Community access to golf courses recap – teeing off the debate

At the start of the week, Astrolabe Director Michael Comninos shared his thoughts on the importance of increasing public access to green space in our cities with the Sunday Telegraph, suggesting that spaces like golf courses could be better leveraged to do more for the community. After sharing this on LinkedIn, Michael has engaged in some rich conversation across the public, private and university sectors. We’ve captured highlights from the thread below.

Considerations for golf courses

To increase the public utilisation of golf courses, several ideas were suggested:

  • Overseas examples were discussed. Many of Scotland’s most famous golf courses are also open space that the public can access, which have signs warning golfers to look out for walkers, and walkers to look out for golfers. For example St Andrews golf course in Scotland, the venue for the British Open, only allows public access to the course on Sundays.
  • Reducing the size of golf courses could allow open spaces to be dedicated to the public.
  • One commenter noted that almost all golf courses are on Crown Land of some form, and so should have community access as part of their vision. As it happens, the Draft State Strategic Plan for Crown Land is currently on public exhibition.
  • Increasing public use of golf clubs could shape them into a different type of community institution, where stewardship of the environment is front and centre.
  • Comments also discussed how government funding to enable and support public access could provide crucial financial benefit for golf clubs and their membership base.

And it’s not just golf courses

This thread also broadened the discussion to other existing spaces in our cities and suburbs, which could enable cost effective creation of green space in built-up suburbs and enhance community enjoyment of their local neighbourhood:

  • Cemeteries
  • Sports ovals
  • Bowling clubs
  • Race courses

One example offered in the thread was the new Draft Land Management Plan for Caulfield Racecourse Reserve in Melbourne. The vision of the Plan is to create a place for everyone through a new sports hub, easier access to open spaces, a running/cycling/walking trail, and improved biodiversity and environmental outcomes – all while protecting and enhancing Caulfield as an events destination of state significance.

Let’s try it

What was clear from the conversation is that people are ready to test and pilot new ideas for urban open spaces. We’d love to hear about demonstration and pilot projects for golf courses and other open spaces in cities around the world, and what we could learn for getting demonstration projects started in Australian cities.

COVID-19 disruption has brought the importance of quality public spaces in our neighbourhoods into stark relief. The time is now to ask questions of how open spaces are used and managed – what they need to do to be fit for purpose now, and their role in the future of urban living.

Michael Comninos is Astrolabe’s founder and director. He has over fifteen years of experience developing and implementing strategy, policy and regulatory reform in planning and infrastructure.