What do square greens, sheep fences, a periscope, one Biarritz green, power poles, gates, and climbing trees to be able to see a green all have in common? One hell of a great day, that’s what! Welcome to Ratho Farm!! With over 150 years of documented golfing history, Ratho Farm, located in Tasmania, is the oldest golf course in the Southern Hemisphere!
Ratho Farm plays 5621-yards par 70 from the Back tees and 4778-yards par 73 from the Forward tees. Green fees are a modest 40 dollars for all-day play. But the most meaningful measurement of Ratho is in the amount of fun that you are about to have!
The Front Nine at Ratho Farm
The opening hole at Ratho Farm is incredibly unique, so let’s see if we can get this right. The tee shot on this 179-yard par 3 needs to navigate between the 2 small barns that frame the tee. Once clear of the barns, your ball then simply needs to cross a road, go over 2 gates, carry the 14th green and the 4 theatre seats nearby, the 9th fairway and the 2nd fairway, to a small square green. Oh, and you need to do all of that while avoiding the dangerous and unseen greenside bunkers both left and long. This hole is easily one of our favorites in all our golf travels. Welcome to Ratho Farm! And we are just getting started!
Starting just to the right of the first green, the 154-yard uphill par 3 second has a remnant of a sheep fence that once enclosed the green. With a working sheep barn in the background, I made a better swing than I did on the first hole and found the green, pin-high left. Menekse hit her driver up the right side, and her shot came to rest just beyond the gate to the sheep fence.
With a nod towards classic golf architecture, we really enjoyed the Biarritz-style green on the 556-yard third hole, the only par 5 on the front.
The 253-yard drivable par 4 sixth hole has a treacherous bunker that guards the front of a green that was more rectangular in shape than square. Eager to give the green a go, I grabbed my driver and made solid contact. Flying straight towards the green, we couldn’t see it land, but I was fairly certain that I had flown into the bunker.
Making our way down the center Hogan cut of the fairway, we found my ball resting pin high on the right side of the narrow green. I then proceeded to leave my second consecutive eagle putt of the day frustratingly short. During our 4-month travels through Tasmania, we learned that this was a La Nina summer, which made the greens probably slower than they normally would be. Or that is what we took comfort in telling ourselves anyway!
There is a beautiful large tree on the left side of the green on the 143-yard par 3 seventh. With the sun beginning to warm the day, I hit an 8-iron that felt like absolute butter leaving the clubface. We watched it eagerly sail on a rope toward the pin. It was 3-feet short, which I knocked in for my third consecutive birdie!
The number one handicap 224-yard par 3 eighth is the longest par 3 on the course and comes with a blind tee shot for good measure. The only way that we could figure out where exactly to go was to climb the tree that offers protection from stray ward tee shots from seven. The best marker is the electricity pole that resides just left of the green.
Some Good Advice
“Get off that back foot Cardy”, my mother used to remind herself when she needed some self-help. She was a great player, winning the Riverwood Women’s Club Champion multiple times, and that simple swing thought always seemed to help her. Menekse kept the thought of accelerating through the golf swing in her mind on the front nine, and it provided dividends.
The front nine at Ratho was fantastic, and our scores were reflective of the fun we had. Menekse went out in 44, one of her lowest scores of our entire golf journey. Three consecutive birdies helped to offset the double I took on the opening hole and gave me a 32, par for the outward nine.
Making the Turn at Ratho Farm
There is a periscope on the tee of the 475-yard par 5 twelfth. From the vantage point that the periscope provides, you can see that the fairway doglegs right, and then turns slightly back left. There is a narrow landing area for your tee shot that we didn’t notice, however, even from the elevated view. From the narrow fairway, I hit 5-iron in but missed long and right. We would like to see this change to a great par 4 rather than a short par 5. There are four par 5’s on the back, so changing par here could make sense.
A narrow stream dissects the fairway diagonally from left to right on the 267-yard par 4 sixteenth. Some players, like me, might not know which side of the stream is the best play. Menekse, however, knew exactly what to do. She ripped her tee shot down the longer right side and safely pitched it onto the green. The sixteenth green has a lot of undulations, especially at the front, but her 2-putt par made it look easy. I loved watching her confidently walk off the green with a subtle grin of satisfaction.
The 195-yard par 3 seventeenth was simply an outstanding golf hole! Fully enclosed by beautiful golden tussock grasslands, this one-shot hole demands a perfect shot. With a small bunker left of a green that slopes right to left, seventeen makes my nervous draw a scary thought. With fear in my swing, I pulled a five iron just left of the greenside bunker but was lucky not to have strayed into the grassland. I hit a good pitch shot up and over the bunker but left it short and settled for a bogey.
The Oldest Golf Course in the Southern Hemisphere
After our round, we had the pleasure to have a chat about the history of the course with the engaging and entertaining host Greg Ramsay. Similar to Prestwick, Mr. Ramsay explained, Ratho Farm’s early history started out as 12 holes.
According to the book Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective Volume Three by Paul Daley, Alexander Reid brought his golf clubs with him when he moved from Scotland to Tasmania back in 1822. Recognized as the Father of Australian Golf, Mr. Reid “brought golf to the flourishing colony of Van Dieman’s Land”. Mr. Daley notes that there were very few golf courses outside of the East Coast of Scotland at the time. Bothwell is Australia’s oldest golf course and is in fact the oldest golf course in the Southern hemisphere. And, according to the book, Ratho Farm is also the oldest remaining golf course outside of Scotland!
There are many similarities with early golf in Scotland found at Ratho Farm. First of which is the square greens. This was because the keeper of the greens would set up pegs in the ground and then wrap a wire around them to keep the sheep off. Prestwick also has square greens. Another similarity to the origins of golf is that the tees are placed right next to the greens This was so a player could grab a pinch of sand from the hole just finished and use it as a tee on the next hole.
While we were in the small town of Bothwell, we spent an afternoon admiring the Australian Golf Museum. Among the many fascinating golf treasures, we spotted Mr. Reid’s golf clubs. We marveled at the long and adventurous trip these clubs took, and the role they played in Australia’s golf history.
Incredible Golf Experience
We listened as Mr. Ramsey told stories and showed us around the property. His passion and enthusiasm for the game are genuine, and we could have listened to his tales all day. Ratho Farm has been in his family for four generations, dating back to when his great-great-grandfather bought the farm because of its spectacular trout fishing!
While we don’t know much about trout fishing, we can attest that the golf at Ratho Farm is spectacular. And so much fun. Ratho is a must-play for any student of the game, golf history buff, or just general golf nerds. You surely won’t find another one like it! Because of its history, Ratho was one of our must-play courses in Australia. We’re so excited to be able to check this one off our ultimate bucket list! After all, playing golf courses like Ratho Farm is exactly why we travel and golf!
As we said our goodbyes and drove Putu out of the car park, little did we know that our brief encounter with Greg would lead us to one of the most unforgettable experiences in our entire journey- a weekend golf trip to King Island!