It’s difficult to know how best to respond to Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s latest salvo in her ongoing campaign to halve the size of one of the country’s busiest golf courses.
The temptation is to go with instinct and unleash some vitriol in her direction, threaten backlash and throw in some colourful words to show one’s disdain.
No doubt that would be satisfying – to a degree – as the golfer within all of us screams with frustration at the lack of understanding shown by those like Cr Moore who don’t (or won’t) see the joys and benefits golf brings to so many.
But if the ultimate goal is to ensure Moore Park Golf Course – in its current state – remains part of the Sydney landscape, then simply pointing out the ignorance of people like the Lord Mayor isn’t really making the case, is it?
As with any situation where opinions are diametrically opposed, the most instructive way forward is generally to consider – really consider – the case being made by the other side.
Only then can one confidently put forward well thought out and reasoned counter arguments (assuming one’s own original beliefs can stand up to scrutiny).
So let’s give it a crack, shall we?
One popular anti golf accusation is that courses (we are talking specifically public facilities here) exist only ‘for the few’.
In her latest public utterances, Cr Moore indulged in a form of this argument with the following:
“The Redfern part of Moore Park is absolutely buzzing with people and you just look across the fence to the golf course and there might be two or three golfers in there.”
We’ll come to the fence part in a moment but does the ‘lack of use’ argument hold up?
"Even staunch anti-golfers can see the hypocrisy of giving the green light to large scale development (and the money that comes with it) then claiming there has been too much development so now somebody else has to make up the shortfall in green space?"
Certainly not statistically if Moore Park’s reported figures are correct. 60,000 or so rounds played annually means an average of 164 rounds per day which is about as much as a golf course can realistically handle on a year-round basis.
Cut the course to nine holes and common sense dictates not all of those rounds can be catered for.
The result? Somebody is being denied access to a recreation they currently have – and have always had – access to. There is more than a hint of unfairness to that.
(Sidenote re the ‘fence’ comment: Whether deliberately or inadvertently, Cr Moore was photographed standing next to a fence that bounds the golf course which she referenced in her above quote. The inference is that the course is somehow closed off and exclusively for the use of a privileged few which is disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst.)
Next up is the notion that golf is somehow separate from communities as evidenced by the following:
"There has been tremendous pressure on our parks right across the metropolitan area. It is vital that this land is shared with the broader community."
Moore Park Golf Course is shared with the broader community. Any member of the public is free to play the course having paid the appropriate green fee.
To suggest that people are somehow not part of the ‘broader community’ because they play golf is absurd bordering on offensive.
"The game is not entitled to a free pass from us golfers just because we play and love it. Its place in urban Australia needs to be earned and justified."
Golfers are doctors, plumber, lawyers, mechanics, accountants and electricians, just as tennis players, joggers, lawn bowlers and those who choose any other form of recreation are part of the ‘broader community’.
Perhaps it’s not deliberate but the language is unnecessarily divisive and needs to be called out any and every time it is used.
"Twenty million people visit the Centennial and Moore [Park] parklands annually, while just 60,000 rounds of golf are played on the course each year," Cr Moore said.
We’ve already addressed the notion of ‘just’ 60,000 rounds so what of the 20 million visits to the Park annually?
If accurate, that is a lot of people and doesn’t seem to support the notion that the presence of the golf course is impeding visitor numbers?
One might make the case that both course and Park precinct seem to be operating at capacity which brings us neatly to Cr Moore’s next point.
"All of those tall towers that are being approved as part of Green Square overlook this green open space, and the public can't use it generally."
This might be the most specious argument of all for a couple of reasons.
Firstly we don’t know how many of those buying into the Green Square development might be golfers. Heck, some of them might even be buying there because of the golf course.
But more importantly than that, surely the responsibility for providing appropriate green space for new developments lies with those doing the developing?
Even staunch anti-golfers can see the hypocrisy of giving the green light to large scale development (and the money that comes with it) then claiming there has been too much development so now somebody else has to make up the shortfall in green space?
Perhaps we might reconsider the approval of ‘all those tall towers’ or make the approval dependant on there being ‘appropriate green space’ factored into the developments?
Clover Moore is not the only politician in Sydney, NSW, Australia or the world who clearly sees no value in golf and has in mind to convert its playing fields into something else.
That is an opinion they are entitled to and in some cases they may even be right.
But Moore Park is not one of those cases and it is up to the game’s administrators to proactively make the case for golf in all jurisdictions, including those which are hostile.
And just before we go a point that is not made often enough within golf:
The game is not entitled to a free pass from us golfers just because we play and love it.
Its place in urban Australia needs to be earned and justified.
In some instances that might be difficult or mean adjusting existing facilities to fit with local circumstances but in all cases the game is no more – or less – important than any other recreation.
Golf has to make its case just like all others placing demand on land