Keen to get back in the swing

Peter Hill

CLUBS are bagged and put away at the moment, but Yarram’s golfers are ready to play the moment restrictions are lifted.

Yarram Golf Club secretary Paul McAninly explained the club’s cohort of volunteers has continued to work diligently maintaining the picturesque sand belt course during the COVID-19 restrictions, which closed golf courses across Victoria.

“The volunteers are still mowing the fairways and the greens and ensuring everything will be ready from the moment we are allowed to play,” he said.

“We are waiting on May 11, hopeful there will be a lifting of the ban on playing.”

The Yarram course was recently rated Australia’s number one volunteer run and maintained golf course and has consistently ranked in the top 10 per cent of Victoria’s publicly accessible courses, a source of great pride to its members.

The club had already adopted a policy to ensure there was little risk of virus contagion for players before the playing ban was announced. Social distancing was to be carried out, no one was to lift the green flag sticks, a ball within 150 millimetres of the hole was to be conceded as holed, and contact was reduced by not picking balls out of the hole and only using personal equipment.

“We were absolutely shocked and more than a bit surprised when golf was banned in Victoria when it was still being played in New South Wales and everywhere else,” McAninly said.

“But we accept they are the rules and we have stuck by them rigorously.

“The playing ban has hit the club financially, not just from locals not being able to play or utilise the club house, but from the complete halt in package tour groups.

“We have applied to the federal government’s JobKeeper program to support our part time paid employee, but we have a contractor who assesses and advises us on maintenance of the greens and that costs us a significant amount. You have to keep the greens in top condition and that requires expertise and we can’t get (government) help with that.”

McAninly pointed out the club was a popular destination for groups from Melbourne and interstate.

“We have groups who come every year, from interstate, there’s a group of ladies from Lakes Entrance who come to play for three or four days, a group from Bass that stays. These groups stay at the Ship Inn Motel or the caravan parks or the Commercial Hotel Motel, they bring money in, not just in green fees but they like to have a beer afterwards and they provide a boost to the local economy,” he said.

“With no income keeping everything in top condition is costing the club, we have to pay for fuel even if the mowing is being done by volunteers.”

Whether Yarram’s annual pro-am, traditionally held on the long weekend in June, will be able to go ahead is yet to be determined. Everything hinges on the state government’s announcement on May 11.

“We are lucky to have so many volunteers, when the pro-am is announced each year and the call goes out we will have another ten or 12 join the usual six to eight who spend so much time keeping everything in top shape,” McAninly said.

“If the restrictions are lifted or we are able to play with social distancing like in other states we will be out there on May 12.”