A turf war has broken out between one of Canberra's most venerable golf clubs and some of its neighbours.
A property developer is involved in the stoush.
The Federal Golf Club has long wanted to build a "retirement village" within its grounds in order to earn a bit of extra money.
But now a group including the Southern Cross Club, a Canberra construction magnate and some neighbouring residents say they want to build a $25 million leisure complex among the greens and bunkers instead.
The complex would include a boutique hotel, conference centre and a "wellness centre".
"We think it's a great opportunity to open up the golf course to the entire community, so rather than being a place purely for golfers, it becomes a place that all ages and everyone in the community can enjoy," Marcus Graham, the architect who designed the proposed new complex, said.
The Canberra Times was told the details before the club had had a chance to inspect the proposal.
The people behind it say they want to "socialise the proposal with Federal Golf Club board and membership and begin discussions".
But it doesn't look hopeful.
The club's board is not commenting, but directors are thought to view the offer as something akin to a hostile takeover.
The proposal had come "out of the blue" with "no prior consultation or discussion with the club", according to a spokesman.
"There are significant factual errors in the proposal," he said.
According to the informal consortium behind the new plan, their idea would involve:
- A function centre for up to 300 people to be used for weddings and conferences;
- A 36-suite boutique hotel offering a truly Australian tourism experience with kangaroos at the doorstep; and
- A health club including wellness spa, gym, swimming pool, tennis courts and undercover parking.
The hotel and conference centre would be run by the Southern Cross Club. The Southern Cross Club didn't want to comment.
The people behind the proposal said it would generate at least $1 million a year for the golf club.
They say the hotel, conference and health centre would be "financial lungs" for the golf club.
The proposed leisure complex would be built instead of the 125-home "retirement village" which the club itself wants to build, which has met opposition from some local people.
The new proposal has been put together by Dimitri Nikias, director of the Nikias Diamond construction company in Canberra, with Stewart Architecture which is based in Fyshwick, and the Southern Cross Club.
It is not clear how much of the finance they would put up, nor what the return to them would be. They say that "there would be a number of financing options" with "nothing set at this stage".
The Federal Golf Club, which was formed in 1933, has been suffering from a shortage of water on its side of Red Hill.
With the aim of becoming more viable, the board proposed the "retirement village" within the course. It felt this wouldn't impair the ability to play golf.
But some local people thought the new homes would be the thin end of the wedge for the erosion of an important swathe of green space in Canberra.
Mr Nikias said: "It was obvious the club was trying really hard to shore up its future but that lots of obstacles were being put in its way.
"We sounded out a range of club members and other golfers, Hughes and Garran residents, businesses and community groups about what they thought might work, and then set about giving that vision some form and bringing in development partners who could make it happen."
Last year, the Federal Golf Club's bid to redevelop part of its course with an "over-55s estate" was given a boost when the ACT government's new master plan for the Red Hill area earmarked land on the club's grounds for the housing development, albeit not where the golf club had initially wanted it.
The consortium behind the new proposal said the advantages were:
- It enables Federal Golf Club to be free to focus on what it does best - golf;
- The land remains a golf club in community hands, for which it was originally granted, and the fundamental nature of the area is unchanged;
- The golf course will be upgraded to international standard with facilities not available at any other golf venue in Canberra;
- The plan minimises impacts on Garran and Hughes residents;
- Traffic will be at much lower levels than the proposed residential developments.