A win for public golf as Northcote Golf Club to remain solely for golf

There was a win for public golf overnight with council deciding that Northcote Golf Club is to remain entirely for golf.

The second hole at Northcote Golf Club. (Source: Northcote GC website)

A proposal had been put recently forward to share the Northcote Golf Club facilities in a way that would see golf played at certain times of the week, and the space opened up for community use during others.

The golf course had opened up for picnics and recreational use during the Melbourne lockdowns – during the time when golf was prohibited.

But when the lockdown periods were over, some local residents pushed for the course to remain open as a public space – and golf restricted.

ABC News reported that Darebin City Council rejected the proposed plan overnight, by a slim margin of five votes to four.

The motion was passed at a council meeting on Monday night, with five councillors voting in favour and four voting against the move to allow golf to be played on the land seven days a week.

In an address at the meeting, Darebin Mayor Lina Messina described the decision as a success for the community.

“The 3pm curfew amendment last May was to address a briefing only. It was not something that was going to be considered further in this chamber,” she said.

There is a multitude of misconceptions that arise when public golf courses are under fire for local residents and property developers. And perhaps these are the two that stood out during the fight for the 9-hole Northcote Golf Course.

Many local residents enjoyed access to the course for walking the dog and picnics because the course was very well maintained. Golf courses are well maintained not just because of council money but membership. Switching to a dual-use facility would require greater financial input from the local council and was indeed one of the reasons the proposal was rejected.

“The main reason for this is that the benefit of community access is not thought to outweigh the greater financial cost of temporal sharing,” the report stated.

And as is often the case, especially in Australia, the idea that golf is an exclusive sport is a fallacy. Northcote Golf Club is open to the public. It is public golf and anyone can use the facility as a golf course right now.

Richard Hinds summarised the issue well in a piece for the ABC.

So a culture war of sorts has eventuated. One in which the non-golfing residents of a Greens-leaning suburb can use the stereotypical image of privileged golfers to mischievously cast the game as an elitist, land-grabbing sport when those using the local course are actually golf’s equivalent of working-class battlers.

Similarly, because the game requires acres of green space a golf course can be derided as being for the exclusive benefit of a few when, in Australia, public courses reverse the privilege that lies inside the expensively manicured grounds of private clubs.

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