In a dramatic meeting of the Whittlesea Council last week, a proposal to sell the Graham Marsh designed Growling Frog Golf Course was rejected by a majority of Whittlesea councillors.
According to the Star Weekly website, Cr Caz Monteleone had proposed selling the golf course and garnered the support of at least three other members of the Council.
Cr Monteleone described the Yan Yean course as “bleeding us dry” having registered an operating loss of $815,000 for the 2017/18 financial year, and an $800,000 loss the previous year.
The course is believed to have cost council around $11 million to construct, and those voting against the sale claimed that selling the property now at the discounted price of between $3 – $6 million would affectively create a ‘massive loss’ for ratepayers.
Arguing for the sale, Cr Monteleone said the council could sell the property on the condition that it remains a golf course for 25 years, and could then use funds generated from the sale to offset some existing debt.
In the Star Weekly article, Cr Monteleone is quoted as saying, “The Growling Frog is causing significant debt to council. Selling it allows us to get rid of the asset that is continually bleeding us dry.
“Ratepayers will be better off … the debt will be off our back.”
It’s understood that the golf course has cost council around $12 million in operating losses since opening, and Cr Monteleone and others unsuccessfully argued that council should not continue to own and operate a failing asset.
Rather than selling Growling Frog, however, Whittlesea Council instead decided to lease the course to Golf Services Management for a period of five years. The lease limits council’s loss over that period to $1.45 million.
Golf Services Management also operate the St Andrews Beach and Ranfurlie golf courses among others, and are well regarded within the golf industry. If GSM can’t turn the operating fortunes of Growling Frog around then it would be hard to imagine anyone else could, without some sort of additional development or perhaps a change in design and maintenance (i.e shortening, reducing bunker numbers etc).