7 March 2023

Burns Club lands on the green with Belconnen Magpies purchase

| Ian Bushnell
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Magpies Golf Club.

The Belconnen Magpies clubhouse overlooks the course. The Burns Club intends to upgrade it. Photos: Magpies Golf Club.

The Canberra Burns Club has acquired the 18-hole Belconnen Magpies Golf Club and clubhouse for an undisclosed price in a purchase that it says will help ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the almost 100-year-old Kambah club.

President Athol Chalmers said the Burns Club would take over the course and clubhouse in Holt from April 2023 and the facility would be known as Burns Golf Club Belconnen.

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He said a key attraction of the purchase was its location near one of Canberra’s fastest-growing areas, including the Ginninderry development and the new Molonglo suburb of Whitlam.

“The projections are that the population there will grow by about 10,000 in the next 10 years, and 30,000 over next 20 or 30 years, in contrast to Kambah where the forecast is static or a decline, so that pie is not getting any bigger,” Mr Chalmers said.

Kambah was also a really competitive environment for clubs compared with Holt, he said.

Like many golf clubs, Magpies has struggled with the cost of water to maintain the course and had decided not to renew its lease, which expires at the end of the month.

Mr Chalmers said the water issue was a concern but changes to the irrigation system had made it more efficient and talks with the ACT Government would continue about the current rates.

“We think we can manage it, and talking to the greenkeeper, there’s more we can do to mitigate the water issue,” he said.

But the club itself had remained profitable and Mr Chalmers said there was an opportunity to increase business in the licensed club and grow the membership.

Belconnen Golf Club

The 10th hole on the picturesque 18-hole course at Holt. The golfing and greenkeeping staff will be retained.

The Burns Club would invest in the gaming area to make it more appealing and bring the currently outsourced food and beverage service in-house, which would be more cost-effective.

“We believe we can achieve significant growth by changing the business model being pursued at the venue together with significant operational savings being delivered by running two venues under one management and staffing regime,” Mr Chalmers said.

He said the Burns Club would inherit 62 working gaming machines and a further 20 authorisations. At this stage, he was not contemplating any hand back under the government’s scheme to reduce the number of pokies in Canberra, but neither would the club be taking on any more.

Mr Chalmers said the golfing and greenkeeping staff would be retained, given the Burns Club had no experience running a golf course and it was talking to the staff in the licensed club about who would stay on.

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He said feedback about the purchase had been overwhelmingly positive, especially when employees and golfers faced the prospect of losing their club.

Magpies had leased the course from Woodhouse Investments for 20 years but Mr Chalmers said the deal with the Belconnen Magpies Sports Club included the land as well after an on-sell arrangement.

He said the club had not given any thought to its development potential at this stage, and in any case, the ACT Government had told Woodhaven that it could not develop the land.

The Burns Club would maintain an ongoing relationship with Belconnen Magpies, using the facility for after-match functions and as a home base.

Mr Chalmers said the icing on the cake for the Scottish club, which marks its centenary next year, would be owning a golf club, given the game was born in Scotland.

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