians do, had all the answers to fixing the national cricket team.

Brad Haddin had to go because he was "bloody useless" (the Aussie keeper went on score the second most runs in the series), Michael Clarke shouldn't have been the skipper (he led the side to a 5-0 series win) and Mitchell Johnson was their only decent bowler (he proved to be their best but was well supported) - a par and two bogeys for those suggestions.

But that is the beauty of 19th holes. You can talk with as much as accuracy as your three-iron and it doesn't matter. Unlike many bars around the world that are full of people who have a cellphone within finger's reach, 19th holes are made up of a generation oblivious to Twitter and Snapchat. Instead, they talk to each other and laugh in unison every two minutes. It's a wonderful thing.

But momentarily the laughter stopped as the English took another Australian wicket.

"Well, we might as well start supporting New Zealand," the first man said, winking at me.

His friends didn't get the joke and were clearly miffed by the notion of changing allegiances.

Two other visitors to the club spotted the TV and were set to join me in the Members' Lounge when it dawned on them that it was, as the name suggests, for members only. Something that I obviously hadn't realised.

I quickly finished my beer, waited till the end of the over and quietly left 1939.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Qantas flies daily from Auckland to Melbourne.

Getting around: Hire a car from Avis at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport and drive the roughly 80 minutes to Bellarine Peninsula.

The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Victoria.

- NZ Herald

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