5 Aug 2019

There was disappointing news in the Courier Mail this weekend for golfers, with the owner of the North Lakes golf course announcing that his land sale to the Village Retirement Group had been formalised earlier than expected, and he was planning to close the golf gates next week. Golfers had previously been advised they had until December 31.

The VRG aged care/retirement community plans have not yet been lodged with the Moreton Bay Regional Council. Opponents and golfers are naturally upset that the golf course will close from August 11, denying them the opportunity to play golf until the end of the year and, potentially, figure out a rescue proposal to keep part of the course open.

With Brisbane Council deciding to close Victoria Park next year, the availability of public access golf in Brisbane will be limited for some residents. Much of the North Lakes site is due to remain as open space, so figuring a way to keep nine holes open or perhaps convert part of the property into a par three golf course deserved to be explored. Rather than admonish residents for not playing enough golf at North Lakes to make it a viable business, the truth is that the golf course was too difficult for the market and a challenge for newcomers. Like Kingswood in Melbourne, converting the holes into something that could attract new golfers and retain existing players would be ideal for golf, but it appears sadly as though the clock has run out at North Lakes.

Golf faces serious challenges across the country, challenges made greater by the continued closing of public access golf courses and the lack of professional golf on free-to-air television. The game has become a niche sport and a soft target, and might have the least effective advocacy of any professionally managed sporting code.

The first Ashes test live on free-to-air is a great reminder than back in 2005, when Channel 9 tried to pull the Ashes from FTA, the sport pressured government and were able to force the series onto SBS. Tennis Australia have done a great job the last few years piggybacking Foxtel coverage of the overseas majors with live tennis on SBS as well. The French Open and US Opens were both shown live on SBS as well as on Foxtel.

Golf needs something similar, and Golf Australia should have strong enough relationships with the USGA, R&A and Augusta National to argue the case that their tournaments should be available to more than 30% of the Australian TV audience. Free-to-air television is not the only solution to golf’s current woes, but without some golf on television what chance do we have of encouraging newcomers to stick with the game?

 

From the weekend’s Courier Mail:

North Lakes Resort Golf Club will close for good in less than two weeks after its owner and developers The Village Retirement Group finalise the sale.

Club owner Adam Simpson announced to members today that the course will “stay closed” from August 11 and will change ownership on August 13.

 

The Village Retirement Group has plans to develop part of the course into a retirement village and aged care facility.

Managing Director Justin Harrison said he would seek discussions with Moreton Bay Regional Council and the State Government about providing a substantial part of the land for use as a public asset.

He said he did not expect to lodge a development application for the retirement and aged care proposals before resolving an outcome for the North Lakes Common site.

“This community needs public open space and it also needs more retirement and aged care accommodation,” he said.

“Brisbane City Council is turning Victoria Park Golf Course into a public park and there is an obvious opportunity for the same thing to happen at North Lakes.”

TVRG has consistently stated since news of the pending sale first broke in July last year, that the club would close and the company would purchase the site.

Though Mr Simpson initially stated the club would remain open until the end of this year, TVRG said it finalised its contract to buy the club ahead of schedule.

The August 13 closure date has left members in shock.

 

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