Why making the cut at Moore Park takes a swing at wrong target

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A beaten-up Toyota RAV4 and a new Audi Q7 are both cars. A $20 bottle from Dan Murphy’s and a bordeaux at Oncore by Clare Smyth are both red wines. A member of The Australian Golf Club and someone who (for now) plays 18 holes at Moore Park are both golfers.

Same, but different.

Those who have taken a victory lap recently over plans to shut down almost half the public Moore Park Golf Club had better not think they’re striking a blow against Sydney’s rich and their private venues.

The probable losers from this will be everyday mums, dads, children and groups of friends who like to get out of the house so they can continually fail to realise their dreams of being the next Cameron Smith or Minjee Lee.

The high-end corporate types and public office movers and shakers who deservedly enjoy the fruits of their labours on private courses won’t lose a thing if, as planned, Moore Park is altered.

As is the case with nearly all activities in this society of ours, it never takes long for distinctions between those of means, those living in comfort and those who struggle to make ends meet to emerge.

The golf course at Moore Park could lose half its 18 holes.Credit: Edwina Pickles

Private courses such as Royal Sydney, The Australian and The Lakes (the last two of which hosted massive crowds at the Australian Open men’s and women’s events last week) are clearly the big end of town.

Courses like Moore Park are close in distance, but a world away in reality. These are the places where everyone is welcome, provided they follow a few basic rules.

With an average round lasting between four and five hours, 18 holes at Moore Park costs less than $15 an hour (cheaper on weekdays). Hardly the playground of the rich and famous.

Yes, the Moore Park imbroglio is something of a special case. Yes, the push for more public space in that part of the city is worthy of prosecution. Giant apartment buildings have overtaken that part of town. But why should social golfers pay the price, as seems the likely outcome?

Moore Park Golf Course is set to be almost halved.Credit: Nick Moir

For a vast majority of amateur golfers, the game is anything but a pastime of the idle rich. Malcolm Knox, in his wonderful style, recently paid homage to those who enjoy their weekly bouts of misery.

Players aged eight to 88 chase the dream every day. Whether it’s beating your handicap or just winning a Keno ticket off friends, it’s a game open to just about everybody. Tradies, teachers, police officers, run-of-the-mill office workers, students and retirees intermingle. At most places, who you are is left in the car park, and what type of person you are is the currency that matters.

From outright rage to uncontrollable laughter, a round of golf can bring out the best, and worst, in anyone who plays it. These are the people of Moore Park.

For better or worse – depending on the personal biases we all have – a final decision will be made on Moore Park. Golf will survive, but one of Australia’s most used courses may not.

If half the course disappears, it’s not unfair to expect those who have been calling for as much to become regular visitors to the new green space. Maybe even as regular as the golfers who will be on the lookout for a new course.

For most of the spectators who wandered around The Lakes and The Australian last week, watching the best do their thing was the closest they’ll get to striking a ball in anger on that pristine turf. Then, it was back to the car park, or train station, and home with a few grand memories.

Then, as soon as the next day if they were able to wrangle it, those living in the east and south of Sydney returned to places like Moore Park, Eastlakes, Randwick and even the somewhat agricultural Marrickville courses to renew old friendships, start new ones and continue the game started by shepherds in Scotland centuries ago.

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