Cardinia Beaconhills Golf Links is a hidden gem, nestled in the foothills of the picturesque Dandenong ranges. Behind the bustling and welcoming atmosphere of today lies a history of survival reaching back to the 1920s. Charles Ford, a well-known caterer who ran The Palms Restaurant in Alexandra Gardens (later known as The Dorchester) was the original visionary who had agricultural land repurposed for a golf course. His ambitious plan was for a country retreat complete with clubhouse, accommodation, lakes for a regatta and an 18-hole golf course.

Published in The Herald Wed 23 May 1928

The ‘golf house’ and nine holes known as The Lakes Golf Links was opened on 1st November 1930. The original layout of the course was said to include three each of par threes, par fours and par fives with the ninth hole finishing near the golf house, somewhere near the current thirteenth green. On one tee players teed off the roof of a rustic shed. The original plan for the course was laid out by Dick Banks – one of the first PGA professionals in Australia – but how many holes still bear his signature is unknown. The first hole is certainly original and probably the sixth. The original ‘golf house’ which stands today – backed by a 1970s bar extension – carries its own history. It was constructed of materials from the course as the land was cleared by men on ‘susso’ driving oxen – huge local gums, bark and granite pillars. Under the verandah if you look up you can see the original latticework branches. This construction technique was used through the entire roof which was originally exposed. It is still there but now hidden by ceilings. Over the years a few ‘tradies’ have seen it and are fascinated. The original granite fireplace remains in constant use through winter but the decor has changed for the better when you consider that in 1930 there was a tiger skin hanging above the mantle and others stretched on the floor. On opening day there were large staghorn ferns on the external bark walls, there were masses of ferns inside and out and Charles Ford’s favourite palm trees were used extensively in the landscaping.  There are a few straggly remnants of these original trees near the causeway and a few others out on the Lakes. The golf house was said to be ‘lavishly’ furnished. 

Published in The Herald Sat 29 Nov 1930: Victoria’s latest golf and country club – an interior view of the golf and country club house recently completed at “The Lakes” Upper Beaconsfield. 
In the mid-1930s Charles Ford was caught out by the depression and lack of capital and his dream failed. Not being able to find a buyer who would stick, the mortgage holder Colonial Mutual Assurance Company took over the property at the end of 1938. The club was managed through the war years by Herbie Falconer an amateur golfer who had already been instrumental in moving Albert Park from 9 to 18 holes. Extra land was purchased, the 18-holes completed and the facility re-named Beaconhills Golf Links. After the war CML resumed their intention to sell and that is when a club was formed. On August 4th 1947 the first meeting was held at the Australian Glass Manufacturers office in Spencer Street. The name decided upon was Beaconhills Country Golf Club. The founding members each paid a debenture to inject capital. Accountant and Liquidator Frank Harding was elected as the first President, he later became the first Life Member. 

Members have and always will take pride and pleasure in the improvements to their course. The dam to the right of the 4th green was built to ensure water supply. Bunkers such as on the 1st, 2nd and 6th were added and greens such as the 16th pushed back. Until the 2nd hole of the Hills was built, the 2nd tee was behind the first green and the par 5 4th hole was played as a par 4 and a par 3. A ‘manager’s residence’ was built and in the mid 70s, the clubhouse was extended and a liquor licence obtained. Until then, members had brought their own beer and left it labelled in the ‘fridge. 

In the 1970s and early 1980s golf was booming. The club owned enough land for a second 18 holes and decided to expand. The course was underway when the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires brought tragedy to the community of Upper Beaconsfield.  On February 16, 1983, a late change of wind turned a 15km long fire into a broad front that devastated the township. The inferno took 21 lives and destroyed 186 homes. The members of the club rallied and did their best to overcome the disaster. The club turned into a refuge for nine local families who lived in caravans at the golf course, using the club’s facilities for several months. Miraculously, not just the clubhouse but the 18-hole course in mid construction survived. By 1984 36 holes were in play, the original course known as the Hills and the new course as the Lakes.

The club continued to evolve and prosper before hitting troublesome financial times with the downturn of golf. In 2007 36 holes turned into 27 holes. The spare land was intended for residential sale as five large blocks. This plan was successfully opposed at VCAT by The Green Wedge. The following years were tough but a deal with the Cardinia Council brought hope and a future to the club. The land was sold to the Council for 4.15 million with 2.68 million being injected back in capital fund projects between 2012-2019, one of the most popular being the driveway. The club has a secure 50-year lease with the Cardinia Council. The club house has been renovated and rejuvenated, general course improvements including drainage and irrigation have been made, and cart sheds for members have been constructed. A purpose for the fallow land is in the hands of the Council, if sold the club still stands to receive a share.

Our name Cardinia Beaconhills Golf Links reflects a little of each era of our history. It is a history we appreciate but it is a habit with golfers to look forward to the next game.