Any golfer with an interest in course architecture or accessibility will likely have heard of Winter Park Golf Course in Florida.
The nine hole course in Orlando dates back over 100 years, makes its way across numerous roads and is the home course of noted golf travel and course writer Matt Ginella.
For a long time, the former Winter Park Country Club was a typical public course, often called a muni in America, with small greens, narrow driving corridors and little architectural merit. But a redesign by up and coming designers Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns has seen the venue transformed into a haven for public golf, welcoming and exciting for beginners, experienced golfers and the surrounding community.
But how does this relate to Sydney’s golfing landscape?
Like many other council owned golf courses, Botany Golf Course in the city’s south, is at risk. The previous club is no longer in existence, having gone into administration almost 12 months ago. The clubhouse and Chinese restaurant in the building now long closed.
However, golf still remains on the nine hole golf course built on sandy soil lying on the banks of the bay of the same name.
The course as it is won’t be making this publications top-100 list any time soon. The design, not unlike Winter Park in its previous form, possesses small circular greens, bunkers that have in parts become part grass, part sand and lack any real structure and playing surfaces that show potential.
On a recent maiden visit on an autumn afternoon, there was the type of golfers you might expect to see.
A mother and son (who also happened to find this writer’s wallet and need to be thanked once again), a young tradie working on his game solo, a former member getting in some practise and numerous groups of two.
Although well patronised on this particular day, it is hard not to imagine this course is at risk moving forward if it remains in its current form, with no membership and the ever present calls for increased green space to be used for other pursuits.
With the Winter Park model as a guide, a course like Botany for example – or many other similar venues – could become an essential golf location in a city with an ever decreasing number of courses, as well as a multi-use community hub.
"Sure, this isn’t golf in its traditional form, but for mine that is exactly what the game needs to embrace at this time."
The sandy soil base of Botany is of course one of the reasons it has great potential. The natural couch grass covering much of the land another.
Water has been an issue in the past for Botany and would need to be addressed as part of any renovation, but unlike some other venues, the course contains existing holes with sufficient length and width in some fairways to allow for a design that would be welcoming to the beginner and challenge the more adept.
There is also enough space to potentially build a putting course in the mould of Winter Park, a large area with multiple holes, that is free to use for locals looking to get some fresh air, work on their game and introduce new players.
A well-executed design of a nine hole loop, or even six and a short game practise area or kids course, would obviously be an attraction to golfers if the cost of a round remains reasonable and attitudes relaxed. However, it is the community aspect that personally makes this an attractive option that also attempts to perform that often over used and never defined phrase of ‘growing the game’.
Picture one of the many lawn bowling clubs around Australia that have transformed to accommodate diners, drinkers, bare foot bowlers and the existing participants.
A bar area, perhaps a kitchen or BBQs for hire, seating areas and options for entertaining children, the earlier mentioned putting green, non-golf games to be used on the grassed areas not in use and even perhaps live music (not played loudly) and other events on certain days of the week.
Sure, this isn’t golf in its traditional form, but for mine that is exactly what the game needs to embrace at this time.
An enjoyable haven for golfers looking for something different would be the ideal outcome from this type of renovation. So too would be an area that can be enjoyed by non-golfers and golfers alike and expose those who aren’t yet hooked on the game to its benefits, while bringing in revenue.
No doubt this is just a dream at this stage, but one that has become a reality elsewhere and has a range of positive outcomes if executed properly.
If this remains but a dream, I for one, hope Botany remains a golf venue in some capacity, as it is the exact type of location at which so many golfers have got their start.
And of course, in my dream there is no requirement for a tucked in collared shirt or ban on jeans, and playing with your well behaved dog alongside isn’t just allowed, but encouraged.