In a terrible blow for golf in this country, and for Golf Australia as its administrator, news broke over the long weekend of Brisbane Council’s plan to close down the Victoria Park golf course.
One of the best located public courses anywhere in the country, Victoria Park plays host to more than 35,000 rounds of golf per year, but will be converted into a 45-hectare park by the Council. The rationale appears to be, that inner city green space cannot really be considered inner city green space if used for golf. This despite the fact, that Victoria Park golf course attracts males and females, the old and the young and everyone in between.
Brisbane lord mayor Adrian Schrinner described the plan to remove golf from Victoria Park as providing the residents with a “Central Park in New York City…Hyde Park in London” type green sanctuary within a busy capital city. Golfers will have to find their sanctuary elsewhere, either at the only other true municipal course in Brisbane city, or by joining a private club.
We have long argued that Golf Australia should avoid waving the white flag and accepting that 18-hole public courses should be downsized to 9 holes, but in this case they have no choice. Here we have a council announcing the imminent closure of all 18 holes, and in my opinion Golf Australia MUST advocate passionately and immediately for at least 9 holes to be retained.
In our view the Victoria Park case will be a litmus test for their effectiveness. If the organisation is unable to successfully argue for the retention of golf in such a central urban area, what chance do they have elsewhere? And what purpose do they really serve beyond administering handicaps and an annual championship?
In Golf Australia’s own words, their goal is to “raise the level of interest and participation in the game from grassroots golfers through to the elite levels, spectators, volunteers and associated industry bodies.” Their Mission Statement continues, “working in a commercial and inclusive manner with government, business, and community, Golf Australia ensures the value of golf is understood and supported in all policy and business decisions.”
We noted earlier this year, that even the most passionate Golf Australia cheerleader would find it tough to argue that the organisation had been successful in ensuring "the value of golf is understood and supported in all policy decisions". A new approach is desperately needed.
Press releases celebrating gender equality or denouncing radio comments from a coach over in America are fine, provided the focus 99% of the time is on our most vulnerable and important sectors – affordable public access golf and mid-tier private clubs.
It’s worth reminding readers, that the Board of Golf Australia is made up of members of the following elite, tier one golf clubs – Royal Melbourne, Royal Adelaide, Metropolitan, Lake Karrinyup, The Australian, Elanora, Avondale and Brisbane GC. Golf’s administrators are generally likeable and well meaning, but have ultimately proven themselves unable to effectively protect and promote our great game. Public golf is under attack right now in Australia, and unless they can save some golf at Victoria Park then confidence in their advocacy will be eroded further, and likely beyond repair.
Golf course to make way for Brisbane's version of Hyde Park
The Victoria Park Golf Course will be permanently closed to create Brisbane's biggest public park in almost half a century.
On Sunday, Brisbane lord mayor Adrian Schrinner announced the council-owned inner-city golf course would be transformed into a 45-hectare park.
"When you think of some of [the] great parklands across the globe, Central Park in New York City, Lumpini Park in Bangkok and Hyde Park in London come to mind for their hundreds of trees, free attractions and for offering people a green sanctuary within a busy capital city.
"About 26 hectares of this council land is currently used as a pay and play public golf course, which over recent years has seen a decline in patronage and a reduction in revenue."
Labor councillor Kara Cook said the transformation was a good idea but called for the park to be delivered on time and on budget.
"Council already owns two golf courses and the cost to ratepayers is enormous compared to the few who benefit from them," she said last year.
In response, councillor Matthew Bourke accused Cr Cook of "declaring war on golf and golf lovers across this city".
"The 257,000 people who go to our public golf courses, apparently, is a small number," he said.
Council has allocated $1 million in 2019-20 for community consultation and design for the new park, with work due to begin in 2021.
"Other successful parklands across Brisbane have pop-up cinemas, different types of markets, community events and include revolutionary play areas for all ages," Cr Schrinner said.
"These are all options we will explore with the community."
Cr Schrinner said the council would work with the current tenants on the project to ensure the function centre, wedding venue, putt putt course and driving range were part of the new parkland.
When completed, the new park will be more than double the size of the City Botanic Gardens.
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