13 Jun 2017

Reports in the local paper last week revealed that the Graham Marsh designed Growling Frog golf course in Yan Yean was costing the Whittlesea Council around $1.5 million per year when operating losses from the golf course and restaurant, as well as repayments made on the loan taken by council to purchase the course, were all considered.

Given the troubled history of other Marsh courses in Victoria, including the ill-fated Bass Coast golf development near Phillip Island, the news that council are considering “options” for the golf course are sure to leave Graham Marsh and his design associates nervous about any residual damage to their design brand. The Keysborough Golf Club does have a relocation plan in place that involves a Marsh course on somewhat undesirable golf land in Melbourne’s south-east.

The Whittlesea Leader article reveals the following details:

WHITTLESEA Council is losing $1.5 million a year running the Growling Frog Golf Course — and will consider other “options” for it.

City transport and presentation director Nick Mann said in an email that the council was undertaking a detailed assessment of all aspects of the Graham Marsh-designed course.

“This assessment is weighing up the cost to council of running the course against the community benefit derived from the course,” Mr Mann said.

“A range of options will be presented in early September for councillors’ consideration.”

Midyear budget documentation for 2016-17, seen by Whittlesea Leader, forecast the golf course will lose $676,604 in operating costs alone.

On top of that, the council will pay a further $653,000 in interest on annual loan repayments.

The council borrowed $11.7 million in 2001 to buy the golf course.

The annual loan repayments for 2016-17 will be $1.227 million, of which $573,000 of the payment is on the principal.

The council still owes $9.757 million of the principal loan.

Adding further strain to the council’s coffers was a decision to take over the running of the Growling Frog Restaurant about 18 months ago.

The restaurant haemorrhaged money during the past financial year, losing $217,686.

The course maintenance contract costs the council $685,000 a year while income through buggy hire is worth $510,000, of which the council only receives $20,000.

In addition, the council has set aside $100,000 in its new works program for minor renovations at the course.

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