Clover Moore is attacking golf. Again.
The Sydney lord mayor has reignited her crusade against bustling Moore Park Golf, calling for the facility to be reduced from 18 to nine holes to free up more space for public parkland. It comes after Cr Moore expressed the same viewpoint in 2016.
The mayor’s specious argument centres on what she views as a lack of use of the golf course, a perceived imbalance she’s labelled as “scandalous”.
“The Redfern part of Moore Park is absolutely buzzing with people and you just look across the fence to the golf course and there might be two or three golfers in there,” Cr Moore told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There has been tremendous pressure on our parks right across the metropolitan area. It is vital that this land is shared with the broader community.”
Maybe she chose to count during the height of the coronavirus, when golfers in New South Wales were confused about whether they could or couldn’t play golf. Or maybe picked a rainy day to look. Or simply can’t count.
Lest we be accused of playing the woman and not the (golf) ball here, the figures alone don’t justify her argument. When it comes to golfer traffic, Moore Park’s course logs about 60,000 rounds annually, making it one of the busiest in Australia.
And every great city has a central public golf course of note, including Australia’s most populous centres. In Sydney, it’s Moore Park – a stone’s throw from the CBD. Melbourne fought – and won – a battle two years ago to save its version, Albert Park. And while Brisbane is losing Victoria Park, that facility will be replaced by a new one across the river at Cannon Hill. On the edge of Adelaide’s CBD is the 54-hole North Adelaide course, and Perth’s 36-hole Wembley complex might be the most complete public golf setup possible.
This isn’t the first criticism of the sport from golf-unsavvy people in positions of power. It’s an easy pastime to attack when you take only a superficial look at it, including the land space golf requires, especially in congested urban areas, and the comparatively low volume of use by people within that space when viewed against other activities.
In Cr Moore’s mind, those 60,000 rounds at Moore Park are infinitesimal alongside what she describes as 20 million visitors Moore Park and neighbouring Centennial Park receive annually. Ask any golf-course superintendent, however, what 60,000 rounds per year represents when it comes to golfer traffic and maintenance, and watch their eyes bulge.
Which is why it’s the people inside our sport who can paint the full picture for any politician or critic.
“Moore Park is a public space – anyone can walk across Moore Park Golf Course. It is certainly not a course that is fenced as much as many other golf courses,” Golf NSW chief executive Stuart Fraser told the Herald in countering Cr Moore’s stance, before highlighting the multi-faceted value of public golf offerings in a large city.
Yet this remains a pointless stalemate that won’t end until Cr Moore has more information at her disposal.
I’d encourage Cr Moore, Fraser and the incoming chief executive of Golf Australia to meet to educate the Sydney lord mayor on the vast benefits the sport has to offer, and to explain how a complete, 18-hole Moore Park facility is an asset to her city rather than the liability she views it to be.