It’s time to stop the chop

Ok, folks. Enough is enough – it’s time for us all to take action.

One of Australia’s most beloved and iconic golf courses, Melbourne’s Albert Park Golf Course, is facing the chop.

Situated just a 5-iron away from the Melbourne CBD (if you’re Dustin Johnson), the course is an institution for Melburnians, and sees upwards of around 85,000 rounds per year (and probably more), making it one of the (if not THE) busiest courses in the country. Participation rates are up, and the course and driving range are ALWAYS busy with golfers. Apart from the Grand Prix, the course is open every day, with passionate golfers gracing its fairways in even the worst weather conditions.

It’s truly one of the more successful facilities in Australian golf at the moment.

So why on Earth this “Success story” facing the axe?

A short time ago, the landowner, Parks Victoria, took a survey of a small number of residents, asking them to share their thoughts about the park area, and how it is used. During this survey, some respondents “questioned the provision of such a large area of the park dedicated to 18-hole golf as a single use.”

The people surveyed were obviously not golfers.

As a result, Parks Victoria has put together a proposal/masterplan to significantly reduce the land allocated to the golf course, making it into a short, 9-hole pitch-and-putt with a relocated driving range. They will then redevelop the remaining land for other community uses, like picnic grounds and barbecue areas.

In the proposal, Parks Victoria cites the trend for shorter forms of the game.

“Current trends across Australia, with people increasingly looking to do more in less time, see a shift towards shorter rounds of golf, with a rise in corporate and charity-based golf events. A reduced course, retaining some of the original fairway layout, could appeal to a broader visitor market.”

Parks Victoria also cites the successful Yarra Bend Golf Course as an example, noting that it has “successfully integrated an all-ages golf opportunity to its existing golf provision.”

What they fail to note, however, is that Yarra Bend still has a full 18-hole facility (and a great one at that) to complement the driving range and mini-golf. This is critical for most golfers, as despite the trend for shorter forms of the game, there is still an extremely healthy desire for full 18-hole rounds across the globe.  Especially with corporate and charity-based golf events, which Parks Victoria is targeting.

(And don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with pitch-and-putt. Indeed, it has its place in golf, and it is a great way to introduce people to the game. But in this case, at this particular location, it is definitely the incorrect move.)

This proposal is a travesty to golf, and must be stopped. This project has implications that will reach far and wide across Australia. Should this project get approval and go ahead, then you can be sure that more and more courses across the country will follow suit. Indeed, all eyes are on Albert Park.

Public courses like Albert Park are critical to the health of golf, as they provide not only a launching point for many players, but also fill a niche that cannot be addressed by private clubs (many of these players, in my opinion, would be unlikely to ever join a club. They just want a hit after work, etc). I imagine that many of the golfers ‘left out in the cold’ by this proposed redevelopment would likely just stop playing altogether – which will severely damage any hope of promoting growth in Australian golf.

So I’m asking—no, BEGGING—everyone reading this to take a quick five minutes of your time to make a stand on this.  Every vote/voice matters.  Don’t assume that someone else will take care of this (America did that with their presidential election, and we all know what happened there!)

I encourage all of you to visit the masterplan website (www.albertparkmasterplan.com.au), and make your comment on the “sporting ground” section of the Interactive Plan. Or, call them (13 1963) or email them (albertparkmasterplan@parks.vic.gov.au, or visit http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/connect-with-us/contact-us) to help stop the plan to destroy this iconic and important golf course.  (For those of you on Twitter, use the hashtag of #save18holes for further discussion.)

Friday January 19th is the final date for submission and comment.  So don’t delay!

See you on the (18-hole) fairways,


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