11 Jul 2024 | Clubs and Facilities |

FEATURE: Kingaroy's open arms policy drives huge growth

by Martin Blake

Kingaroy GC clinic image
Juniors are picking up golf at Kingaroy, revitalising the club.

The golf boom has not missed Kingaroy Golf Club, in the famous Queensland peanut-farming district in the South Burnett region, three hours’ drive north-west of Brisbane.

But it’s not by pure chance that things are on the up.

A change of approach has transformed the entire club in 18 months.

Membership has doubled – from around 160 back then to 300-plus now, with 146 new members – and junior numbers are also up 100 percent. Women’s numbers are up 47 percent in the past year.

All on the back of a more inclusive culture driven by club president Chris Sarquis, a former PGA Professional who has spent virtually his whole life in the sport from the time he joined Caloundra Golf Club as a five-year-old.

When Sarquis took over as president at the end of 2022, he had a vision for Kingaroy.

It was as a club that was open to everyone, where all members felt like they belonged, with more young people and more women actively involved – a club that reflected its community.

“From the first day I took on this role, I brought in a one-club policy,” said Sarquis. “We don’t have gender alignment for members. A member is a member. We’re all one club, we have equal opportunity and equal say.

“From my experience within country golf, there can be two or three clubs within the clubs, and they go against each other. From the start, I said ‘I’m not having any of that’. We don’t have groups inside groups because it brings a negative outcome.”

Sarquis had a lifetime in the sport to draw upon, having represented Queensland as a junior, turned professional and gone on tour for a couple of years in the early 2000s before joining the Australian Defence Force, where in amongst two overseas tours of duty to the Middle East, he captained the ADF golf team.

Kingaroy’s list of achievements on the back of the change is impressive. They include:

• Training of six community instructors to run the MyGolf junior participation program, leading to a doubling of MyGolf numbers.

• Training of one All Abilities Instructor. People with disability are encouraged to use the course and also volunteer.

• Establishment of the Kingaroy Junior Development Centre, which includes indoor tuition areas and is available for use by anyone from the region. The club has bought golf sets for use by all participants.

• Establishment of a Titleist Showcase Shop, the only one it the region, with a full range of equipment. Profits have soared 800 percent in the past 12 months and are all channeled back into the club.

• New members pay half-price fees in the first year ($215), and if thyey are aged 18-35 the discount remains in place.

• Free clinics for new women members with PGA Professional Arian Sanjor, who visits the club once a month. Chip ‘n sip nights were also popular for women.

• Installation of a new irrigation system thanks to a Queensland Government grant.

• Creation of a new golf players’ committee with equal gender representation, and election of the first female club vice-captain in history, Susan Mahoney.

Having hit all its targets inside 18 months, Kingaroy is now setting out into a bright future.

It has aligned with Golf Australia and the pillars of the Australian Golf Strategy. The next step is the creation of a Game Plan initiative which will seek feedback from members on a new long-term strategy.

"This is a small club on the rise which wants to improve its offerings, safeguard its future through engaging the younger generations, evolve further as a community hub and improve its facilities and course," said Andrew Leventis, Golf Australia's Manager of Clubs and Facilites - north.

"They are also working with us on strategic alignment and planning and eager to engage further with GA. As a largely volunteer run club, their vision is to provide golf for everybody, and they are doing excellent work in this space." Sarquis only sees further growth to come. Kingaroy has a population of just 10,000 and the club has just three paid staff – a head greenkeeper, Grant Green, and two in the bar.

That’s why Sarquis remains in awe of the number of volunteer hours churned out at the club. The president himself runs a local cattle farm and has young children, but he finds the time to run the pro shop and heads the board, and he is far from alone in his passion for the club.

“Our executive committee would put in 40 hours a week, all voluntarily,” he said. "They're all from different backgrounds but they've all got experience and they've been successful.

“We’ve changed the environment and if you change the environment you change the outcome. We’ve made it an open and inclusive community club where people can come and chat. A lot of people come down and they don’t even play golf. They love the environment.

“I’ve put a lot of work into that. In my opinion, that’s been the biggest change and it’s seen our results … we’ve doubled juniors and 60 percent for women. It doesn’t just happen.

“What that club means to a lot of people is unbelievable. You have 10 people sitting at a bar from all different life experiences, and we’re all one. We’re all mates.

“It’s a special place, and that’s why we put in the hours.”

Information about Kingaroy GC

Chris Sarquis image
Former pro Chris Sarquis has a productive team behind him at Kingaroy.

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