Australian golf’s governing body, Golf Australia, has announced a partnership with property developer Mulpha, and golf course operator Avid Sports, to create an investment fund for the purpose of redeveloping public golf facilities. Redevelopment is said to include both developing new facilities and upgrading existing facilities, as well as the reconfiguring of existing public courses.
The $60 million PlayGolf fund will distribute money to existing and proposed public access golf facilities to be operated by PlayGolf. At present, Avid Sports manages Club Mandalay in Victoria, as well as the Golf Central (QLD) driving range at Brisbane Airport. Clearly, there are expectations that investment from the newly formed fund will increase that management portfolio significantly.
While the increased funding of public golf is clearly welcome in this country, reconfiguring municipal courses for commercial development is fraught, and our governing body needs to be careful not to be seen to be actively promoting development that reduces golf for locals. Upgrading driving ranges and putting greens is ideal, but the benefits of downsizing public courses, beyond providing work for so-called golf architects, is less clearcut.
One assumes courses like Albert Park (VIC), Moore Park (NSW) and Warringah (NSW) would be a high priority for PlayGolf, and likely an approach to invest in superior shortened-courses will appeal to Parks Victoria and the local councils. Such investment would enable other usage of existing golf land, which concerns many public golfers who value affordability, accessibility and having a full 18-hole round above improved turf and fluffy bunkering.
Whilst welcoming the news below, we also hope that Golf Australia has properly considered the makeup and distribution criteria of this fund, and that it will continue to push for as much golf to be retained on public land as is possible.
Our first suggestion to PlayGolf is to make contact with the new owners of the former North Lakes golf course, and convince them that a good quality 9-hole course on that site is a better use of land than a proposed bushwalking track.
A major funding package for the redevelopment of public and private golf courses and driving ranges has been launched today by Mulpha Australia Limited (Mulpha), Avid Sports Management Pty Ltd (Avid Sports) and Golf Australia. “PlayGolf” is the first to market $60 million initiative, will provide a funding and operational solution to modernise facilities and increase participation of active and aspirational golfers across Australia.
Led by Mulpha, one of Australia’s largest real estate development and hospitality groups, PlayGolf Fund leverages its real estate development, hospitality, and operational expertise with the commercial golf industry knowledge and sporting relationships of Avid Sports and Golf Australia.
Mulpha CEO Mr Greg Shaw said: “The PlayGolf Fund partners have a shared goal to encourage more people regardless of age, gender or skill level to play and enjoy golf in a more accessible and entertaining way.
“In recent years we have seen many traditional public and member golf facilities and driving ranges struggle to find the combination of capital, development capability and specialised operational expertise to transition towards becoming more enticing integrated golf, hospitality and entertainment venues.
“Together with Avid Sports and Golf Australia, we have developed the PlayGolf Fund, a comprehensive solution for golf venues. We pleased to provide the significant investment to private and public facility owners in return for long term operational leases. The PlayGolf Fund will also entertain innovative concepts that are consistent with the objectives of the fund.”
Mulpha has committed up to $60 million to golf courses and driving ranges seeking to reposition existing sites to cater for a broader target audience and combine golfing facilities with hospitality and potentially other entertainment and leisure attractions. This investment will deliver state of the art facilities with widespread appeal in their communities.
Avid Sports Managing Director James Cooper said “Australian golf is broadening its focus in acknowledgement that all golf is golf. The PlayGolf Fund can assist in the delivery of far superior public facilities with less commercial and financial risk by bringing investment and creating alternative formats to appeal to the broader golfing community.”
The PlayGolf Fund is actively seeking expressions of interest to reinvigorate the participation, membership and utilisation of golf facilities on a sustainable and commercial basis. Applications are sought from local government authorities and membership-based clubs to investigate their projects and opportunities. The program offers a combined funding and operational solution for successful projects to become a reality for the benefit of Australia’s golf community and public interests.
Golf Australia CEO Mr James Sutherland said, “In Australia there are more than 400,000 active golf members and 800,000 social golfers. From first timers through to the most experienced of golfers, the social engagement, health benefits and outdoor experience of golf has provided much needed outdoor entertainment to more and more Australians over the past 18 months.
“Frankly, there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of Australian golf. The industry is aligned and working hard to make golf available to all, whether you like an on-course game, a simulator experience or a putt with family and friends. This partnership with Mulpha and Avid Sports will provide much needed capital to invest in golf infrastructure with the opportunity to increase participation by active and aspirational golfers across Australia. I can’t wait to see the ideas and the impact it has on what is already the second-most popular participation sport for adults in the country.”
Mr James Cooper, Managing Director of Avid Sports and PGA Member concluded: “Over the past 17 years Avid Sports has assisted more than 25 courses, driving ranges and golf clubs to look at different models to develop, enhance and sustain golf engagement. The PlayGolf Fund goes much further by offering the opportunity for local government authorities and membership-based clubs to fund projects that both cater to their existing golf users as well as foster growth amongst those who are developing their passion for golf.”
First round applications to access the $60 million funding package are due by 31 March 2022 with subsequent rounds considered thereafter.
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