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Golf courses in Sydney’s eastern suburbs take up 550 hectares of land

Add up all 13 golf courses in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and you end up with a land mass that could accommodate Central Park in Manhattan, London’s Hyde Park and the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris – and still have 50 hectares to spare.

The debate over the future of Sydney’s golf courses escalated dramatically this week as the Minns government announced it would convert nine holes of Moore Park Golf Course – the closest to Sydney’s CBD – into a new civic park. The conversion will take place after the current operating agreement expires in 2026.

Now, let’s zoom in and take a look at the golf courses in the eastern suburbs.

Land and property records reveal that more than 550 hectares of Sydney’s east are eaten up by the courses, a mix of private and public clubs, from the ultra-exclusive Royal Sydney Golf Club in Rose Bay, which includes 27 holes over two courses, to the nine public holes of Botany Golf Course.

This is about 6.5 per cent of the entire area east of the Eastern Distributor. For comparison, that is three times the size of Centennial Park (189 hectares). Here’s what they would look like if you put the courses all together in one spot.

Elizabeth Mossop, a professor of landscape architecture at University of Technology Sydney, said this concentration of fairways was out of the ordinary. “It’s incredibly unusual to see golf courses within five or 10 kilometres of the CBD,” she said. “We’d be a real outlier there.”

Long advocated by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, former Labor premier Bob Carr and others, the Minns government’s planned conversion of Moore Park Golf Course has irked golfers and the club’s management, who point to Moore Park as an affordable option for players compared to private greens nearby.

But Carr, who once declared Sydney was “full”, said if the city is to accommodate its growing population by adding more apartments, those residents would need access to open space, which would have to come from golf course conversions.

“You’re going to have people like prisoners in medieval towers looking out their windows at the royal hunting preserves, and wondering whether they will ever get to put their feet on the grass,” Carr told the Herald.

“The only opportunity for broadacre urban parkland comes with the conversion of land that a hundred years ago was gifted to the exclusive use of one recreation.”

It’s not a new debate. A 2015 directions paper by the then City of Botany Bay council canvassed converting Eastlake Golf Club into public parkland. Eastlake is a 50-hectare course set over two narrow strips sandwiched between two private golf clubs, The Lakes and Bonnie Doon, and just south of The Australian championship course.

The eastern suburbs golf clubs tend to be clumped together. In addition to the above courses along Southern Cross Drive, there are four contiguous courses on the La Perouse headland: Randwick, The Coast, St Michael’s and the NSW Golf Club, which together occupy about 185 hectares. Royal Sydney and Woollahra Golf Club share a border in Rose Bay.

Moore Park Golf Course.Credit: Nick Moir

In London, there are only a handful of golf courses within the inner ring roads (the A205 and A406); Highgate, Wanstead, Muswell Hill and Ilford, although there are plenty in the outer suburban areas inside the M25 orbital.

The closest golf courses to central London are more than eight kilometres from Charing Cross; Sydney has eight within or about that distance from Town Hall.

A closer comparison to Sydney is Melbourne, which also has several inner-city golf courses; Albert Park is just a few kilometres south of Flinders Street Station, while Royal Park is four kilometres to the north. Melbourne also has a string of golf clubs along the Yarra in the north-east; Kew, Green Acres, Latrobe, Ivanhoe, Freeway and Camberwell are all within 12 kilometres of the city centre.

Minns said he had no plans to take over other Crown land golf courses in metropolitan Sydney, but Moore Park was a “unique case” with 80,000 people expected to live nearby by 2040.

“It’s downtown, close to the CBD, so it will be used by everybody in Sydney, not just the localised community, and it’s a densely populated community to begin with,” he told 2GB radio.

Shortly after coming to power, the government announced it would audit excess public land for housing to address the state’s supply crunch. That audit identified more than 3000 potential sites for redevelopment in its initial stages, but Minns said there was “no need” for that to include more golf courses.

Golfers at St Michael’s Golf Course on Tuesday.

Golfers at St Michael’s Golf Course on Tuesday.Credit: Janie Barrett

There was no community appetite for turning existing green space into housing, Minns said, even if it was currently used for golf.

The previous Coalition government had considered scaling down the Moore Park golf course for additional public land after lobbying by the City of Sydney, but decided against the idea. Instead, it planned to retain the 18-hole course with an improved pedestrian link across the north of the site from South Dowling Street to Anzac Parade.

“It’s important to state that the reconfigured golf course would have returned to public space a hectare here or a hectare there, nothing in the vicinity of 20 hectares,” Minns said on Monday.

“We would not have been able to return to Sydneysiders such a massive new Central Park for Sydney by closing down here or there or allowing the periphery of the site to be used by pedestrians.”


Former Liberal planning minister Rob Stokes acknowledged Sydney handed an unusual amount of inner-city space to golf courses. But he opposed the new government’s decision to chop Moore Park in half.

“Once you cut a golf course in two, you’ve got to ask the question: is there any point to it?” Stokes said. “You’ve got to take the community with you on these things.”

Paul Nicolaou, head of the Business Sydney lobby group, supported the Moore Park conversion and said six other golf clubs offered public access within 10 kilometres.

“Such a popular pastime is well catered for in the district,” he said. “However, it’s not really a question of how many golf courses are in this area of Sydney. The central issue is providing open space for a growing residential community.”

Golfers at Moore Park Golf Course on Sunday.

Golfers at Moore Park Golf Course on Sunday.Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/as-big-as-three-centennial-parks-the-golf-courses-that-devoured-sydney-s-east-20231023-p5eeb3.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw Golf courses in Sydney’s eastern suburbs take up 550 hectares of land

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