The Championship Course has evolved over the past 100 years, but never with a single design vision to guide its development
It is now demonstrating the inevitable consequences of the lack of a cohesive long-term philosophy and land management strategy. This is reflected in its Australian golf course ranking declining from 4th to 48th in the past 30 years and has coincided with growing broader community concern with long-term environmental issues including water efficiency, climate change and biodiversity (all issues raised in Woollahra Council’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy).
In an effort to meet these dual environmental and sporting challenges, the Club has embarked on an ambitious long-term plan. It will require some ‘sacrifice’ in the early years, especially with the understandably emotive issue of tree removal. However, short term pain will result in major long term gains. It is proposed that 595 trees be removed from the property and be replaced with 1,888 new trees of very diverse native species – resulting in an actual net increase of 1,293 trees on the course itself.
A ‘do-nothing’ option is not a viable proposition.
This is due to a combination of factors – the ageing infrastructure will need renewal and rationalisation; the dominance of senescent and mature age trees suggests hundreds of trees will need to be removed over the next decade or so; and the dramatic decline in the course’s rating reflects an on-going deterioration in a number of the course’s design elements and an increasingly-recognised lack of strategic intent within the course’s current layout.
RSGC believes the key elements of its proposed golf course renovation and landscape rehabilitation project, being contemporary, comprehensive and holistic, will significantly address all of these factors. The Club’s intent to be more environmentally friendly and to make necessary changes to the golf course are entirely compatible and could provide an excellent model for other land managers.
The Royal Sydney Golf Club, and its Championship Course, face many challenges that require decisive action.
Long Term Sustainability
- The Club desires to be more environmentally appropriate and sustainable, as well as be more economically sustainable by lowering costs for water, fertiliser and landscape maintenance.
- Lack of current capacity for water storage.
Ageing Infrastructure and Trees
- Poor drainage impedes turf quality and results in regular flooding.
- Ageing and inefficient irrigation and stormwater drainage systems.
- Upgrades to internal roads and pathways are required.
- Many of the trees were planted about 70 years ago and are reaching the end of their safe life expectancy and are failing at an increasing rate.
Playing Conditions and Ranking
- Dense, congested playing corridors where trees restrict airflow and create heavy shade has promoted infestation by undesirable grasses, the loss of grass and tree root invasion on greens, tees and fairways.
- A decline in the quality and attractiveness of the course for both members, visitors and major competitions.
- Need for improvement in the construction of greens, bunkering and course setup to meet international standards, as well as be more flexible and attractive.
- Royal Sydney’s Australian Golf Digest course ranking has declined from 4th to 48th. By regaining its former status, RSGC can contribute to the community through the attraction of major golf events.
- Leave a positive legacy for the Club and the local community – that should last the next 100 years.
- Improve the quality of the golf course to match the exceptional quality of the Club’s other sporting and social facilities.
- Establish an enduring framework for the restoration and long-term management of the maintenance of the course.
International environmental and sporting standards and trends
- Enhance social and environmental values at the core of the game, including increasing biodiversity, wildlife conservation and sustainability.
- Return the course to a modified, though generally original heathland coastal environment, that is then regarded as one of the top Australian golf courses.
- Ten of the existing eighteen holes present safety issues with balls either straying outside the property or creating hazards for players on the course. These safety issues have potential significant impacts in respect of liability for the Club and have been addressed in the redesign.
Community Expectations in Environmental Management
- Woollahra Council’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2015-2025.
- NSW Environmental and Planning Assessment Act 1979.
- NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.