Recent drought-breaking rain in Winton has been a boon for the town and district, and should have Winton Golf Club’s course looking a picture for the Outback Masters on 13-14 July.
But the rain which fell in February and March and delivered the district more than its annual rainfall, has helped the course more than by giving it a ‘much greener tinge’. As a result, Wogga Thompson’s Pond – which sits between the tee and the green on the par-four fifth hole – is now full and could pose some problems for the unsuspecting.
Robyn Stephens, the ebullient local ladies club champion for ‘probably 15 to 20 times’, says the hole is considered the most challenging on the course.
“It is only 288 metres long, but the water hole and the big gum trees that surround it can make the tee shot difficult,” she said.
“The carry over the water is only about 60 metres, but as well as being long enough the drive needs to be near perfect in direction and height. I am sure some players in the Outback Masters will come unstuck on the fifth.”
Winton’s two-day event, with nine holes to be played each day, is part of Queensland’s inaugural Outback Masters which tees off in Roma on 17-18 June. Events will also be contested at Charleville (22-23 June),Longreach (29-30 June) and Boulia (22-23 July), before finishing in Mount Isa on 26-28 July. The finale to the six-venue event will offer a $1 million hole-in-one challenge in Mt Isa.
Robyn Stephens said that while the recent rain had done the ‘world of good’ for the district and had helped the course immensely, visitors should not expect lush fairways and grass greens.
“Because of the nature of our climate, and the harsh, dry weather conditions which generally prevail out here, we have sand greens,” she said.
“And while the six-year drought has cost us dearly – we have lost around 50 native trees from the course – the green tinge that should still be on the fairways in July is much better than the bare ground that we have had for so long. The course is now in the best condition I have seen it for at least seven years.”
While Robyn is Winton ladies champion, she is also involved in many community activities including the Winton Outback Festival which, like the Outback Masters, celebrates Queensland’s Year of the Outback. Held from 24-28 September, the festival is most famous for staging the Quilton Australian Dunny Derby.
And while the 300 accommodation beds in town will be filled to overflowing for the Outback Festival, Robyn has called on golfers intending to play in the Outback Masters to book their lodgings soon.
“July is smack bang in the middle of our tourist season, and accommodation is always at a premium out here then,” she said.
And restaurants and cafes, named by association with the myriad of tourist attractions, are aplenty. Heading the list according to Robyn are Tuckerbox Café, Musical Fence Café, Spun Yarn Café, Balamara Bakery and Boulder Opal Restaurant.
She adds that all pubs in town – Tatts Hotel, North Gregory Hotel, Australian Hotel and the Winton Hotel – serve a selection of prime local beef (and other meals) at ‘very affordable prices’.
Tourist attractions in the town and district include the Australian Age of Dinosaur Museum, Waltzing Matilda Centre, Winton Heritage Truck and Machinery Museum, heritage-listed Corfield and Fitzmaurice crafts and museum building and the Lark Quarry Conservation Park, considered to be the site of the world's only known record of a dinosaur stampede.
Local men expected to challenge visiting golfers for the title of Winton’s Outback Masters champion are reigning A Grade club champion Carlin Ellis, and brothers Brendan and Adrian Lenton. All three play off a handicap of four.
NOTE: Thompson’s Pond is named in honour of the late Warren ‘Wogga’ Thompson, who was a long-standing member of the Winton Golf Club committee when the new course – in town – was developed in the late 1970s. He strongly protested against building the water carry, claiming it made the hole too difficult.