News of the closure of Sydney’s Hudson Park golf course this past week got me thinking – again – about the future of the game in this country.
For those not familiar, Hudson Park was a council-run course 15 kilometres west of the Sydney CBD.
It could best be described as a humble venue which offered little of architectural merit (quite the opposite, in fact) and its condition would never have seen it confused with Augusta National.
But it was golf. Accessible, affordable golf, in a densely populated urban area; a commodity that is in danger of becoming a rarity in this country.
Strathfield Council’s announcement of the course closure highlighted – yet again – the image problem that plagues the game and makes venues like Hudson Park vulnerable.
Consider their reasoning in this statement:
“The decision to close the golf course and create a district park on the site which will cater to the leisure and recreational needs of the whole community, rather than the golfing needs of a few.”
Leaving aside the poorly constructed sentence, consider the last part: “... cater to the leisure and recreational needs of the whole community, rather than the golfing needs of a few.”
“Strathfield Council’s announcement of the course closure highlighted – yet again – the image problem that plagues the game and makes venues like Hudson Park vulnerable.”
Subconsciously, whoever penned this flimsy and disgraceful excuse for taking away a community facility has highlighted an issue the game needs to tackle.
Golf has an image problem and nobody in the game seems to be doing anything to change it.
Whose responsibility is it to question the flawed logic of Strathfield Council in reducing the game to ‘us’ (the community) and ‘them’ (golfers)?
Whose responsibility is it to lay out the laundry list of benefits of the game to those on the Council who clearly have no understanding and are apparently not inclined to ask?
Whose responsibility is it to make Strathfield Council accountable for not considering alternative courses of action that would have allowed golf to continue to be an option for its rate payers while also fulfilling other community needs?
The Hudson Park scenario is one that has already played out in multiple locations around the country and seems likely to continue as pressure on use of urban space continues.
Each of the poorly thought out reasons presented for the closure of Hudson Park can be refuted but whose responsibility is it to take up the fight?
Golf – or more specifically public golf – NEEDS a lobby group in Australia, a group whose job it is to represent the game at government level.
When the next Hudson Park comes to light there needs to be someone able to make golf’s case before the decision to simply remove the game is made.
“Golf – or more specifically public golf – NEEDS a lobby group in Australia, a group whose job it is to represent the game at government level.”
Hudson Park represents an enormous missed opportunity for public golf in Australia. With some creative thinking and a bit of sensible investment the game – and the broader community – could have benefitted enormously.
Winter Park in Florida has proved public golf can positively co-exist within communities and it is a model that needs to be re-created in Australia.
Instead, Strathfield Council has added its name to the list of short-sighted local government entities to have missed the chance to build something that could have not only made a financial return but been the envy – and the model – for other councils around the country.
They are to be condemned for that but golf needs to take some responsibility for the situation as well.
Without a designated voice to represent the game, what has happened at Hudson Park will become all too familiar in coming years.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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