Golf clubs swinging into community solutions

March 13, 2024
Jane Louise

As all clubs understand, facilities are not just about a game, but are a way to socialise and connect within each community.

Naturally, finding ways to continue community connection and address accessibility issues are vital.

For example, Mount Garnet Golf Club, roughly 150 kilometres south-west of Cairns, is now the sole social hub in the once-thriving community.

The town was built on copper and later tin and cattle grazing, and in its heyday boasted three hotels, a cinema, a turf club, hospital and three churches.

These days, Mount Garnet Golf Club is the hub of the community, which at the 2016 census counted a population of just 430 people.

The nine-hole course is situated inside the turf club’s racetrack, and features immaculate grass greens, with no trees or bunkers.

Yet it’s not the course that is the main draw card, but the club itself.

Andrew Young, who also works at the neighbouring avocado farm, has taken on a lot of responsibility for the club’s social benefits.

Young recognised the stress involved in living on farms and in remote locations.

“You really need this little complex for light relief, or for support. And the hub is really important,” he said.

Friday nights will often see a quarter of the town’s population at the club, for dinner or for special events.

These events raise money for local schools and the Country Women’s Association.

While the club regularly hosts parties, it also provides a centre for the surrounding cattle stations.

Outside of social events, the club hosts important community functions such as a yearly distance education event, for one week a year. Here students from up to 150 kilometres away gather for a week of face-to-face learning.

Golf Australia’s recent report on the community benefits of golf back up what the club has experienced. The report shows an annual social benefit of golf in Australia to be estimated at $1.0 billion.

“We have to keep our obligation to the community. It’s easy for us to give up the golf course, but if we give it up, it is gone forever. You can’t lose assets like this in a small community,” said Young.

Pro and operations manager Tom Ballard instructing a player using the Paragolfer

Meanwhile, Gosford Golf Club has looked at accessibility for members, and is now one of only five clubs in Australia boasting a ParaGolfer, available for public use.

These all-terrain adaptive golf carts assist the user into a standing position to allow them to swing the club in a conventional manner.

Bob Thomas, Gosford Golf’s Club Captain, said the Paragolfer was useful for anyone with mobility or stability issues, as well as those with spinal cord injuries.

Meg McIntyre, an avid golfer, became unable to play when her MS deteriorated her mobility.

Now, Ms McIntyre attends Gosford Golf Club for Paragolfer lessons.

“Returning to golf with the ParaGolfer has enabled me to get back amongst people, to rekindle old friendships, to have a laugh, to enjoy nature and to be part of normal life,” she said.

Mt Garnet golf course

Tags

accessibility, Community, Golf, Gosford Golf Club, Mount Garnet Golf Club, Paragolf


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