By Darius Oliver
Devastating news for Melbourne public course golfers last week, with reports in the Herald Sun newspaper suggesting that the Andrews Labor State government in Victoria was considering a radical Master Plan overhaul of the Albert Park precinct.
The plan includes a pedestrian footbridge across the lake, reduced speed limits for cars, a wetland area, picnic facilities and new running tracks, boardwalks and cycling paths. It also proposes relocating the busy Albert Park driving range into the existing 18-hole Albert Park golf course, and setting aside additional golf land for a new ‘major events area’ beside the MacRobertson Girls High School.
The golf changes will have devastating effects on the inner-city golfers that use Albert Park, and in particular those who keep handicaps via the decades-old Lakeside Golf Club and prefer their golf to be played over 18 holes.
Wayne Carroll, President of the Lakeside Golf Club, was quoted in the Herald Sun as describing the Master Plan as a “slap in the face” to golfers.
“It’s come as a huge shock” said Carroll, “they want to turn it into a Mickey Mouse course by cutting it from 18 holes to nine holes and sticking a driving range in the middle."
“It’s an amazing asset for Melbourne and they should be enhancing it, not degrading it.’’
The Albert Park Driving Range attracts around 140,000 golfers per year, and its facility manager David Tapping was similarly scathing. “We had no inclination such significant changes were afoot, it came as a surprise,’’ Tapping said. “Golf is the big loser in the master plan.’’
According to local Labor Party MP Martin Foley, the Albert Park Master Plan was produced to help government ensure the park meets the long-term needs of Melbournians and visitors. Those needs obviously no longer include public access to 18-hole golf courses. Given the current state of the game in Australia, and mixed messages about the benefits of shorter courses, golfers who play at Albert Park are facing an uphill battle to keep their course intact.
One of the best-located golf courses on the planet, Albert Park is enormously popular with part-time and younger golfers, as well as older members of Lakeside and the many social clubs that play the course on a regular basis.
Though far from an architectural masterpiece, Albert Park is precisely the sort of public access metropolitan golf course that we must preserve in this country in order to keep attracting newcomers into the game. Should such an important, well-utilized facility like this be forced to downsize it would reflect poorly on the status of our game right now, particularly given it would literally happen under the nose of Golf Australia whose headquarters are walking distance away.
If our game can’t convince government and councils of the value of retaining 18 holes at Albert Park, what hope do other public courses here have?
Above - Proposed Master Plan for Albert Park, Victoria.
For those with a Herald Sun subscription, the full article can be viewed here.
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