The message from Cabramatta Golf Club general manager Bill Basan was loud and clear:
“We know what we’ve got here… We know we’re a good golf course. But we’re not satisfied with being a good golf course anymore. We want to be a great golf course.”
And as fate would have it, a chance run-in with Australian golf icon Craig Parry at a local police charity golf day has paved the way for Basan’s wishes to come true.
Cabramatta, smack-bang in the middle of rugby league heartland in south-western Sydney and the home club of league legends Paul Sironen and Terry Lamb, is leaving no stone unturned in its pursuit to go from reserves to first grade.
Parry, the 2007 Australian Open champion, has come on board to help the progressive club modernise its ageing, yet underrated, layout into what he firmly believes will be one of the must-play courses in south-west Sydney.
“It’s very underrated,” says Parry. “You don’t realise what’s hiding behind the gates at Cabramatta Golf Club when you drive past. What immediately stood out to me was the quality of the par 3s around this place – they’re all cracking holes with varying length and direction.”
While taking part in the charity day, Parry bumped into a familiar face in former Concord Golf Club greenkeeper Steve Kazarinsky, who now heads up the greens staff at Cabramatta. It was there Parry offered some advice on how to make the course play better and it didn’t take long for those suggestions to get the tick of approval from Basan and his proactive board.
Parry is overseeing a complete transformation of several sections of the course, none more exciting than the three-hole stretch starting from the 10th, which could be as good as anything in the region once complete. A new tee angled away from the main road and some much-needed tree clearing has opened up an intimidating green complex that’s set to welcome new surroundings. A water hazard complete with stunning sandstone walls – material kindly donated to the club by a proud member – will connect to the 11th tee via a walk bridge. It’s a hole members will want to play over and over again. The same can be said for the par-5 11th, which will see its fairway lowered to reveal greenside hazards that make for an exciting approach shot. And then there’s 12, a brutal par 3 guarded in front by sand that caps off a trifecta of trouble if you’re off your game. It’s work that, like the entire long-term project, will be done in-house to save the club a “truckload” of cash on the back of purchasing its very own excavator.
“One of the great things about working with this club is they can see what we’re doing and how it’s going to completely transform the playing experience for members,” Parry says.
“What tends to happen with golf courses is when the same people keep going there, day after day, sometimes all it takes are some fresh eyes to visualise change for the better. The club has put its faith in us to turn this place into the course it should be.”
Indeed, Cabramatta has uncapped potential. The land is as vast in its dramatic undulations as it is with its array of natural vegetation. Towering gums and colourful bottlebrush trees combined with the sights and echoing sounds of Australian wildlife allow you to escape the concrete jungle of Sydney for the kikuyu carpet of ‘Cabra’.
And the greens are lightning! “There are some putting surfaces that we can only cut the pins in certain places because players won’t be able to keep their ball on the green, but that’s all part of the fun playing at Cabra,” Kazarinsky says.
But as good as the course can be, it’s what Basan and his team are doing off it that is putting this club in a league of its own, and explains how it can afford to sell full memberships for just $1,150 per year – unheard of in most capital cities.
After recently renovating its clubhouse and bar to give it all the modern finishes, the club began dishing up delectable Mediterranean-inspired cuisine courtesy of a catering arrangement with La Mesa By The Greens, receiving rave reviews not only from members but the wider community who now view it as a genuine dining option. A schooner of beer will only set you back $5 and there are two gaming rooms – one packed with pokies for the adults and one packed with arcade games for the kids.
“We basically operate like a family pub with a golf course attached,” says Basan, who says the club’s poker nights, held up to four nights a week, are a big hit with locals.
With further extensions planned to allow for more event hosting, the sky’s the limit as to how far Cabra can go. But if there’s one thing all clubs can learn from this place, it has to be its attitude towards kids.
“Juniors don’t have to pay to be a member of Cabramatta,” Basan says.
“All we ask is that one of their parents sign up as a social member for $10. But their child plays for free. They are, after all, the future of our game.”
Cabramatta Golf Club – they get it!
Cabramatta Golf Club
Where: Corner Cabramatta Road West & Cumberland Hwy, Cabramatta NSW 2166
Phone: (02) 9602 8283
E-mail: [email protected]