The History of Moore Park Golf

Moore Park Golf Course was founded by two young Scottish immigrants, brothers Duncan and Charlie McMillan, who surveyed the land at Moore Park and thought it an ideal location for a golf course.

Their devotion to golf actually caused considerable alarm amongst the local constabulary, who continually confiscated the brothers’ clubs for practicing on what would eventually become the Moore Park Golf Course!

In the early 1900s golf was, for many, a game played only by society's elite; a day out most members of the general public, like brothers Duncan and Charlie McMillan, could ill afford.

The Politics of Golf

Dreaming of fairways, bunkers and greens, the brothers began an unwavering campaign to the Sydney City Council for a piece of city land where, together with their fellow ‘common’ man, they could be on the hunt for birdies and eagles.

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After numerous visits to Town Hall, the seat of the Sydney City Council, the tireless lobbying by Duncan McMillan (ultimately the founding father of Moore Park Golf Club) bore fruit. The Town Clerk agreed to commission the laying out of a nine-hole golf course on the site opposite Resch's Brewery.

The brothers' dreams became a reality in 1913, when the first seeds of the nine holes of what was to become known as Moore Park Municipal Golf Links, were laid under the guidance and design of golfing professional Carnegie Clark. When it was officially opened in May that year, Moore Park Golf became the first public access golf course in NSW. Management of the course passed from Sydney City Council to the club in the following year.

The Evolution of Moore Park Golf

The area on which the golf course was built has had a colourful history to say the least.

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  • The course is part of the traditional ‘homelands’ of the Dhurag-speaking Eora indigenous Australian tribe
  • Some of the land was proclaimed as the Sydney Common in 1811 by Governor Macquarie
  • In 1866, the Mayor of Sydney, Charles Moore, created Moore Park by setting aside 378 acres of the Common for recreational use. Moore Park was developed primarily to accommodate sporting pursuits
  • Other than sport, Moore Park became a focus for entertainment facilities. Zoological Gardens in 1879 (Sydney’s first zoo, which included a bear pit and elephant house), the Royal Agricultural Society Showground and the first course of the Australian Golf Club in 1882 were all established here
  • The first game of polo in Australia was played in the vicinity
  • Over the years, golfers have shared the course with cattle, horses, defence forces, a dogs home, rubbish tips and a garbage incinerator
  • In the 1920s, the issue of ‘undesirables’ stealing golf balls off the course was soon addressed by the appointment of a mounted ranger and course detectives
  • A concerted campaign stopped the initiative to drop bulk amounts of fruit, vegetables, offal and fish refuse on the course.

The course doubled in size to 18 holes in 1922 with the acquisition of land on the southern side of Dacey Avenue and, with that, Duncan McMillan and his dedicated band of golfers decided to formally constitute themselves as the Moore Park Golf Club.

Due to the ever increasing number of players on the course and the club's closeness to the city, the City Council agreed to build a new Golf House, which was opened in 1926 to much fanfare from the local Sydney press. As a testament to the ‘they don't build 'em like they used to’ era in which the Golf House was built, it still stands and is used by golfers and members to this day.

Over the years that followed, the course underwent a series of alterations and extensions and, in 1937, course architect Eric Apperly was commissioned to completely re-construct the layout. The project finally came to fruition in 1950 and Moore Park Golf was transformed from a rather barren, sandy links to a parkland course, with the planting of hundreds of trees in strategic positions.

The remodelled course (in various configurations) remained in play until 1991. At this point the Moore Park Golf Club, in partnership with the newly appointed custodians of the parklands, the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, decided to fully re-construct the golf course and build additional facilities – including the 60 bay, three-tiered driving range practice facility.

The new layout, designed by golf professional and course architect Ken McKay, came into play in late 1996.

Gradual improvements to bunkers, tees and course drainage created a course that was shortly chosen as the venue for the 2006 NSW Golf Open to great acclaim.

In 2009 Moore Park Golf was approached to host the inaugural Australia v New Zealand Skins Challenge, featuring former US Open winners Michael Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy. This Skins Challenge was held again in 2010, attracting US golfer John Daly.

In October 2009, Clublinks was appointed to manage the Moore Park Golf facilities after a competitive tender.  Clublinks successfully won the subsequent tender in November 2015.

Today, Moore Park Golf continues to build on its roots of being the 'people's golf course'. A recent agreement signed with the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust has assured that Moore Park Golf Club has a further 20 year tenure on the site. This means future generations of golfers can enjoy the freedom, triumphs, frustrations and fun that were founded and fought for by the McMillan brothers almost 100 years ago.