In the debate over the future of the Moore Park Golf Course there is no one right answer, just many different opinions.
Take Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore for example. She says that golf is declining in popularity while the population around South Dowling Street is increasing.
According to Golf Australia, overall participation in the sport has fallen from 1.029 million in 2016 to 878,000 in 2019, while club membership has slumped from almost 500,000 in 1998 to 383,794.
Given these demographics, her plan is to cut the 18 hole course down to nine holes, and use the balance of the land for a public park.
The City of Sydney has released two options for this plan configuring two different nine hole courses, with a public consultation period which ran to December.
It was a plan which angered some councillors, and was pre-empted by the State Government with Planning Minister Rob Stokes announced he was against the plan – before the consultation period had finished.
At Moore Park itself, its no surprise that the golfers don’t want their course tampered with. Paramount for them is the fact that the course has been there for 100 years, and is a public course in the middle of a city – a rarity in Australia.
Some golfers point to the surrounding space and say there is plenty of public space there already, and its being under-utilised.
Peter Lacaze, for example, described the plan as an “outrage.”
“This is a unique asset,” he told Urban Village.
“I travel all around the world and I don’t know anywhere else in the world that has a golf course right that is right in the centre of it.
“It’s adjacent to all of the sports precincts. I think it would be a tragedy if the proposal goes ahead.”
Lacaze, however, lives in Melbourne most of the time, but says he comes to Sydney regularly and plays at Moore Park every time he does.
This raises the issue of just who the stakeholders in this debate are. Should it be confined to residents, or do golfers – from anywhere – who use the course have an equal right to consideration?
The City of Sydney’s online survey was inconclusive. More than 10,000 people responded, with half wanting the 18 hole course to say and the other half wanting more parkland.
Of these 10,000 respondents, 48 percent had used the course in the last year.
Another smaller phone poll of 402 households in a 5 kilometre radius gave a different view – with 47% wanting the course converted to nine holes and 30 percent wanting the course to be done away with entirely and replaced by a park. Only 23 percent wanted it left as it is.
So, is there a compromise? More public access perhaps? The golf club and Minister Stokes say they are open to discussing ideas such as converting some of the course to parklands some of the time.
What happens next? The boar of Greater Sydney Parklands is coming up with options which should be given to the State Government soon.
At a local government level, the golf course could be an issue at the upcoming elections later this year.
Given the phone polling, it would seem its an electoral winner of an idea for Clover Moore, but she – and the Council – may not be the ones to make the decision.