Kangaroos at The Growling Frog

This month, we tackle The brand-new “Growling Frog”, and rate everything from the Food, to the course, and even the Beer.

Richard Fellner
You gotta love the name “Growling Frog” (the “Yan Yean Links” just wouldn’t cut it!) Even just telling your mates “I’m teeing it up at the Growling Frog” is sure to induce either a cheeky grin or a flummoxed stare.

The Frog offers a test of skill for all levels of golfer. I personally used 13 out of the 14 clubs in my bag (the 3-iron took a holiday). The greens are firm, roll true, and are in magnificent condition. (I’m told the fairways were quite nice, but as I rarely found myself anywhere near one, I really can’t comment!). The relative ease of the first two holes lulls you into a false sense of security. Starting with #3, however, the hammer drops. With strong head- and side-winds, uphill doglegs, bunkers everywhere, hidden lakes, knee-high magoomba on the borders, ball-grabbing trees on the right, mounds in the middle, and a bevvy of firm and slippery, multi-tiered greens, you may suddenly feel like you’ve been head-whalloped with a ball-washer. Thank goodness for the beverage cart, as I found many sorrows that required drowning. Bringing it home, holes 15-18 offer a fantastic finishing set, with breathtaking views, gentle tailwinds, and beautiful greens surrounded by native stones and grasses. Overall, the Frog is a truly enjoyable, top-quality course, and a tremendous value for money. Be sure to bring your best mates (like I did), as it’s certainly an experience to be shared.
Mick Van Raay
I love an elevated tee. Even if you’re a genuine dyed-in-the-wool “hack” like me, it always feels like you could crunch your drive a country mile. So approaching the par-4 10th hole at the Frog, the “grip-it-and-rip-it” urge is irresistible. Just when you’re all warmed up after the front 9, the 10th sits up and says, “OK Laddie-o, no more excuses, hit the wizz out of it!” If you are a straight hitter, and if you really get onto it, and you catch a heavy tailwind, then you could just about drive the green. Or, like me, you could just crunch a banana slice OOB into the practice fairway! Either way, it’s a great hole.

Overall, the Frog is a beautiful, tranquil and truly ‘stralian course to play. I’m a high handicapper, but I still found plenty of places to feel confident about my game. Set in the heart of some beautiful bushland, the course has a real “links” feel about it: sparse on trees, a second cut of rough that’s brutal for finding wayward shots (and equally brutal to hit out of!). I found the greens to play true, not too fast and not too slow. All round, a highly recommended course for anyone above pure beginners’ level. The amenities are shining and classy, and the fully-loaded pro shop offers great service. The Frog is a true “destination” course, and a bit of a hike from the city, but very well worth the journey, a truly grand day out!

Roger Brown
The course is easily one of the best public access courses in the surrounds of Melbourne. The layout rewards the aggressive golfer, suggests good course management for solid scoring, and still maintains a liberal smacking of forgiveness for the hack. The carpet-like fairways, and the true-rolling, medium-pace greens offer few excuses for errant shots. The rough can certainly swallow its share of balls, and even during one of the worst droughts in our history there was still enough water to cause trouble for all of us.

The hole that stood out for me is the par-5 11th. For a chance at par, a straight drive is just the beginning. The uphill second and third shots — particularly into a head wind — are no picnic on this gentle dog-leg. Water, heavy rough and lots of fairway bunkers make things even tougher. Finally, at the green, there are bunkers a’plenty, with a long steep slope guarding the front, which will catch any short balls and spit them 20m back at you. Happy with a bogie, I took mental note of this one.

The day was pleasurable to say the least. Not only did I spend it with three great guys, but spent it playing a great game on a great golf course. All in all, my hat is off to Graham Marsh, and credit to the maintenance crew and clubhouse staff.
Matthew Pitt
The course is a fantastic layout and a pleasure to play, with a range of strategic challenges for golfers of all standards. The fairways are wide and the rough is not impenetrable if, like me, your radar is not quite working perfectly. For the low handicapper, strategically placed hazards require consideration and respect. Most of the holes offer options to the canny player on how best to tackle par and often there are juicy choices available which require weighing up the risk and the reward.
I liked that there were very few hidden dangers. Nearly all the bunkers are visible from a distance, so the first-time player can assess what lies ahead and play away with confidence. The fairways were in excellent condition, the greens were true and ran at a consistent pace (not that this helped me!)

There are so many great holes, it is hard to choose one above the others. The string of closing holes is superb, and 15 (Par 5), 16 (Par 3) and 17 (Par 4) all feature a 19th century stone wall marking the OOB down the left side. Not only are they three of the most picturesque holes on the course, they are three of the most challenging and interesting to play and offer a stern test for all parts of your game.

The Food

For golfers looking to “Make the Turn” in a quick (and tasty) manner, you can’t beat the “Golfers Only” specials, which gives you a choice of Fish & Chips, Chicken Parma, or the popular Frog Burger (don’t worry, it’s 100% beef!), each served with chips, salad and a frosty VB for a modest $12. The generous portions will fill your tank, and help you tackle the back-9 without worrying about hunger pangs (besides, those pesky bunkers surrounding the 11th green are enough to worry about!). Beer-Factor: A VB/Carlton runs $4.50, while imports go for $6.00.

But where the Growling Frog’s restaurant really shines is in its sit-down menu. The Frog’s food is a shot above the typical golf course fare, with dishes that all four of us agree wouldn’t be out of place among the better restaurants in Melbourne. With sweeping views of the Great Dividing Range, classy ambience and unbeatable service, it’s a destination in itself. Even after the golf course locks up for the night, the evening is just beginning for the restaurant crew, as families from all over the area flock to the Frog for a special evening out.
With a full selection of top-quality pasta and seafood dishes, mouth-watering chicken/lamb/beef dishes, and a tantalizing variety of entrees and desserts, you’re sure to find something to please your palate. Highlights of this menu include the oven-baked Barramundi and vegetables ($26.50), the char-grilled Rib-eye steak finished with a port wine sauce ($26.00), and a Chef’s Selection of huge char-grilled prawns, scallops, calamari, fish, and other delicacies ($45, enough for 2 people).

Our foursome gave the food an overall rating of 9/10


About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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