While Sydney’s thriving Moore Park Golf facility continues to face the prospect of being downsized by City of Sydney Council, one Victorian club has taken matters into its own hands to ensure it never faces the same threat.

Finding new ways to do things has been thrust upon society in 2020 and this year’s winner of the Victorian PGA Management Professional of the Year, Haydn Thompson, has advanced the game’s cause by challenging convention.

Thompson took out the prestigious award for the community connection he has helped to foster as chief executive officer at Deep Creek Reserve. How? It was as simple as a $6.90 Parma Night but that too-good-to-refuse offer three years ago represented a dramatic shift in how the then Pakenham Golf Club, east of Melbourne, was perceived by its community.

Joining the club originally seven years ago as its PGA professional, Thompson progressed quickly to the role of general manager. The timing was critical as he championed a club that wanted connection with its community over any exclusionary perception that may have existed.

“We actually approached the local council about becoming a more community-minded facility which, to be honest, caught them a bit by surprise,” Thompson explains.

The result was a $14 million refurbishment that has seen the clubhouse relocated, two new holes built to accommodate the reconfiguration and construction of a new driving range.

But perhaps the most significant asset in the club’s repositioning is the all-abilities playground that is proving to be a magnet to local families.

“The whole idea of the parma night was to offer an affordable family meal where people would come to the golf club for no other reason than to have a night out,” Thompson adds.

“We were conscious of never talking golf and our social media to this day reflects that, to get people to understand that we are here for so much more.

“By starting with that, we could take people on the journey of what the new complex was going to look like, what the playground was going to look like and how awesome that was going to be.

“It was that conscious decision of really trying to talk up those things that were going to be of interest to the majority of people who live in the area, not necessarily the golf.”

It was a shift intended to secure the club’s future for the next 50 years and beyond – and has already begun to provide the club with some financial stability.

In lockdown for four months, those who had been enticed initially by a $6.90 parma eagerly took up the club’s offer of takeaway meals.

“There was a point where we were putting through 500-600 takeaway meals a week,” Thompson recalls. “Without that income it would have been extremely difficult for the club to keep staff employed and helping to them to just get by.

“We came out of that period a lot better than we thought and, in many respects, it was business as usual.”

And further establishing the club as a treasured community asset in the process.