BACKING THEMSELVES: Members of the Westlawn Golf Club Peter Lane and Russel Finch with men's captain John Blanch. Mr Blanch is calling on community members and businesses to get behind the historic club by becoming a member.
BACKING THEMSELVES: Members of the Westlawn Golf Club Peter Lane and Russel Finch with men's captain John Blanch. Mr Blanch is calling on community members and businesses to get behind the historic club by becoming a member. Tim Jarrett

Last-ditch effort to save historic golf course

IN WHAT could be a final push to save the 'little golf course' the former GDSC Westlawn Golf Club have been dotting i's and crossing t's.

Now officially known as Westlawn Golf Club Inc, members are finalising a business plan to present to the Clarence River Jockey Club to make their case to run the course themselves.

WGC men's captain John Blanch said meetings with the CRJC had been positive and he was confident the new structure and business model would ensure the course's financial viability.

Mr Blanch said the previous honesty system was simply not working and their new system of financial membership was the best way forward.

Their new structure consisted of three tiers; A $115 annual membership with a green fee of $10, entitling members to all competitions. Social membership of $25 with a $15 green fee and a non-members course fee of $20.

The club's survival now hinged in part on the willingness of the community to get behind it and Mr Blanch said they had signed up over 60 members already

He anticipated people would sign up as social members as a show of support to the course which was one of the oldest in the Clarence and offered some of the less mobile in the community a chance to tee off.

"This is is a course that suits elderly people because it is so flat and accessible, if it closes they wont be able to play any more.”

CRJC Executive Officer Michael Beattie said the club had made it clear from the outset a business plan showing the financial viability of the course was paramount and looked forward to seeing the final proposal.

While Mr Beattie said it would be "terrific” if the club could come up with an appropriate business model he did not see a community benefit in announcing it would stay open - only for it to close at a later date.

"Whilst they have a very different funding model, as yet they have not come back to us with any modelling as to how they will handle the outgoings of the golf course,” he said.

"Including the acquisition of capital assets that will be required in the very near future to keep the place going.”

Club member of 28 years, David Morgan, said he had seen many young players start off on the 'little course' and progress to the Grafton District Golf Club and become top golfers.

Mr Morgan was concerned the closure of such an accessible course could have wider implications for people in the Clarence.

"We have some members who over 90 years old and members that are carers and only get three to four hours of enjoyment with their mates and relief from all the pressure of home,” he said.

"Take that away from them and nobody knows what will happen.

"I feel it could cause some mental health issues if these members have nothing to do.”

In September, the club postponed their elections to allow the current representatives to negotiate a path forward after the shock move by Grafton District Services Club to not renew the lease for the popular course.

Westlawn Golf Club Inc is holding elections this Saturday at the Westlawn clubhouse at 1pm.