Jump Ball Sports
When Julius Caesar violated an order from the Roman Senate not to cross the Rubicon river with his army in tow in 49 B.C., there was no turning back.
The Roman Civil War ensued, Caesar ultimately became the dictator of the Roman Republic and the rest, as they say, is history.
A long way removed from Ancient Rome is another Rubicon river.
This one a seemingly unassuming 26km long waterway flowing through north eastern Victoria.
And yet like its fabled namesake, the significance of Victoria’s Rubicon River lies in what waits on the other side when you cross its path en route from Melbourne to the Cathedral Lodge and Golf Club.
For once you have experienced Cathedral, there is no returning to golfing normality.
After all, normal - at least for most Australians - is golf played in suburbia, on the coast or at a country town track.
But definitely not the golfing adventure through canyon country two hours’ inland drive - or, given the high-end status of many of its members, a half hour helicopter ride - from Melbourne that is the Cathedral experience.
Not to mention that Cathedral’s (thought to be) less than 200 members, together with the club’s member-invitation only access, places average Joe's chances of a round here in Willy Wonka's golden ticket territory.
What most know of Cathedral is limited to the handful of (‘Cathedral’ inspired religious reference-heavy) articles from the course’s unveiling in October 2017.
Like a Royal baby presented to the cameras to satisfy public interest, Cathedral was then ushered inside to grow up out of the public eye.
Of course, all of this sounds very Ellerston, the uber-exclusive Packer family-owned course in NSW's Hunter Valley that was also designed by Greg Norman.
But the big difference is the approach to course design.
Norman said of the instructions received from the late Kerry Packer in respect of Ellerston, "He just wanted a tough course, a course that even I would find difficult as the world's no. 1 golfer at the time."
Whereas Norman spoke of Cathedral owner, David Evans' approach, "Conversely, David wanted playability...."
And it's this approach that informs the Cathedral experience.
For while challenging enough, the course affords you the opportunity to soak in its remarkable surrounds.
Perhaps none more stunning than the valley that spreads magnificently beneath you once you have ascended the uphill (par-4) 5th hole (and done your best to block out the memory of the expertly placed tree that likely claimed your tee shot).
For it’s the intersecting (par-5) 6th and (par-4) 7th holes that perhaps best capture Cathedral’s uniqueness.
Standing on the elevated tee on the 6th hole with driver in hand, you are confronted with pure Australian bush beauty and the opportunity to launch yourself headlong into it.
The lush greenness of the fairways – only broken by glowingly white bunkers and ragged creeks – are lit up against the greenish-golden hue of the surrounding hills.
Hills that are dotted with dark green trees and the odd kangaroo, and then dwarfed by the hazy outline of distant mountains.
It’s this contrast that strikes you perhaps above all and speaks to the essence of Cathedral.
A captivating contrast borne of human sporting folly meeting relative wilderness.
It’s after hitting your second shot on the 6th hole that you may turn back to check whether the trailing group has emerged over the top of the ridge that towers behind you in the distance.
And for a brief moment, you might feel yourself morphing into the fleeing Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid as they nervously look back to identify their pursuers.
This Australian take on the wild west is only enhanced by the glorious line of pine trees that greets you as the backdrop to the 7th green, but not before you have negotiated the tight approach that follows the sharp dogleg left turn.
After a delivered lunch from the clubhouse – and perhaps even a cold beer depending on your inclination and/or form at the turn - outside the quaint bush shack that sits beside the 9th hole, the journey continues.
The back nine is more of the different offered by the front.
The wonderful (par-3) 15th deserves special mention.
An elevated tee doubles as a viewing platform from which to observe a narrow flight path framed by a grassy ridge on the right and an ominous looking gully on the left.
So too the (par-5) 18th hole.
As if the intersecting “Ron’s Creek” - named in a nod to Evans’ late father and VFL/AFL luminary Ron Evans - doesn’t present navigational problems enough, there are also a number of inconveniently placed trees to throw one’s radar off.
And yet there is an underlying tension to the run home.
On the one hand, the rustic chic clubhouse beckons, either for a drink on one of the balcony rocking chairs offering a splendid view of the course, or a hearty meal inside.
But there is also a tinge of sadness associated with the fact that the distance (for members) and limited accessibility (for guests) to Cathedral means you are never quite sure when or if you’ll be back.
In the meantime, one must adjust to an altered golfing reality.
For once you cross the Rubicon, there’s no turning back.