Picnics, live music, dog walking, outdoor concerts… and golf! The Links Shell Cove on the NSW South Coast is shaking things up.
Owned and operated by Shellharbour City Council since April 2008, The Links Shell Cove is reinventing the way golf clubs are perceived and used. Facility manager Robby Stephenson says the vision is to ensure that golf remains a valuable, constant and relevant leisure activity in the community of Shellharbour. “Importantly, we are making sure that this club is not only for the few, but a facility the entire community can access, whether enjoying its open green space or the diversified entertainment offerings,” says Stephenson.
The community has embraced this vision, with many flocking to the Links all week long. A quick look inside shows someone from every walk of life – families, tradies, sports teams, friends, work colleagues, retirees and, of course, golfers. Stephenson says the city’s councillors and senior staff are committed to making the facility a place for the whole community, resulting in an endless number of benefits, from wide-ranging community support, increased asset value, healthier people, expanded patronage and an overall stronger community.
The Links is home to Shell Cove Tavern, which bares little resemblance to your usual clubhouse. The tavern has quickly become the watering hole of choice for residents, after securing the services of one of the region’s most popular eateries, Il Lago pizzeria. While the tavern’s recent $2.7 million refurbishment centrepiece is the 200-seat dual-purpose extension/function space called ‘The Shed’, a customer favourite is the new outdoor family entertainment area. Young children have a multi-level interactive play space while the “big kids” can socialise with a game of corn hole or beer pong. To enhance the community vibe, a complimentary barbecue for neighbours is held on Sunday mornings followed by live outdoor music in the afternoons. Golfers are often spotted on the 18th green doing a little dance.
The golf course is currently implementing a long-term masterplan designed to make the course more accessible for a wider segment of golfers by providing options off the tee through width or perceived width. Part of the masterplan includes adding an ‘express’ set of tees. Golf operations manager Peter Nascimento says historical attempts at a short course or forward set of tees have simply been that – placing a forward set of tees on each hole somewhere in the fairway that is convenient, with little thought to design and golf strategy. “It is our intention to give these players the same thrill, excitement and challenge through design, strategy and placement of teeing locations. The wide selection of tees means each golfer can set their own challenges and that more golfers can play in quick time,” says Nascimento.
Even during a pandemic, membership at The Links has never been stronger, with management close to adding a waiting list to some of its membership categories. Stephenson says that members are embracing the sense of fun the facility creates, with members looking forward to the annual horse race, a knockout event that starts with 40 players teeing off in the same group.
An exciting addition to The Links is a premium 18-hole mini-golf course, with the first nine holes scheduled to open in February 2021. Designed and built by Greenspace Management, the course will be the first ‘Shanx’ mini-golf facility built in the country. Future plans to make The Links more vibrant include a running/walking trail through the course and hosting a large outdoor music festival.