Green light for beach-side driving range in Wollongong

Plan comes to the fore: The new driving range will, if approved, have 44 hitting bays over two levels. Picture: Adam McLean.
Plan comes to the fore: The new driving range will, if approved, have 44 hitting bays over two levels. Picture: Adam McLean.

Wollongong Golf Club’s controversial plan to install a two-storey driving range has been recommended for approval, despite dozens of objections from nearby residents.

However, Wollongong City Council staff have pushed back on the club’s plan to allow golfers to drink alcohol and hit balls over the green until late at night, recommending an 8pm closing time.

Last August, the club revealed its intention to cash-in on overseas golfing tourism and after-dark games by adding 44 hitting bays over two-levels to its beach-side course.

While the proposal sparked excitement from many Mercury readers – and an endorsement from the region’s tourism body Destination Wollongong – hundreds of senior citizens living nearby worried it would affect their quiet evenings.

The landing area for golf balls would involve part of the course’s existing sixth and 18th holes, which are directly in front of the IRT Links Seaside apartments.

Speaking out last year, a committee representing the 234 residents in the apartments raised concerns about alcohol-fuelled noise from the new operation’s target “youth market”.

They also worried about the noise of golf balls being hit at night and bright flood lighting which will illuminate the driving range, which was proposed to operate from 6am to 10pm seven days a week.

More than 60 people lodged submissions about the driving range, canvassing the above issues, as well as concerns about the safety of pedestrians around the golf course due to “errant golf balls” and fears the driving range would negatively affect surrounding property values.

The council said it was “satisfied with the applicant’s [golf ball] trajectory study” and believed the relocation of a panel of 20 metre high fencing would “ensure the proposed development would not have unreasonable impact on the public domain”. 

In a recommendation to the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, council staff said the development “is unlikely to result in significant adverse impacts on the amenity of the surrounding area”.

They have advised IHAP to approve the driving range, subject to conditions.

The hours of operation for the driving range will be restricted to 8am-8pm (instead of the 6am-10pm proposed by the gold club), and the sports lighting must be shut off at 8pm, the conditions said. 

If the council receives complaints about the lighting, the council will direct the club to modify the system.

IHAP will meet at 5pm on Wednesday to hear from the applicant and opponents before making a decision.