17 Oct 2017

By: Darius Oliver

There was much excitement last weekend, as founding members and golfing VIPs descended on the small Victorian town of Thornton for the opening of the new Cathedral Lodge Golf Club. Developed by former Essendon Football Club President David Evans and opened by state Premier Daniel Andrews, Cathedral Lodge will operate as a high-end, invitation-only private club with a small membership of 150 golfers. Annual fees are apparently between $10-12,000, making the club the most expensive in Australia.

Designed by Greg Norman’s company, Cathedral Lodge sits alongside the Goulburn River and occupies a property steep in places but blessed with natural creeks and rugged gorges. The site bares some resemblance to the late Kerry Packer’s Ellerston course in NSW, and Norman himself has been on record comparing the two. On opening day he described his canvas at Cathedral as ‘magnificent’ and spoke of how the area’s flora and fauna help the golf course capture, ‘the quintessential part of what Australia is all about”.

For Evans, the dream of building Cathedral Lodge started with a visit to Augusta National back in 1997 to watch The Masters Tournament. "I just fell in love with what Augusta is, what it stands for," Evans told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper. "That trip (in 1997) triggered the idea of planning for what has become Cathedral Lodge. I asked myself whether it could be done in a way that created a unique recreational place for Australian families with golf at its core."

Evans and his wife purchased the Cathedral Lodge property near Lake Eildon in 2003. Following his acrimonious departure from the Essendon Football Club after its various doping scandals; Evans threw himself headfirst into the idea of creating an Australian Augusta National in the Victorian countryside.

Norman was apparently much more hands-on in the design phase here than at the nearby Eastern Golf Club, which opened back in 2015. By contrast to Eastern, Cathedral Lodge is shy on superfluous bunkering and enjoys a more private, intimate feeling both from an overall club ambience perspective through to the actual golf course routing. Initial reports from those who have played the course have been quite positive.

Now that Cathedral Lodge is open and available for play, Evans’ attention has apparently turned toward bringing a golf tournament to the region. The golf-rich state of Victoria will be without a major professional event this year and next. The Presidents Cup returns to Melbourne in 2019, followed by two Australian Open’s in 2020 and 2022, but with the annual Australian Masters now a thing of the past, perhaps there is space for a regular event somewhere else in the state.

Evans told the Herald Sun, that his dream was to host a major tournament someday and create an ongoing legacy similar to the Masters at Augusta. "I'm not imagining it at the scale of the (US) Masters”, says Evans “but a version that country Victoria can be proud of."

According to the Financial Review, the Cathedral Lodge opening was attended by sporting icons such as Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Sam Newman, as well as business heavyweights like David Fox, Richard Goyder, David Crawford, James Sutherland and Gillon McLachlan.

Further coverage of the Cathedral Lodge Golf Club opening is available via the FoxSports website.

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Cathedral Lodge - 15th hole

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