Morisset Golf & Country Club
At the Morisset Hospital about 1932, doctors formed up a few holes within the grounds but interest in the project lapsed. A few sporadic attempts were made over the years until 1962 when a group was formed exclusively of hospital employees. They were successful in obtaining the transfer from the Hospital to the Lands Board of an area Section 481 consisting of 226 acres, which is the site of the present golf course.
This group struggled to raise a license and in 1964 they approached the RSL Sub-Branch to seek amalgamation. It was decided, after some discussion, for the RSL Sub-Branch to take over the land and form a golf club which would be a sub- section of the RSL Club. This was done and the constitution of the new section adopted in December 1964. Approval for the transfer of the land came through in 1965 and clearing of the land began. Six temporary holes were brought into play prior to the RSL Club appeal for a license late in 1965. The effort to get the license failed as the golf section had not been part of the original application. Golf course architect Al Howard was approached by Hope Mullard to design the layout. The present course bears witness to the excellent job done by Mr. Howard. With the help of a host of volunteers and the usual hardworking core, play on the temporary greens on the first nine holes took place on 10th March 1968. An Official Opening in 1970 was performed by the President of the NSW Golf Association and President of the Australian Golf Union, Mr. Les Graham. Present, Harry Jensen, MLA, Keith Smith, Shire President, Arthur Mullett, President, BWDGA. During 1972 underscrubbing of the land for the second nine holes was started and the plan for the layout again produced by Al Howard. At this stage it was proposed to bring the holes into play, three at a time to match our purse. However just as the clearing of the nine holes was completed a 'Red Scheme' grant of almost $91,000 was obtained. Supervised by Frank Ryan, this grant allowed play to start on the full eighteen holes.
Late 1968 saw the building of the first dam, and golf architect Al Howard was called in to give guidance to shaping the greens. Members and their wives were busy laying drainage lines and shoveling the soil to a depth of 12" over the pipes. Such was the enthusiasm engendered that by October 1969 the Club employed Paul Sharp as green keeper, and the first competition on grass greens was held just seven weeks later. A second dam was constructed in late 1970 and multiple draining systems were installed, rough cleaned out, fairways top dressed, trees planted, all with a most heartening result. 1971 saw the appointment of an apprentice green keeper and a considerable increase in playing members. Paul Sharp and Gary Jones looked after the greens and course and members who had previously been mowing fairways and doing a multitude of tasks now found time to play. During these three years membership increased by over 400% and our first club professional, Bruce Donaldson was installed. Credit must be given to the RSL Club, League, Golf Committee, and to the Members and Associates for such solid growth to have occurred.
The population of Morisset in the 1970s continued to grow and the membership of Morisset RSL Club grew also at a strong pace.
The need for a larger clubhouse to keep pace with the growing population of the district was considered and plans were drawn up for the colonial style two storey building which would become the new Morisset RSL Country Club. The impressive clubhouse premises were opened in 1983, built on about one hectare of land, surrounded by more than one hundred hectares of property. The magnificent golf course and the two bowling greens fulfilled the role of a sporting club as well as a social hub, and all members were catered for. Snooker, billiards and darts were well patronised by members as were the dining areas, auditorium and other facilities.
A shock announcement in 1989 seemed unbelievable, with the newspaper headline 'Receivers in at Morisset RSL'. The club had been unable to pay the interest on the loan of $1.6 million. The new random breath testing laws along with huge bank interest rates of 22% on loans at the time, plus added overhead expenses contributed to financial problems. It was said after the event that the State Bank should have let the club trade out of its financial difficulties, which is what sometimes happened in these situations. It was argued that due consideration should be given to the fact that local volunteer work contributed greatly in the formation of the club, golf course and bowling greens. The grant from the RED Scheme had helped construct the second nine holes of the eighteen hole golf course and this also should have been taken in to legal consideration. A third question was why there was only one tenderer, when the RSL Country Club was highly advertised for sale.
In March 1989 a developer, Barwar Holdings Pty Ltd, paid $3.5 million for the property. An offer had been received to allow the Club and its sub-sections to operate as normal for at least three years. Mr. Charlie Lonergan, Board Chairman at the time, said the main consideration was to keep the Club operational for its members and that all future dealings would be controlled by the RSL Headquarters of NSW. Five months later it was up for sale again and Mr. George Drysdale made the successful bid of $6.25 million for the Morisset RSL Country Club.
A huge price difference indeed. Information showed Mr. Drysdale was Scottish born, and an ex Air Force Squadron Leader, who came to Australia in 1951. He was semi retired and his business was in Minerals and Metals. Mr. Drysdale came to an agreement with the Directors of the Club regarding the lease. He was quoted as being solely independent, and the acquisition was a business proposition and with the lease the name of the Club could remain the same.
In 2000 Morisset Country Club relinquished the RSL connection in the Club name, after a mutually beneficial association of 36 years.
EVENTS IN REVIEW
1946 Morisset RSL Sub-Branch active after the end of WWII.
1952 Application for Clubhouse land rejected.
1956 Proposed two and a quarter acres between Dora Street and Railway.
1955 Discussions on forming an RSL Club.
1959 Land considered at the rear of Morisset Police Station.
1959 Formation of Morisset RSL Memorial Club.
1961 Formation of Morisset RSL Women's Auxiliary.
1962 Closure Morisset RSL Memorial Club.
1963 Formation of Morisset RSL Women's Bowling Club.
1964 Amalgamation of Morisset Golf Club and Morisset RSL Club,
1964 Golf Club Constitution formed.
1964 Formation Morisset RSL Bowling Club.
1965 Formation of Morisset and Dora Creek RSL and Citizens Club.
1965 RSL Sub-Branch obtains two acres of land near railway.
1965 Clearing of land begins.
1965 RSL Sub-Branch buys buildings from Rathmines Air Base.
1966 Opening Morisset and Dora Creek RSL and Citizens Clubhouse.
1968 Golf Course opens play on first nine holes.
1968 Formation of Morisset RSL Golf Associates.
1970 Official opening of Morisset Golf Course.
1972 Morisset RSL and Country Club incorporated.
1975 Application successful for RED Scheme grant.
1976 First competition on completed eighteen holes.
1983 New Morisset RSL Country Clubhouse opened.
1983 Old Clubhouse transferred to Wyong Tennis Club.
1989 Trading problems at Morisset Club - receivers brought in.
1989 Barwar Holdings buys Club and property - allows leasing agreement.
1989 Club and property resold to Mr. George Drysdale - leasing agreement.
2000 Name change to Morisset Country Club.
2001 Morisset Country Club leasing from Mr. G. Drysdale.
2002 Members total 2,905.
Morisset Country Club ceased trading in May 2019, when it's lease was not renewed. The future of the site is uncertain.
Mullard, Beryl 2002, Iron horse and iron bark : history of Morisset and district, Beryl Mullard, Morisset, N.S.W.
This work by Lake Macquarie City Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License