Part 2 of Ernie Stringer’s history of Fremantle’s public golf course and critique of its new layout, which he says is so bad it’s forced some clubs to relocate permanently.
THE Fremantle public golf course is also used by fathers and mothers initiating their children into the game, either on the fairways or the practice range.
In all, it has been a much-needed resource providing for the continued well-being of hundreds of regular users.
This is particularly true for seniors, many of whom continue their connection with sport through something more appropriate for their stage of life than the physically demanding codes of their younger years, such as football or netball.
Though often not appreciated, golf courses promote the health and well-being of the community, keeping people of all ages physically, mentally and socially active and helping minimise the stresses and demands of modern city life.
Public authorities recognise this need, particularly the need for seniors to counter pressures toward more sedentary lifestyles by engaging in activities that stimulate their mental capacities and engage their physical capacities.
Golf ticks all the boxes for a healthy lifestyle. It enables players to:
• participate in a variety of social activities before, during and after their game, as well as regularly engaging in club events;
• engage in physically challenging activity through games lasting between two and five hours which develops strength, flexibility and cardio-vascular fitness;
• engage all facets of mental activity: judging distance, selecting appropriate clubs, aligning shots appropriately, calculating scores, and so on; and,
• experience enjoyment and stress reduction.
Golf is not a trivial pastime, but an activity that provides people with facilities that have a considerable impact on the well-being of the community.
Over time the public golf course declined, its neglected fairways suffering from bare sandy patches and intruding rocks and roots. This hazard was often hidden by a thin veneer of soil, but damaged the golfers’ bodies and equipment.
There we’re also head-high branches and twigs along the sides of the fairways, threatening the bodies and eyes of players.
Some years ago a significant excision of land from the course at the corner of High and Montreal Streets, made for safety reasons, further reduced its length. The clubhouse that had served the course in its earlier years deteriorated and became inadequate as a social venue or admin centre.
This deterioration was facilitated when the course was made into a commercial venture, with revenues from golf fees paying for a lessee and staff required for its ongoing maintenance and an impost from the council that, over time, drained hundreds of thousands of dollars from the course into the city’s general revenue.
The situation was brought to a head when Fremantle city council joined with Main Roads to realign the High Street upgrade in response to pressure from environmental groups to maintain a few dozen trees.
This required Main Roads to acquire reserve land occupied by the golf course, a process that ultimately resulted in its redesign, a highly controversial undertaking with all the hallmarks of bureaucratic bungling.
The first and perhaps most significant nail in the coffin was the failure of the council and Main Roads to investigate how excising this land would impact other stakeholders – in this case the golfing community.
As a result the redeveloped golf course was to be squeezed into one of the smallest plots of land in the state, further exacerbated by the council insisting it should have minimal impact on trees or on the adjacent Booyembarra Park.
Within these confines a highly touted specialist golf course designer presented plans that fit within the stipulated conditions.
Limited consultation with a few representatives from the clubs got such negative responses that further plans were largely in consultation with the course lessee alone.
The golfing community’s suggestions were summarily cast aside as too expensive, unsafe or requiring the removal of trees!
It was not until late in the process that staff consulted with the golfing community at large, a meeting where they faced a hostile group of 30 golfers from all the course’s clubs.
It was perhaps the first time the council became aware of the depth and extent of discontent amongst the golfers; but it also resulted in an informal collective, Fremantle Public Golfers United to communicate more effectively with the city on behalf of the clubs.
Representations by FPGU failed to resolve major issues and the resulting course, from their perspective, has remained deficient in a number of ways