Changing population puts question over council golf courses

Maroondah golf course. Photo Kaz Horsley
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A Maroondah Council review suggests the city’s two golf courses might be put to better use. Aditi Kutty, Rebecca Martyn and Matt Shaw report.

Maroondah City Council is considering changes to its two 18-hole golf courses to accommodate for its increasingly diverse population. 

The Maroondah Golf Strategic Review Stage One found that both the Dorset and Ringwood golf clubs were struggling to keep up with the changing landscape of the sport, and that the land may need to be repurposed to appeal to a wider range of people.

Councillor Tony Dib said the land could be better used to support the growing number of sporting teams in the region.

“Do you know that we have a cricket club that hardly has a home? There are a lot of juniors who play there, and they deserve a place to play,” he said.

The proposed updates to the golf courses also hold the potential to create new experiences for the disabled community within Maroondah, such as a driving range and mini golf.

There was too much land allotted to golf in the Maroondah region, he said. “There is room for everybody to play with one golf course. We need the space to accommodate for other people in the community.”

Dorset golf course regular Julie Browning, 55, said the courses were often very busy.

“The phones would not stop, it was almost too busy. The council can’t say they aren’t making money,” she said.

Ms Browning said she was against any changes to either course, especially a proposal to reduce the number of holes in either course to nine or 12 holes. “A proper game of golf is 18 holes.”

The council has consulted the community on the proposed changes, and found that they were generally in support of better cafe and retail facilities, but did not support anything else.

Outside of the consultation, the council also received more than 700 signatures from residents against the Dorset Golf Course being subdivided. It has taken this feedback into account.

Deputy Mayor Marijke Graham said residents were unclear on the facts and stressed they have not moved further than a review.

“The truth is, we haven’t come to a decision yet. If they looked at our documents properly, they would know we’ve only just started to look into it,” she said.

“Council can only enact the will of the people.”

But Cr Dib, who has previously served as mayor, said doing what’s best for the community was more important.

Aquanation in Ringwood was an unpopular council venture that ended up being beneficial to the community, he said.

“When you’re in a position to make decisions, make what’s best, not what people think.”

But he said any golf course changes were beyond his control. “There is a huge response from the community. It probably won’t go ahead, even if we decided.”

He said he empathised with those who were against the proposed changes, but believed everyone had a right to enjoy the space.

“I just bought a house behind a park. If council came out and said, ‘We are going to be doing something else with it’, I’d be disappointed, because that’s why I bought that house.

“But every single Maroondah resident has a share in that park. They deserve to make use of it.”