HE closure of Western Australia’s oldest public golf course yesterday was about as quiet as the patrons on the 18th were before Adam Scott sunk a putt on his way to breaking Australia’s most famous sporting hoodoo.
As golfers around the nation celebrated Scott’s historic US Masters victory that broke an embarrassing 77-year drought, most here in the west – well, those that knew – would have equally been depressed at the death of the famously-unique layout of Burswood Park Golf Course.
In 2016, half of the course will make way for a ‘six-star’ James Packer-owned hotel. By 2018 the other half will be part of Perth’s new sports stadium. A multi-storey car park we understand.
Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.
One colleague, who also wrote sadly of its demise, said it was no Augusta National – the scene of Scott’s victory this week. But in some degrees it was, at least in terms of tradition.
Burswood Park Golf Course was WA’s oldest and, I would say, best public golf course – servicing 80,000 different golfers a year on a track magnified by the sparkle of the surrounding Swan, the chirps of the local wildlife and the bling of a booming city.
The golf club was established by those who arrived here from faraway lands, where golf was already born and booming. They wanted to introduce the game to Western Australia and they chose the Burswood site to do it. It’s not hard to see why – every hole is like a postcard, as picturesque as any place in our great state.
The course itself might not have the grand manicuring of a Joondalup Country Club, the meticulous design of The Vines or the howling seaside woof of many Mandurah layouts, but it had enough of each for it to be enjoyable, worthy and always tempting – complete with staff who were big on service and small on fanfare.
Its (silent) death – as sad as it was – should’ve been a celebration for all it stood for. But this icon – that sits on Crown land and was disposed of in the manner of the the asbestos that lives underneath it – was more like the black sheep of the WA Government’s financial family, whichextends to the Packers.
There were no tears, no protests and no outlandish Opposition promises. Not even a petition from the many thousands who played there. They saw the bogeys on the wall.
Pro shop staff were told to keep quiet, employees at the course’s cafe and Sprig Bar – which looks majestically over the Swan River and city skyline (a welcome cure to any painful round) – were sent silently packing.
Before the complex had even closed yesterday, the Burswood website had been taken down, the rented fences put up and the course removed from Apple’s iPhone app of golf courses around Australia. Shhhh, shhhhhhhh. The pro shop had already fire-sold its thousands in golf apparel and equipment.
Those that had owned and operated the pro shop licence for more than 20 long hard years were allegedly told they would receive no compensation for their loss when the government signed off to build the stadium there. This, after only pocketing less than 5 percent of green fees while owning the business.
After a long and protracted mediation, they were finally compensated for millions so their case didn’t go to the courts. Shhhh, shhhhhhhh.
You see this was no black sheep. More like a diamond in the rough, given the poor state of our other affordable public golf courses. Burswood had never been playing better.
It’s the only course in Perth that, as far we know, Tiger Woods has played but, more importantly, loved. One staff member told me Tiger really loved its tranquility and magnificent views of the river and the city, and had fun with its testing layout. Any golfer who played there knows what the world’s greatest means.
James Packer, the man who paid Tiger to come play that day, clearly doesn’t care. He’ll make millions, maybe billions, from his new well at Burswood.
I’m reliably informed he’s now purchasing a nearby private golf course for only his hotel guests to play at. James, you had one right on your doorstep mate!
And where does that plan leave those players, the ‘lucky’ ones who can actually afford to be a member of a golf club these days? It’s a responsibility that falls at the open hands of our returned Premier, Colin Barnett.
Forget Tiger, forget the stadium opponents, the birds and ducks and the fallen politicians; the long-serving staff, and those 80,000 golfers, are the real losers in all of this.
Many of our suburban public courses are now Council-run (Wembley, Maylands and Hamersley combined have nothing on Burswood), so the pertinent question now is, where will all the golfers go?
My colleague was right when he described Burswood as ‘a rite of passage for a whole generation of golfers in WA’.
What’s wrong is the decision to kill it silently and it’s one that should resonate with us all, not just golfers.
If they can do it to thousands of happy gilmores, who will they do it to next?
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