Golfers teed off over plans to convert Oakleigh course into a park

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Key points

  • Monash City Council is seeking community feedback on whether to convert the public Oakleigh golf course into parkland to accommodate the area’s growing population. 
  • Oakleigh Golf Club members are furious at the prospect of losing an affordable club where annual membership costs $110.
  • Damien de Bohun, Golf Australia’s general manager of clubs and facilities, says councils need to invest in public golf courses that could become a “serious revenue stream” instead of ditching them.

Plans to turn an Oakleigh public golf course into a park have surprised and angered local players who say it is another blow to the sport in Melbourne’s “golf-rich” south-eastern suburbs.

Monash council is seeking community input into whether it should retain the nine-hole Oakleigh course or convert it into a public park.

From left: Don Duncan and Ron Caldwell of the Oakleigh Veterans Golf Club, and Mary Harbour, Kris Gaczewski and Tracey Gardner of the Oakleigh Golf Club, want to keep playing golf in Oakleigh.Credit: Chris Hopkins

Oakleigh Golf Club is home to two clubs with a combined membership of 144 people.

The $110 annual membership has made it an accessible club for beginner and senior golfers, as well as golfers with special needs.

Monash Council says an upgrade of ageing clubhouse facilities and the course irrigation system would set it back $20 million, while annual operation costs are about $100,000.

Converting the space to parkland would require about $11 million, but it would remove a revenue stream for the council. The population of Monash is expected to increase 17 per cent, or 238,000 people, in the next 12 years, and the council argues it will need more public open space.

But Oakleigh Golf Club vice president Tracey Gardner said the club was one of few public short courses in the area.

She said most surrounding courses were private, with memberships costing thousands of dollars. “There is no way the people at our club could afford to do that.”

Gardner also criticised the council’s argument for more open space.

“Within half a kilometre of the golf course there are significant open and green areas. To have another playground seems a bit crazy,” she said.

The south-eastern suburbs boast more than 20 golf courses. City of Monash has six, including the council-owned Oakleigh course and 18-hole Glen Waverley course. Neighbouring Kingston is home to 11 golf courses, and Bayside has five golf courses.

Monash council will decide whether to keep the Oakleigh golf course or convert it into parkland by the start of 2024.Credit: Chris Hopkins

In the past year, there has been community backlash against the sale of courses as struggling clubs in the area cut multimillion-dollar deals with developers for the land.

Monash Mayor Tina Samardzija ruled out any sale of the Oakleigh golf course to developers and said there would be no change to the use of the site for at least five years.

“There are no plans to use the Oakleigh Golf Course site for anything other than recreational open space, either as a golf course or regional park,” Samardzija said.

“Access to more open space is a driving factor behind the decision to consult. Issues associated with affordable housing in Monash are currently being addressed through other strategies and not related to this site,” she said.

The sport’s governing body, Golf Australia, argues public golf courses need to be retained despite a concentration of golf courses in Melbourne’s south-east.

Golf Australia general manager of clubs and facilities Damien de Bohun said golf participation rates were booming.

“The public golf course is so important because we need to have somewhere for people to start playing golf and allow a golf journey to continue [for seniors],” he said.

According to Golf Australia’s 2021/22 Participation Report, membership numbers grew in Victoria by 2.6 per cent, or 102,769 people, and the sport has maintained numbers during its post-COVID high, with 1.5 million people playing on-course golf and a further 1.2 million playing off-course.

“We think there are huge opportunities for councils to maximise and further drive the value of their golf courses to become a serious revenue stream by investing in the club facilities and new technologies,” de Bohun said.

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