EVERY State Government planning document has Wonthaggi listed as a key growth centre.
And the location of the Wonthaggi Golf Course, on 150 acres, right in the middle of town, is seen as presenting unrivalled opportunities for future growth and development, especially as the town grows around it.
A motion to be put before members a Special General Meeting of the golf club on Sunday, October 18, is designed not only to save the club in the short term but also to unlock that potential for the future.
Initially it will mean more than $3 million worth of improvements over the next four years but developing the location into a sporting and tourist hub is also in the offing.
And there’s expected to be significant jobs growth and investment.
No one is talking about the much-vaunted housing project touted some years ago, in fact, club president Darren Green said this week that nothing like that is being planned.
This, he says, is all about securing the future of the site and the golf club for many years to come.
“The residential development that was proposed some years ago, that’s all gone now,” Mr Green said.
“What we want to do is to continue pursuing amalgamation discussions with the Wonthaggi Club.
“It’s something we feel we need to do, not to secure the future of the club for three, four or five years but for 50, 60 or 70 years, right here in the middle of town.
“To have this amount of recreation land right in the middle of a town like Wonthaggi is obviously a huge asset and it’s up to us to make sure we keep it for future generations.”
However, while Darren didn’t wish to elaborate fully until he has had a chance to formally discuss the proposal with members, the meeting papers sent out to members last week make it clear why the club needs to go this way and make its present arrangements with the Wonthaggi Club permanent.
“Wonthaggi Golf Club has a business model that could not adequately support itself without additional (rental or other) income stream. This equates to net projected annual losses, before rental income of $52,000 this year, $54,000 next year, $57,000, $59,000 and $61,000 forecast the three years following,” says the communique to members.
“The saving grace at present has been the injection of funds from leasing the clubhouse, as this $100,000 rent covers that trading loss, and enables a small profit.”
Wonthaggi is not on its own in the golfing industry with dozens of Melbourne clubs seeking amalgamations, and most country clubs failing in the face of falling membership numbers and players.
“With falling membership, reduced availability of volunteer labour and increasing cost of running a golf club, the golf club committee has identified that in addition to reduced profits, both the course and clubhouse are in need of costly refurbishment. The golf committee have advised that close to $1 million needs to be spent particularly on drainage and irrigation within the next few years. This level of expenditure is well beyond the golf club’s borrowing capacity,” it was revealed to members last week.
The truth of it is that the club may not have a future at all without amalgamating with the
Wonthaggi Club.
“It should be noted to the members of the Wonthaggi Golf Club that at a meeting of the WGC Committee in 2011, the committee spoke about voluntary administration due to owing the bank $350,000 and no income to trade on a daily basis. Since the lease with the Wonthaggi Club our financial situation has improved significantly with a healthy operational account and funds invested. Without the support of the Wonthaggi Club we would certainly have been forced to close.”
The association has also led to improvements but by amalgamating, it could unlock the full potential of the site, not only as a greatly improved golf course but also as a sporting hub for the likes of bowls, other recreational activities and tourist venue.
Any associated residential projects or the development of much needed conference facilities along the lines of the RACV Inverloch Resort, while not contemplated at this stage, could still be introduced in the future.
The golf club may be in a potentially precarious position, but the Wonthaggi Club is not: “The Wonthaggi Club is financially secure, with working capital available, increasing membership, increasing income in multiple revenue streams, solid corporate governance and strategically focussed on providing sustainable golf for members, guests and tourists as a priority. These factors all work in favour of the long-term golf needs.”
The consolidation of the two clubs into one entity would allow “progress towards a Community Country Club with more than $3 million in capital improvements planned over the coming four years”.
These would include the following:
• $400,00 golf course irrigation
• $150,000 golf course improvements
• $150,000 golf club building improvements
• $1m holiday accommodation project
• $1m facelift to internals at McBride Avenue
• $400,000 addition of all-weather bowls greens.
It has been suggested that the Wonthaggi Bowls Club relocate from its highly valuable site in the CBD down to the golf club sometime in the future but there has been no formal recognition of this idea.
What happens at the Wonthaggi Golf Club now and in the future will be in the hands of members when they assemble for their special meeting at 3pm on Sunday, October 18 in the Wonthaggi Golf Club’s clubrooms.