ACT News


Pitch and putt club plays its final round

After nearly 14 years, 956 holes-in-one and plenty of last-day tears, the Southern Cross Pitch and Putt Club closed on Thursday evening, its members convinced the lush greens will soon be replaced by buildings.

Canberra Southern Cross Club chief executive Greg Mitchell said as of Friday the 3.8- hectare site at Woden would be shut to the public even though it would be maintained as ''an open space''.

''So obviously we won't be spending as much on watering as we have in the past. We will be securing the premises so it doesn't get vandalised,'' he said.

Mr Mitchell said the club board was still discussing its options and no decision had been been made but one possibility was building a new gym on the site.

''But the current gym has got a lease until 2015, which is some time away,'' he said.

Pitch and Putt, which opened in early 1999, had been running at a loss. It had 22,000 visits a year while the Southern Cross gym had 30,000 visits a month. Pitch and Putt says it has 200 members. Mr Mitchell said he believed the figure was closer to 127. The gym had 8000 members.


''The Southern Cross Club is here to provide services to its members and obviously the demand for that service just wasn't there, it wasn't supported,'' Mr Mitchell said,

Pitch and Putt club chairman Luc Lombardo said it was ''a sad day for the club and a sad day for Canberra planning''.

The club had tried to secure a meeting with Planning Minister Simon Corbell but was unsuccessful.

''It's not too late for the government, if they wanted, to step in and say, 'This is not right'. They can take [the lease] back at any time really,'' Mr Lombardo said.

The future of the site is also dependent on the plans of developer Tony Demarco who owns the land on which the gym is located and the adjoining disused bowling greens.

A spokesman for Mr Corbell said the closure of the course was ''a commercial decision of the Canberra Southern Cross Club board''.

''The minister has no decision-making or enforcement role in regard to this matter,'' the spokesman said. ''Advice from the ACT Planning and Land Authority indicates the club is not in breach of its crown lease at this time. Given these circumstances there is no role for the minister and no utility in a meeting.''

Mr Lombardo said members were still sceptical about the club's financial standing. Mr Mitchell said audited financial statements had been provided. Mr Lombardo said none from 2011-12 had been sighted.

The course was busy with players on Thursday, from 10-year-old Cassandra Linares to 94-year-old Arthur Corey, who reckoned pitch and putt ''fills in the time for an old fella''.

Many members were concerned the course would be uncared for to make a commercial development on the site more likely.

Sue Counsel, 72, said she believed the course would end up like the weed-filled bowling greens.

Club secretary Judy Henderson, 68, said: ''It's one of the best pitch-and-putt courses in the world and it's such a shame.''

Paul West, 76, said he was ''pretty devastated'' to see the course go. ''This is a great opportunity for people of my age and older to get some exercise when they can't play the full 18 holes,'' he said. ''It's also a social gathering and I think it's great shame it will probably be bulldozed and chainsawed down.''

Club stalwart Julie Genge said there were little traditions all over the course. ''The hole four tree hangs over the course and [the late] Barry [Murphy] always got caught in the tree, so they called it 'Barry's Tree','' she said.

''I'm very upset. We're going to miss it.''

Barry Blight, 71, said there were few other facilities in the area for older people to use.

''I think it's a sin the Southern Cross Club is closing it down,'' he said.''


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