Goondiwindi Golf Club named in 'top four' in Queensland

Bright days ahead. Golf Club Manager, Golf Pro, musician, Nicky Kruger with Golf Club President, Neil Kratske.
Bright days ahead. Golf Club Manager, Golf Pro, musician, Nicky Kruger with Golf Club President, Neil Kratske.

The Goondiwindi Golf Club was facing a crossroads in its future 18 months ago.

Make a decision to go in a new direction or just go doing what they had been for years.

They made the fateful call to take onboard a review of the club undertaken in 2017. It called for some tough decisions. But then they had already had to face up to some tough love from a "forensic audit" of all aspects of the club.

Part of that was a street-walk of Goondiwindi where the consultant asked a simple question. "What do you think of the Goondiwindi Golf Club?" The most oft-heard reply was "It's elitist and we're not welcome out there".

The response left the now President, Neil Kratske, facing a conundrum: aligning how some people viewed the club with his own thoughts on the second home he had passionately supported for years.

"We saw the club as a place for everyone. We have members from all walks of life," he said. "But we realised if that was what people thought we had to do something to change it."

One of the first steps was to have a Club Manger who was also the Director of Golf (The Club Pro). That man was Nicky Kruger. He arrived just before Christmas of 2018 with his wife Nandi and his parents Pieter and Antionette. All are talented musicians. They soon had the Golf Club rocking highlighted by the 2019 New Year's Eve Party which attracted a large crowd of golfers and non-golfers alike.

The future was on the up.

And then something virtually unprecedented happened: a world-wide pandemic of a magnitude not seen for a hundred years. States closed down, golf courses were closed, and then re-opened, but social distancing meant bars were closed to the public, cutting off their major revenue source.

Last week we visited the Golf Club predominantly to do a story about an unattended side-affect of "lockdown" on sporting groups. While sporting competitions have had to shut down throughout Australia, its had an ironic consequence for golf clubs: many have reported a dramatic rise in player numbers.

"There's just nothing else to do," Neil said.

"League's not playing. Union's not playing, so we are seeing great fields out here, record fields in some cases."

Last year the average weekly number to play in competitions was between 150 to 160. Now it is between 220 to 260.

There's also been a significant surge in memberships.

The good news didn't stop there. Neil had discovered only a few days previously that the Club had been nominated for the prestigious PGA Golf Club of the Year for clubs with less than 400 members. Goondiwindi has 339 members. Only four clubs were up for the award, Goondiwindi, Atherton, Dalby and North Stradbroke Island. "We didn't win but we were just so chuffed.

Just to be nominated is a big deal. It's a real feather in our cap," Neil said. For the record. "We're not elitist, come out and we reckon you'll find that out. We'll welcome you with open arms." And a beer if you want one.

The Golf Club bar is back in operation but with some social distancing requirements.The next major event is the Club's Veterans' Day which attracts over 50s from St George to Tenterfield. It's on August 5.

PS. Nicky is a multi-talented sportsman and was a promising rugby union player. After moving to New Zealand as a 17 year-old he was chosen to play for the Cook Island international squad. \While there he played for the College Rifles in the Premier League. That all took a dramatic turn when he played a match in a seven's competition for the Cook Islands. Playing against the Auckland Rangers open side, he tried to "take a bloke out" and two of his mates jumped in. The end result? Two broken shoulders. "Yep, it hurt a bit."

That was 2009. Unable to play he returned to Cape Town in 2010 and shorty after became a golf pro.

He also plays cricket and tennis.