Royal Park Golf Club driving its way to 120 years
For golf-enthusiasts in Parkville, the Royal Park Golf Course is a place to come together and bond over a shared love of the sport.
And for many members of the Royal Park Golf Club, it is a place to celebrate and remember the rich history that comes along with the course; a history many visitors are unaware of.
Hoping to continuously honour the course and the club is Parkville resident Denise. As a local who has lived in the area for 24 years, she dedicated her time to research, compiling and producing the booklet A Centenary in the Park: The History of the Royal Park Golf Club.
Published in 2003, Denise wrote the booklet knowing “she could and no one else was going to”.
As the only female committee member of the Royal Park Golf Club at the time, Denise believes in the importance of the golf course and its founding club.
“My late husband introduced me to the love of golf in 1999. I live 177 metres from the first tee and play three times a week when I can,” she said.
Situated on the northern boundary of Royal Park, between Carlton and Brunswick, the golf course came about in 1903 when a group gathered together at Parkville Hotel to form a golf club.
Seeing the potential of Royal Park, the club leased the land from the Royal Park Trustees, before it fell under the control of the City of Melbourne, and built an 18-hole course.
One year later its application to be a registered club was accepted by the Victorian Golf Association.
And as shared in Denise’s booklet on the club, the first Club Championship was held in 1906, and the Club Champion the following year was a left-handed golfer by the name of W.R. Opie whose “favourite explanation for an indifferent round” was his handicap of “his heart frequently [getting] in the way”; an issue right-handers did not seem to have.
The number of holes on the Royal Park Golf Course soon lessened to nine within the following years due to a lack of attendance.
And despite a rising attendance of 440 club members 60-years after its opening, the number of holes on the course has remained the same to this day.
Accompanying the alterations of the holes, the course was also impacted when the No 58 tram line was built in 1923, making Royal Park Golf Course the only course to now have both a tram line and a train running through it.
Permission was also given by the City of Melbourne for the Royal Park Golf Club to make immediate improvements on the green using funding from their members.
Thirty years later, an additional 5000 pounds was spent to improve the clubhouse, an amenity benefitting not only the members of the club but also the green fee players.
But at the start of 1970, ashes from the briquette dust heap at the rear of the clubhouse started a fire that not only destroyed part of the building but also the club records, trophies and club members property.
This resulted in a disagreement with the council over the new conditions to make the course public, something that would result in the club losing its membership with the Victorian Golf Association.
With this in mind, a decision to leave Royal Park behind was made.
Members of the Royal Park Golf Club merged with Keilor Golf Club and formed Tullamarine Country Club. A decision that only lasted a couple years as the club reformed with Royal Park Ladies Golf Club in 1972 and Royal Park Men’s Golf Club in 1974.
And as the club and course at Royal Park nearly reaches 120 years old, many members are left reflecting on what the grounds mean to them, including five-time British Open winner, and past junior member of the Royal Park Golf Club in 1942, Peter Thomson.
“It didn’t exactly prosper, but it did the next best thing – it endured,” Mr Thomson said.
And it is this endurance that makes the Royal Park Golf Course unlike any other course in Victoria.
“The Royal Park Golf Course is much loved by local and non-local residents who love to walk around a lovely part of Royal Park, listening to lions roaring and siamang gibbons barking from the zoo,” Denise said.
“And they find it therapeutic to hit a golf ball really hard.” •