Underwater from floods at times, while serving a club financially treading water, Goulburn Golf Club bounces back with renewed vigour when sunlight breaks through the clouds. The receding waters reveal the club’s course, an asset matched by another invaluable asset: its core team of long-serving volunteers.
Club president Barry Christoff says volunteers are crucial to any country golf club, and Goulburn’s are invaluable. They plant and trim little and big trees; help prepare for flooding and clean up in the murky aftermath; pitch in wherever they can to help staff; and give back to the game.
A reward for anyone who enjoys golf is the sight and sound of three-times men’s club champion Dominic Falk teeing off with a crisp drive down a fairway. Falk’s consistent form at representative events has attracted other young players into the game, raised the spirits of Goulburn Golf Club’s members, and caught the attention of top-level golfers.
Goulburn’s pro Andrew Grove sees a bright future for Dominic, beginning with him turning professional.
“If he keeps at it and continues to work hard every day, he will be very, very promising,” says Andrew. “He knows what he has to do and he is all over it.”
Dominic is expected to undertake a tour school this year and continue his rise. Andrew says his strength is his length, a reflection of how consistently he correctly smacks the ball. His other strength is his short game.
“He has good imagination and is not scared to try things,” says Andrew. “He practices them and this gives him confidence.”
Barry says the more exposure Dominic gets to higher level golf, and playing at NSW and Australian championships, the better he will become as he matures into an exceptional golfer.
“He shows a lot of promise which is brilliant,” says Barry.
The president says Goulburn Golf Club always finds a silver lining in unexpected setbacks. For example, COVID-19 proved a shot in the arm when people in lockdown, looking for something to do, played golf. While most sport stopped, golf received a boost not seen since a young Greg Norman hit the scene. Goulburn’s numbers jumped 14 per cent, and today it has 471 golfing members.
The club has been working with Goulburn Mulwaree Council on the Water Reuse Scheme that will recycle non-drinkable water for parks and sporting grounds, and has applied for a grant to fund an automatic irrigation system for the course.
“If we are successful it will transform the look and playability of our golf course, making it more attractive for new members and visitors,” says Barry.
“Especially because we are in that Canberra-to-Sydney corridor. A lot of people heading out of Sydney to play in Canberra or in the Murray region will stop here and have a game at our course if we have the fairway watering.
“A T-junction has been installed in May Street to allow us to access that water if we can eventually get some funding to build the irrigation system.
“In 2018, when Goulburn hosted the NSW Men’s Country Championships, everyone spoke highly of the course, even though it was struggling through a drought. Golf NSW is aware of what our course is capable of.”
Given the club’s limited revenue and need for many things, including course maintenance, Barry took up Golf NSW’s free service of two specialised reports. Each report looks in detail at the governance and future of the course.
“The governance report was done by a guy who used to be manager at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, one of the biggest in Australia,” he says. “The new board has been looking at that and working on our priorities.”
Keeping up with trading and staff disruptions has challenged the board and secretary manager Carol Cabot, who often gave extra of herself until suddenly struck down with illness. She is still recovering.
Amid the changes, the club picked up new course superintendent greenkeeper Matt Shuttleworth, who has a good understanding of irrigation and land management, vegetation and machinery. He is working on replacing old and unsuitable trees on the course.
A retired school teacher who managed distance education for southern NSW in the final decade of his career, Barry remains optimistic for the club’s future.
“COVID-19 made it tough, and these other things haven’t helped, but that’s the life of little country clubs,” he says. “I think we are getting through it.”