Capital Public Golf Course members are furious at the shock announcement that the course will close at the end of the month after owner Sotiria Liangis decided to end the operator’s lease, opening the way for potential development on the Narrabundah site.
Members were told on Tuesday (6 September) that Liangis Investments Pty Ltd had chosen to conclude the five-year lease on 30 September 2022.
“We have sought confirmation whether another tenant will continue operations from 1 October 2022 but have been advised there is no confirmed operator,” the letter said.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all patrons who have supported us the past 10 years.”
All enquiries were directed to Liangis Investments.
Mrs Liangis, one of Canberra’s richest and biggest property developers, is reported to have said the current operator had been operating for free for the past five years and it was time for them to go.
She was also tired of paying water charges and troubleshooting issues with neighbours who complained about golf balls damaging their properties.
But members say the free rent was an arrangement she had agreed to with the operator Peter Kohlsdorf, who runs the Canberra International Golf Centre driving range, also owned by Mrs Liangis, across the road.
Mrs Liangis won’t say what her plans are for the site, but it has long been seen as a development prize, although the government had thwarted previous attempts.
The move also comes as many golf clubs across Canberra are looking to develop their land to secure their future.
Long-time member Craig Owen said members feared Mrs Liangis would allow the 18-hole course, with one of the best putting practice greens in the ACT, to run down so she could develop the 30-hectare site.
He said she had been happy for the course to continue operating rent-free when she struck the lease deal, but times had changed.
“She said she’s sick of getting no money in for her investment, but that was her, not anybody else,” he said.
“We’re thankful for it. She told Peter he can keep running the show and keep it maintain and keep it going as it is. She was the one that said she was happy enough.”
While membership has declined to about 175, Capital is the only public golf facility on the southside and is popular with social players.
Mr Owen said the loss of amenity would hurt and he did not know where these hundreds of social players would go.
“We just don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s disappointing, I guess, but it does relate around money,” he said.
But Mr Owen said only one side of the course could be developed due to the water table, with the back nine area having a lake, bore area and a lot of underground water.
The picturesque course also has many mature trees and looks in fine shape after a couple of favourable seasons.
If it is to be developed, the site will need to be rezoned from its current restricted access recreation zoning.
That zoning is defined as “accommodate facilities that will meet the recreational needs and demands of the community and are appropriately located for the potential users of the facility”.
Mrs Liangis bought the site in 2011 from the Vikings Group, which cited ageing infrastructure, water and maintenance costs and declining revenue, but its development plans had also fallen foul of the ACT Government when Andrew Barr was planning minister.
Vikings had wanted to build high-density housing and community facilities on part of the course but could not get a rezoning approved.
Mrs Liangis had originally tried to buy the land in 2003 for $3.8 million, but Capital Golf Club members fended off the bid by approaching Vikings Group to purchase the course for $4.2 million.
The public golf course was established at the site in 1969, and Capital Golf Club was formed in 1978.
In 2014, Capital Golf Club members voted to wind up their club and leave the Narrabundah course after disagreements with Mr Kohlsdorf.