30 May 2013

Billed as Australia’s most prestigious golf facility, yet built on arguably its shakiest premise, the much hyped St Andrews Private golf course project on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula appears to have fallen over. Planet Golf was informed that as of last week all staff had been retrenched or let go and that machinery and equipment, including pumps, irrigation pipes, sprinklers and tractors, were being offered for sale to local superintendents and golf courses.

The ending will no doubt disappoint veteran architect Ross Perrett, who was adamant only a few months back that the developer would sell enough $100K membership units to fund the project and that he would have his course ready and open for play by the end of 2013. That always seemed unlikely, given a soft membership market and the fact that developer Randal Shreeve never actually owned the land in question. We understand that he had an agreement to purchase the property, subject to a realignment of title and subdivision plan, which has only recently been approved by council.

One assumes that Shreeve walked away from the project because of poor membership sales, but it might have also been due to issues with water and power that have dogged the project since construction began in January. We understand that in that time only a handful of tee boxes and a couple of green and bunker complexes have been shaped, and these were principally to be used to sell the concept to prospective members.

That concept again, was an exclusive ‘invitation only’ membership model available to just 281 golfers deemed, by Shreeve, to be ‘Sophisticated Investors or Certified High Nett Worth Individuals’.

The failure of this ambitious project will surprise few in the golf business here in Victoria, given the tribulations of the previous St Andrews Beach development. That a developer couldn’t sell a $50K model with two Tom Doak courses and no ongoing annual fees, but Shreeve and his team thought $100K for one Ross Perrett-Peter Thomson course, plus an annual fee of nearly $5K, would excite the local membership market speaks volumes. At that fee Perrett’s challenge was to build the best course in Australia, and it was never clear that he was even capable of building the best down at St Andrews Beach.

It would appear that the only ones who didn’t see dark clouds on the horizon were Perrett, Shreeve and an inexperienced development team. This will have been a difficult and painful lesson for them all. In reality this concept was always going to struggle, given golfers could trundle down Truemans Road and join Moonah Links, with its two Thomson Perrett courses, or the nearby National Golf Club, with its 54 holes of golf, for a tiny faction of what St Andrews Private wanted to charge.

While the failure of the St Andrews Private Golf Club is damaging for golf on the Mornington Peninsula, in many ways it’s better that the project ended prior to construction advancing any further. One can only guess what will ever become of that second piece of golf land down at St Andrews Beach. Thankfully the existing public course is doing well, and continuing to provide Victorian golfers with precisely the sort of good value, good quality golf they will always support.


UPDATE 31 May, 2013

Construction superintendent at St Andrews Private Golf Club, John Geary, has spoken to AGCSA e-publication The Cut and expressed his disappointment that the project ended before it ever really got started. Geary was similarly burned by the previous St Andrews Beach Golf Club developers and said that on this occasion he was 'led to believe the owner had the money to fund the development, but it became clear that funding had become reliant on membership sales which weren't coming in.'

The Cut estimates that less than 20 membership units had been sold since the launch in late 2012, which is likely a reflection of both a soft membership market in Victoria and perhaps a lack of interest in another Thomson Perrett course in southern Melbourne. You can read The Cut article here.

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