10 Aug 2023 | Clubs & Facilities |
A new way forward for Northcote
by Martin Blake
Little more than a year after Northcote golf course in Melbourne’s north appeared destined to be closed, it has been reinvented as a thriving and inclusive golf community. The change has come about through significant community consultation, the arrival of Clublinks as the facility manager and strong partnerships with the City of Darebin. In this short time, Golf Australia’s Participation Coordinator (Victoria), Henry Paye, says the public golf course’s community value has been reinforced. “It’s great to be able to demonstrate the value of a facility like Northcote golf course to the wider community after some challenging times previously,” said Paye. “Credit must go to Clublinks for being able to identify the opportunity at hand and especially their primary deliverer in community instructor Claire Traill for her tireless work in delivering junior, women’s and All Abilities programs. Added to that, the full support of Darebin City Council has been vital in ensuring that our collaborative approach to participation is fulfilled. “It’s about the vision and mission of both Clublinks and Darebin City Council whilst breaking down numerous barriers to participation and creating a fun, safe, accessible and welcoming environment for all members of the community to be involved regardless of ability or circumstance.” Northcote’s nine-hole public course has been open to golfers since 1962. In 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdowns in place, general public were allowed on the course to picnic, and a petition was taken up soon afterward arguing that the area should be reserved as parkland and the golf course either shut down completely or closed from 3pm. Ultimately Darebin Council voted in 2022 to retain seven-day access for golfers in a significant win for the sport, but pared off a chunk of five hectares of land for non-golf use by the community as parkland. Paye lists some of the accomplishments as: • In collaboration with Leisure Management Services and Darebin City Council, Northcote was the venue of the first Northern Special Schools Gala Day event, with 97 students from nine schools participating across two weeks. • Since Clublinks took over the venue (as well as Bundoora Park golf), a further 90 registrations have come through the national junior participation program MyGolf to make a total 304 registrations for the current financial year. • Through the council’s ‘Get Active in Darebin’ initiative, Get Into Golf adult participation programs run at Bundoora Park have netted a total of 88 participants with 39 of them identified as being from a cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) background. In total 144 GIG and 63 MyGolf registrations have come through Bundoora Park. • Relationships have been formed with X-Golf Northland and two local stadiums – Narrandjeri and Darebin Community Sports Stadium – being registered as MyGolf and Get Into Golf centres with the aim of creating a pathway to public golf facilities. • Plans for an ‘Aboriginal Golf Day at Northcote in September with the aim of attracting more indigenous communities to the game after previous success in connecting indigenous locals with the course. Clublinks CEO Anthony Lawrence said his organisation was delighted with the progress in a short space of time. He cited the ‘Under the Stars’ series of film nights held at Northcote as an example of the different approach being taken. “We’ve looked at that as a way of getting people through the gates of the golf course who wouldn’t normally be there,’’ said Lawrence. “We know exactly how important that inclusion is to the council.” Golfers are extracting a better playing experience since the appointment of Michael Vozzo, a former AFL umpire, as superintendent, and an improvement in the course condition. “The confidence of the golfers has slowly grown that they can walk into Northcote knowing that they’re about to have a great experience,” said Lawrence. “Our participation data is trending up.” He also pointed out that the golf facility’s website was now translated into various languages as the Darebin area is linguistically diverse. Use of social media channels has grown more than 20 percent this year and the EDM database ballooned from 97 to 2493 in just six months.
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