By Michael Davis

WOODEND golfers are at their wits’ end.

They are frustrated by the local council’s indecision on bringing their dilapidated clubhouse up to safety standard or demolishing it altogether. 

‘It’s very frustrating,” said club secretary Barney Hearnden. “This has been going on for two years. 

“It’s so hard to get an answer from council officers. The only time you get any response seems to be when you copy in one of the councillors.”

Hearnden said the only work done so far by the council had been to install some bollards and crushed rock to make the entrance to the clubhouse safer. 

“We have offered to put a ramp in ourselves for disability access and that’s been going on for two years.

“It can’t be that hard to make a decision. We are a great community facility and more than happy for people to walk their dogs and have picnics on the golf course.

“We only need to use it Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and at the weekends. And even then we are happy to share it with people having picnics and walking their dogs. And we are happy for the CWA, the art group or any other community organisation to use the facility at any other time. But at present it is in dire need of an update or a rebuild.”   

The 100-year-old course sits on Crown Land 40 minutes north-west of Melbourne and has long been regarded as a treasured community asset.

It is understood Macedon Ranges Shire Council originally set aside $200,000 to bring facilities up to scratch but members report little movement.

The latest council budget is believed to have factored in $123,000 for an architect to do a sustainability report on repairs or demolition.

The club is happy to conduct a fundraiser and has commissioned its own strategic plan in which 94 members responded to a detailed survey.

All said, they are embarrassed to bring friends and family to the clubhouse, citing health and safety issues.

“We (still) haven’t seen any evidence of money being spent,” Hearnden said.

”The clubhouse still remains in a very dangerous and unsatisfactory state. There’s rising damp, there’s mould, the boards between the kitchen area and the outside are rotten and rats and other vermin are free to come in because we can’t block that up.”

Bathroom facilities are also rundown and decommissioned ovens make it nigh on impossible to host functions.

Hearnden said the club also had major concerns about safety around access points and the lack of disability access, which created challenges and barriers for some users.

Woodend Golf Club secretary Barney Hearnden (left) and club member Paul Stuart (top right) were among those to make submissions to Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s budget. Photo courtesy Midland Express.

“We want a facility that is safe and usable for our members. We’d hate to see somebody injured,” he said.

“A number of elderly members have fallen and it’s only a matter time before someone suffers a significant injury.”

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 23 years ago, club member Paul Stuart said access is a huge barrier for people with disabilities. Determined to stay socially connected and active, Stuart advocated for improvements.

“Being a part of this golf club provides me with a ‘Men’s Shed’ experience,” he told councillors.

“The last four years have become increasingly difficult, particularly from a mobility point of view for me.

“While I’m unable to play the game that I enjoyed so much [previously], camaraderie and friendship over the years and my association with this club has made my life more meaningful and provides something to look forward to each and every week.”

The club has grown its membership from 120 to 260 in the past year, despite Covid-19 challenges, and increased junior clinics to 40 players.

Hearnden said the club was open to discussing options with the council, including a full demolition and rebuild.

“The committee’s position is that we’re not wedded to the building as it is,” he said. “We can take our history with us if there is a new building. Our history is in honourboards and trophies. But we’d at least like to see options.”

Well, the good news is the council has allocated funds in its 2021/22 budget for immediate works.

“Informed by recent building inspections, we are in the process of prioritising how the budgeted funds will be used,” said the council’s director assets and operations Shane Walden.

“Further investigations are underway to assess longer term options and we look forward to continuing our discussions with the golf club to create a fit-for-purpose and multi-functional space to meet community needs.

“The long term options should support community and sporting activities for people all ages from Woodend and surrounds. 

“We believe it is important to improve social connection and physical activity across a wider and more diverse range of community members and there is an opportunity to achieve that outcome here,” he concluded.  

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