Golf in Batemans Bay started in 1920. Golfers would play in the centre of Percy Bill’s racecourse which was known as ‘Bill’s Paddock’, where Percy’s cows grazed.The course was a 5-hole oiled (sand) green and competitions were three rounds of the 5-holes (15 holes).
Founding members of Batemans Bay Golf Club included Fred Ladmore as President, Charles Backhouse, Alfred Fenning, Charlie Carter, Lou Sparrow, and Albert Perry.
By 1931 the golf course had expanded into 9-holes. Batemans Bay Golf Club’s annual Open Day (28th April) was deemed “very successful” by the Sydney Morning Herald, as the author had stated that “the course (was) considered one of the best along the far South Coast”. The course remains one of the best along the South Coast, being a 27-hole championship facility.
Chas Grey was the first unofficial Pro of Golf in Batemans Bay. Chas was instrumental in designing the course in the early days. He had even created a beach-side course in what is thought to be known today as Maloney’s Beach.
Golf then took a back seat in the Bay as resources and personnel were redirected due to World War II.
Percy Bill’s land was sold to L J Hooker who transformed the land into Catalina Estate. Catalina Country Club Ltd purchased the land from L J Hooker. The golf club was named after the World War II plane that L J Hooker used to fly in prospective buyers from Sydney in the Catalina Flying Boat.
Founding members of Catalina Country Club (now known as Club Catalina) included; Fred Ladmore, Errol and Joyce Lassau, Bill Burns and Brian Connell (President).
The Foundation Committee: Errol Lassau (President), B C Davis (Secretary), G L Perry, Cyril Baghurst, A Danny Christopher (Treasurer), K Smith, J Ellison, I McInerney, R Dell, J Wilson, Claude Manns, Athol Manns, Jack Parker, L Muston, Chas Gray, C Davison, J Gray, G Steele. At this time the course began with 3 oiled green holes to 5-holes and then to 9 sand-holes. Local foundational members recall having to ‘rake the gravel’ during play.
John Fowler succeeded Chas Grey as Pro in 1967. John Fowler started a juniors training clinic, many of these locals, still play golf here today.
June of 1961 saw the water from the reticulation system begin to be used. This enabled the 9 hole grass greens and later in the decade the expansion to a 18 hole golf course, designed by Al Howard. 1961 also saw Bruce Devlin producing a course record with a score of 69.
Catalina Country Club in the 60’s marked a popular Batemans Bay nightspot among the locals and those travelling from Canberra. Socials were held frequently on Saturday nights. Aside from the dinner dances, specific events that were marked on the calendar included the Club Birthday and the Annual Ball. Local golfer Betty MacDonald also ran the Betty MacDonald’s Kitchen in the beer garden at the back of the Club House.
The 1970’s brought a period in which Catalina Country Club began to establish a distinct “Catalina” identity. This brought with it heavy investment in both the course, competitions and divisions. In this period of Catalina’s history there was also the start of the Veterans’ game and the juniors’ game. The Junior Golfs which grew with the 1972 appointment of Pro Richard Beer and juniors coordinator, Sid Lamb.
Beer was also instrumental in 72 hole South Coast Open at Catalina Country Club which ran between 1974 and 1978. Kel Nagle was runner up in the 1975 Professional Open and in 1976, Rodger Davis, Terry Gale and Greg Norman won first, second and third respectively at Catalina Country Club.
The Festival of Golf and Dad’s army (now known as CATS) have contributed significantly to course improvements over the years. Stan Lee was appointed the contract for Catering and the Garden Bistro also gained in popularity.
The 1980’s brought motorised carts (1982), a more permanent water source (1983) and the course beautification program (1985) to Catalina Country Club. More importantly, it marked the creation of the third 9-holes. In this decade the Festivals of Golf gained in popularity. The 1984 Annual Report described the “Festivals of Golf having been run successfully.”
It was the hey day of golf with “more Australians competing on the world stage than ever before.” Pro, Richard Beer. 1981, marked the year when a record number of Associates broke their handicap. During the early 1980s, the Club House went through extensive renovations. These extensions were completed over two stages.
Stage 1 involved the kiosk and Pro Shop being placed outdoors and the billiards room upstairs.
Stage 2 related to the outdoor garden bistro, changes to the office area, foyer, and extra administration offices. The indoor garden was put outside, extra offices were added in the Hanging Rock Creek end, and the pokies were given a specific room.
These extensions opened 7th Dec 1987 by John Hatton MP and Jack MacNamara.
In 1990, there was a trial of fortnightly Friday night dances where the Frank Murray band most commonly played. Due to raised concerns about noise and behaviour outside the club after dance nights, the highly popular dances were abandoned.
This lead to a “loss of income from one of our most successful financial operations,” Annual Report. The Club then introduced a Video Disco and renamed the Night Club as Silhouettes.
In 1993, the Spike Bar was renamed The Sportsman ‘Sports’ Bar and a more casual dress was adopted. The space included Tab, Keno and approximately 10 pokies and 1 snooker table.
2000 and beyond
From a course perspective, the decade of 2000’s were famous for the Grady Plan. In 2000, Wayne Grady was commissioned to devise a Master Plan to begin with the 1st, 2nd, 10th and 23rd to be improved. Tony Fogarty worked with the Wayne Grady team on these improvements. The 2000 Annual Report stated “there has been much course maintenance and improvement work (including the rough and waterways and gardens), and a new irrigation system is planned for introduction over the next three years.”
The program later extended to include the new 17th tee and fairway, conversion of 19th hole to par 4 and the 21st hole to par 5, and a doubling of the practice putting green size. Computerised irrigation system was then approved to all 27 holes.
Later, John Rafferty, Club Manager at the time, met with Wayne Grady about improvements to the putting green, 9th green, 1st tee and 18th hole and about alleviating congestion at the front of the Club. The greens staff in 2002 planted another 400 new trees, the focus was on course regeneration and a concerted effort was made to encourage native flora and fauna. In 2008, new pumping system was completed with state of the art control panel. Royal Sydney was the only other club to have the same system in place at the time.
NYE of 2019, the eve of the centenary year, fierce bushfires ravaged the Batemans Bay community. Club Catalina was lucky to remain unscathed.