06 Oct 2023 | Clubs and Facilities |

Community saves Rokewood GC

by Martin Blake

Rokewood GC image
Rokewood's sand greens will stay in use after the club was saved.

Rokewood Golf Club in western Victoria was struggling with an ageing membership and dwindling numbers earlier in 2023.

But what happened next may be instructive for small clubs.

The committee put the club into ‘caretaker mode’, and went to the community for help.

The Rokewood community responded.

The club has roared back to life as a result.

“We took the attitude that we didn’t want to lose it,” said Daniel Mason, the new secretary of the club, and one of the locals who responded to the call.

“It’s a small town and we don’t have that much here. We’ve got a school, a pub, a local store, the footy club and the golf club. We don’t want to lose those things.”

Rokewood, in the Western Plains region 130km west of Melbourne, has a population of just more than 200. The golf course is nine holes with sand scrapes, and has been in place since 1933.

When the previous committee called a public meeting in March to discuss the future of the golf club, it was on the brink of permanent closure due to “a lack of active players”, with membership falling below 20 and active players dropping to a handful each week.

Unless something changed, it would be a sad farewell.

But more than 50 people from the area attended the meeting and many offered their services as volunteers. A new committee was formed including some new faces such as Mason, who had no previous interest in golf. Membership has increased to 45 with optimism about the future.

Golf Australia’s Relationship Officer for the Ballarat region, Jake Cole-Sinclair, has been a driver of the change.

“With a number of clubs in similar positions and holding discussions around closures, I think the fact they went to the residents of the town demonstrates the importance of small clubs telling their stories,” he said.

As for the future, there is a new sponsor in the local wind farm, and the new committee is engaging with the community through social media for the first time.

“The challenge is to get new people in,” said Mason. “We had an older demographic at the club, and we’ve tried to change that. We’ve got on to social media and tried to get the word out.

“Now it’s about keeping it going and getting new members. Plus keeping the ones that we have.”

Club captain Charlie Neville is grateful for the town’s backing. “We’re very optimistic,” he said. “A lot more optimistic than we were at this time last year!”

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