Home' Australian Golf Digest : August 2017 Contents august 2017 | australiangolfdigest.com.au 95
Ironically, Darebin City Council passed
a motion in support of the golf course
Kingston Links Golf Club at Rowville, 27
kilometres south-east of Melbourne, may be
redeveloped into a residential estate with
up to 800 houses. The flood-prone 18-hole
layout has been up for sale in recent years.
The Brisbane-based owner would see a
financial windfall if the 67-hectare property
is rezoned from special use to general
residential by Knox Council.
Meanwhile, several Melbourne clubs on
private land have relocated (or are seeking
to have land rezoned) in order to secure their
future on another site with a contemporary
golf facility. For example, Keysborough
Golf Club is set to reap $100 million
from developer Intrapac if the Andrews
government gives approval for the land to be
rezoned for residential development.
But it’s the predicament of courses on
council property that is cause for concern.
In Melbourne, a lot of councils have a higher
level of involvement in the day-to-day
operation of golf facilities. That is, they
own/provide the maintenance service or
may be exposed to the operating outcomes.
So when a golf course loses money, the
council loses money. The councils are more
passive in Sydney, where clubs tend to run
the golf course.
Council golf is cheap golf and it’s not
overly profitable for the operator. So as
many golf assets get older, there is little or
no investment strategy. And many of these
council-owned golf facilities weren’t built on
a sound financial model in the first place.
Up until recently, golf has been out of
sight, out of mind. But the game is played
by just six per cent of the population. And
government, local and state, now see better
value in parks and pools.
A BIG AUSTRALIA MEANS A
SMALLER FOOTPRINT FOR GOLF
More and more people will continue to pour
into our major cities, placing a premium on
recreational green space. The population of
Melbourne will pass five million by about
2021. By the early 2050s, it is estimated
the greater metropolitan area will have
eight million residents. According to
demographer Bernard Salt: “There will be
more growth in Australia’s biggest cities
over the next 30 years than in the biggest
cities of the developed world.”
Writing in The Australian, Salt said “it is
hard to identify any developed-world city
that is projected to record a higher percentage
increase in population than Perth, Brisbane,
Melbourne a nd Sydney by mid-century”.
The reason, Salt says, is the controversial
Big Australia policy, which has lifted net
overseas migration from about 100,000 per
year to 180,000 over the past decade.
“ Sydney and Melbourne are officially
expected to accommodate another three
million residents by the mid-2050s;
south-east Queensland and Perth are
expected to add another two million each.”
Historically, golf’s stakeholders weren’t
concerned about the prospect of alternative
land use on golf courses. They’ve been
caught out largely by the combination of
golf’s declining participation level and a
vocal outcry from other sporting bodies. In
the case of Warringah, it faced a concerted
lobbying effort by the whole district.
“Golf hasn’t done a very good job of
convincing government of its benefits,” says
industry expert Jeff Blunden. “Government
councillors, ultimately, listen to those who
make the most noise. If you make a lot of
noise with a compelling argument and you
represent a fair whack of the community,
you virtually get what you want.”
Golf courses will be under increasing
pressure to justify their land usage,
especially if they don’t have ownership of
that land. Decisions will be made on what
the community needs most by ambivalent
“A lot of them will have no emotional
attachment to golf whatsoever. They like the
green element. They like the tree element.
Warringah Golf Club is under threat of losing half its 18-hole layout
because of a shortage of sporting fields in the surrounding area.
On the future of golf: “Cities have grown out and around these golf
courses. Take Eastern Golf Club in Melbourne for example. Fifty
years ago it was on the outskirts of Melbourne. Now members
realised their club could avoid ever being in fina ncial distress
again if they stepped up to the plate and developed the original site.
They got approval to rezone it and once you have that development
approval in your hand, you have value in that property because you
can go sell it. In Eastern’s case they could go and get some land and
build a club to their liking and put a bunch of cash in their pocket.”
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