Date: November 13, 2015
Author: Senator Bushby

Senator Bushby: The social and economic impact of golf in Tasmania

I rise today to proudly report to the Parliament that Tasmania has been named the ‘undiscovered golf destination of the year’ in 2015 by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators – an accolade conferred  by an association of more than 200 of the world’s leading golf travel journalists across 36 countries.

Now I must confess at this point that I am not a golfer.

Perhaps I tend to side with comedian, and American institution, Jack Benny, when he once said “give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air”.

However, it is undeniable that golf conveys significant benefits to Tasmania both socially and economically. 

It is an opportune time to update the Senate on some exciting tourism ventures which will further bolster Tasmania’s reputation of one of the great golf destinations of the world.

Two world class golf courses have recently opened at King Island, off Tasmania’s north-west coast, Cape Wickham Links and Ocean Dunes, adding to the rich stock of golfing assets in Tasmania.

These courses will undoubtedly turn Tasmania’s King Island into a tourism and golf destination of global note.

Cape Wickham Links, which is located on 160 hectares of King Island’s coast opened on October 30 this year and there are already more than 3000 bookings from around the world.

This is an outstanding start, and a sign of great things to come.

Ocean Dunes golf course is located in close proximity to Cape Wickham, overlooking the Great Southern Ocean, and by all reports will make up possibly the most scenic duet of courses in the world.

Ocean Dunes has opened 9 of its holes in October this year with the full 18 being available from February 2016.

A feature of the King Island courses is the array fauna for viewing in this majestic setting including: wallabies, peacocks, pheasants, shearwaters, fur seals and sea eagles.

A course preview by Jeff Catlett from the USA stated that “Cape Wickham is so spectacular that I was, still am to a certain extent, in a state of shock”.

Ocean Dunes Director and course architect, Graeme Grant, has stated that “Visitors will have the chance to get a real taste for what King Island has to offer and I’m sure they’ll realise that this location is world-class and will only improve once the courses mature and come into their own”.

Like me, the Member for Braddon, Brett Whiteley, is not a keen golfer, but I know he understands the economic benefit of these two world-class courses.  He visited both courses when they were in the final stages of construction and was blown away by the quality and attention to detail.  

Mr Whitely reported to me that “with the federally funded airport upgrade nearing completion and the massive investment on the island by a number of stakeholders, the scene has been set for a booming tourist industry to grow and prosper on the island”.

Tasmania is no stranger to global golfing accolades.

Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm in the State’s North East Coast are perennially rated inside the world’s top 25 courses.

To be included in the same sentence as Augusta National or the Old Course at St Andrews or Royal Melbourne, demonstrates the esteem in which the golfing experts holds the Barnbougle courses.

Barnbougle has contributed significantly to the state’s tourism market and small business sector.

In fact, the contribution of the golfing industry in Tasmania, as reported by the Australian Golf Industry Economic Report for 2010, was indicated to be over $50 million. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that tourists who specifically travel to play a game of golf are in the highest spending tourist demographics and traditionally stay for a longer period of time.

Equally as important as the direct economic contribution, are the benefits golf is bringing to associated industries, such as the jobs it supports in hospitality and increased visitation of Tasmania’s plethora of outstanding tourism opportunities including breathtakingly scenic wilderness, the well preserved cultural and historic heritage, and some of the world’s finest wines and produce.

The fairways of Tasmania have captured the imagination of the world, cementing Tasmania as an unparalleled golfing destination.

According to a survey in 2010, Northern Tasmania was the fourth most frequently visited golf destination in Australia.

This looks set to increase.

The Member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, has seen the benefits of golf in his electorate stating that “People, when they think of Tasmania, often think about Hobart, Salamanca, MONA, and Port Arthur. I want them to start thinking about landing in Launceston and thinking of Launceston as a hub, be it for mountain biking adventures, enjoying the best food and drink that you can in Tasmania, or going to play a game of golf at Barnbougle, which is the 11th best golf course in the world.”

So, as it stands, of the 33,000 golf courses in the world, Tasmania has 2 in the top 100.

Tasmania is home to the oldest golf course in the Southern Hemisphere; the Ratho Farm Golf Links Course laid out by Scottish emigrants in 1822 in Bothwell.

A visit to Ratho Farm is a golfing pilgrimage for any serious golfer taking a golfing vacation in Tasmania.

I can only agree with the descriptor on their website that states: Ratho Farm Golf Links is a time capsule, among the best preserved of all the world’s early golf courses. Its most apparent uniqueness is the sheep, which graze and keep the playing areas short, with fences to keep them from the square greens.

Currently, Tasmania has 68 golf courses – the highest per capita of any state in Australia, making it one of the most golfing intensive regions in the world

 Tasmanian golf clubs have nearly 12,000 members, with a significant number of social players making it one of the highest participant sports in the state.

Golf Tasmania does a wonderful job of coordinating and promoting the sport in the state as well as managing state-wide golfing events, overseeing Tasmania’s golf districts, maintaining the policy framework and is custodian of the Tasmanian Golf Hall of Fame.

All of Tasmania’s 68 clubs have their own unique story to tell, however two clubs are worthy of special mention.

Launceston Golf Club is the oldest continuously operating members’ golf club in Tasmania.

It was founded in 1899 and always ranks within Australia’s top 100 golf courses.

In the south of the state, The Royal Hobart Golf Club celebrates its centenary in 2016.

Royal Hobart famously hosted the Australian Open in 1971, which was won by golfing great Jack Nicklaus.

Arguably, Tasmania’s finest ever male and female golfers call Royal Hobart home; Peter Toogood and Lindy Goggin.

Peter Toogood is among Australia's finest amateur golfers. He is a former Australian and New Zealand amateur champion and a multiple winner of the Tasmanian open and amateur championships. He was leading amateur in the 1954 British Open, twice in the Australian Open, and a member of the Australian team that won the inaugural Eisenhower Trophy world teams championship at St Andrews in 1958.

Lindy Goggin became the lowest handicapped golfer in the world in 1976, playing from plus four. Her record marks her as the state's greatest female golfer: Tasmanian Champion nineteen times during the period 1967–91, continuous state representative 1967–93, winner of the Australian Title three times, and Victorian Title winner on four occasions. In 1976 she won the first Australian PGA title. These individual successes led to Australian selection each year from 1970 to 1988. Her international record includes five Tasman Cups, three Espirito Santo Trophy Tournaments and three commonwealth series matches, and she was the leading individual player in 1981 for the prestigious Queen Sirikit Trophy.

Male amateur golfers in Tasmania now compete for the Toogood Trophy while female amateurs compete for the Goggin trophy.

I wish everyone involved in Royal Hobart Golf Club all the best as they celebrate their centenary next year.

This brings me back to Tasmania being named ‘undiscovered golf destination of the year’ in 2015 by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators.

According to IAGTO Chief executive Peter Walton, “Tasmania richly deserves being names Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year. To earn such an accolade is no mean feat. The winner is voted for by members of the international golf travel writers association, which is administered by the IAGTO. These journalists are the cutting edge of golf tourism trends”.

There is no doubt that through the hard work, vision and passion of the entrepreneurs, players and administrators in the Tasmanian golfing community that Tasmania has secured itself as a leader on the world stage of golf.