Australian Golf rallies behind ‘inclusive’ Oakleigh
Australia’s golf industry has rallied behind a nine-hole public course in Melbourne threatened by closure.
Oakleigh Golf Course in southeast Melbourne could be shut down and rezoned depending on the outcome of a public consultation by Monash City Council.
Residents have been asked to consider whether the course should be converted into a regional park or improved and retained as a golf facility.
Oakleigh has operated since the 1970’s and hosts more than 15,000 rounds per year, as well as being home to two golf clubs, a veteran’s group and a program for disability golfers.
Senior representatives from Golf Australia, the national governing body, and the PGA of Australia have told local government officials that they will not accept any attempt to close the course.
Damien de Bohun, General Manager for Clubs and Facilities at Golf Australia, told Golf Digest Australia that closing Oakleigh was “unthinkable” at a time when golf participation was “booming.”
Gavin Kirkman, Chief Executive of the PGA of Australia, said: “With golf participation climbing everywhere, now is not the time to be closing public facilities that are accessible to everyone at a very reasonable price. “
Green fees at Oakleigh range from AUD 15 to 25.
Reach and Belong is a disability golf program based at Oakleigh which started in 2021 and employs four disabled golfers as full-time accredited Golf Australia coaches.
Fiona Memed leads the program and told Golf Digest Australia that Oakleigh is a source of organic community inclusion, and closure would have a “devastating impact” on everyone who uses the course.
“We have participants who might be very anxious to start. The way it’s set up is very supportive, and they very quickly realise whatever they do, they’ll just be building on their personal skills.
"It’s an informal social setting. We’re all out, it’s very relaxed, a lot of social outcomes playing golf and keeping safe and getting exercise,” said Memed.
Monash City Council told The Age newspaper that keeping Oakleigh open would require around AUD 2m to upgrade its ageing clubhouse, irrigation and drainage systems.
Council officials say the population of Monash City is predicted to increase 17 per cent to 238,000 in the next 12 years and that local people will require more green space.
The consultation states that converting the golf course to a regional park would cost between AUD 4.9m and 5.4m. An acute housing crisis in Australia has led to several golf courses being rezoned for public use or housing development, including two in Melbourne’s world-famous Sandbelt region.
The public consultation closes at the end of November 2023 and a decision on the future of the course is expected in early 2024.
Under the terms of the current management lease, Oakleigh Golf Course would remain open for five years and close permanently in 2029.