There were fears and fury over its suspected closure, but Canberra’s southside golf course is set to stay.
Early last month, the 175 members of the Capital Public Golf Course in Narrabundah were given four-weeks’ notice that the operator’s five-year lease was coming to an end 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 read.
Many took this to mean it was closing, but nearly a month later, the golf course is still operating, albeit with a name change. It’s now called Canberra Public Golf Course.
The property is still owned by one of Canberra’s richest property moguls, Sotiria Liangis, but its former landscapers now manage day-to-day operations.
Michael Waring and Jonno McPhillips of Complete Turf and Landscaping have held the maintenance contract for the golf course for several years but were contacted by Liangis Investments Pty Ltd in the lead-up to the lease ending with an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“She contacted me last month asking if we wanted to run the golf course,” Michael says. “So on 1 October, we took the keys and started running the place.”
The business partners are no strangers to golf courses.
They first met on the green of the Royal Canberra Golf Club in the early 1990s when Michael was not only superintendent of the course but also the owner of Complete Turf and Landscaping.
Jonno came as an apprentice landscaper but quickly moved up the ranks to director. The partners have secured prestigious maintenance contracts at several locations across Canberra and Queanbeyan, including the National Arboretum and St Edmund’s College.
Michael and Jonno describe themselves as keen golfers and are tapping into their knowledge of the sport to restore the club’s place in the Canberra community.
“I had a gentleman who told me the previous administration wouldn’t let him bring his five-year-old child on the course,” Michael says.
“But they’re both welcome now because that’s how kids become golfers. And once you’ve got the bug, it sticks.”
The golf course was established at the site in 1969, and Capital Golf Club was formed in 1978. Mrs Liangis 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, which they did.
Vikings later wanted to build high-density housing and community facilities on part of the course, but this was pushed back by Andrew Barr, ACT Planning Minister at the time.
Mrs Liangis bought the site in 2011.
Jonno says the name change to Canberra Public Golf Course heralds a new era.
“It’s had a couple of rebirths as Capital, so we’re looking to shift away from that and give it a real fresh start and not still be another Capital.”
All Capital members were paid out by the previous operator, and Michael and Jonno have also scrapped the membership system to make the course truly public.
“We think it’s going to be quite popular because if you wake up on a Saturday morning and want to play a game of golf, you can’t in Canberra,” Michael explains.
“Every other course has members, and members want to play on Saturday morning, and they get first dibs. We’re hoping to go after that niche of being available all the time.”
They also offer cheaper twilight rates after 4 pm, with “a few other changes coming in the next few weeks and months”.
The partners are mainly focussed on cosmetic improvements to the facilities at the moment, including new paint, new flooring in the buildings, and repairs to a hail-damaged roofing.
“We’ve put a general maintenance regime in place so we can bring this place up to how it was years ago when it was a very prosperous golfing institution,” Michael says.
“We’re trying to get that reputation back. And so far, both former members and the public are responding really well.”
As for the rumoured future development of the site, the partners were told unequivocally by Mrs Liangis that Canberra Public Golf Course “is a golf course and always will be a golf course”.
Canberra Public Golf Course at 2 Jerrabomberra Avenue, Narrabundah, is open from 9 am to 8: 30 pm, seven days a week, including public holidays.