In September 2013, Peninsula CGC and Kingswood GC became the first private golf clubs in Australia to merge. It was bold move on many fronts and the resultant course redevelopment of the Peninsula site’s North and South courses even more so. Across a series of five main articles and numerous breakouts, ATM takes an in-depth look behind the $12 million course redevelopment and the many facets which have gone into the rise of Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club.
Glenn Stuart can clearly recall when he ‘knew’. He was eight-years-old, divotting tees during the school holidays at Leongatha Golf Club in Gippsland, Victoria. He was hooked. He was intrigued and fascinated by the golf course and its surrounds – the turf, the vegetation and everything that went into presenting it.
Fast forward four years and Stuart’s family had relocated to Kingston Beach just south of Hobart, Tasmania. Stuart’s passion had only continued to grow and even in his early teenage years he was cutting the greens at Kingston Beach Golf Club with triplex mowers and doing other course maintenance tasks that a lad his age probably shouldn’t be doing – spreading fertiliser, renovating greens, cutting roughs. He did it for nix and loved it.
A few more years passed, by which time the family had returned to Melbourne. It was the start of 1984 and Stuart, now 17 and itching for a golf course apprenticeship, took on a six-month role at Kingswood Golf Club offered by then superintendent John Sloan moving fairway sprinklers and support for greens night-watering programmes. He rode his bike to and from work in Dingley every day from Glen Waverley and would pull hoses and sprinklers around the course from 7pm to 3am.
Then one day came the moment he had waited for – he was called in by then superintendent Nick Rennison and offered an apprenticeship. Rennison proved an amazing mentor for the young Stuart who would go on to spend five-and-a-half-years at Kingswood, which at the time had some of the best conditioned playing surfaces in Melbourne. It was one of the first courses to start the process of converting cool-season mix fairways across to warm-season couchgrass and Stuart fondly recalls sitting atop the sprigging machine watching on enthralled. The course also was leading a charge to manage pure bentgrass greens as well.
A few more years on and Stuart struck gold – his first superintendent role. Only 22 at the time, he was initially offered the assistant’s role at Long Island Country Club, with the plan to take over from retiring superintendent Bill Lunney after 12 months. That turned in to just two weeks after Lunney had a blazing row with the committee and his retirement was, well, fast-tracked. As superintendent, Stuart would work closely with the club’s turf consultant John Sloan who he credits with taking his skills to the next level.
All of a sudden Stuart’s career started to fly. Eight years in charge at Long Island was followed by 14 very successful years at Woodlands. Then, in 2009, when Richard Forsyth was announced as the new superintendent of Royal Melbourne, vacating a long and storied tenure at Metropolitan, Stuart headed an elite field and got the nod as Forsyth’s successor.
Metro was a dream job and one Stuart could see himself in for a long time. It was an extremely professional and progressive club that supported their employees and Stuart would help play a role in strategic planning for future course improvement plan works as well as hosting the 2014 Australian Masters to great acclaim. But after seven years there, while on a boat cruise with the family in Noumea shortly after that tournament, a role would materialise that would change everything again.
In September 2013 Peninsula Country Golf Club and Kingswood Golf Club bit the bullet and announced they would become the first two private golf clubs in Australia to merge. It was huge news for the industry and raised a multitude of questions about how it would actually transpire. The plan was to sell off the Kingswood site for residential development, which would be used to fund the redevelopment of Peninsula’s 36-hole facility. The big question mark was how do you marry two clubs, their cultures and their people?
It was in early 2015 that the newly created ‘Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club’ (PKCGC) placed an ad for a ‘director of courses’ on the AGCSA website. Knowing what was happening with the merger and intrigued by the opportunities that it afforded, Stuart found himself entertaining the thought of ‘what if’ after an approach was made. While extremely happy at Metropolitan, the more he did his due diligence on the PKCGC role, the more he saw it as one of the biggest opportunities of his career and in fact a real career defining superintendent role. And he took it.
Given his background as an apprentice at Kingswood and his time spent over the fence at Long Island, Stuart’s arrival at PKCGC in July 2015 was a homecoming of sorts. Yet when he walked through the PKCGC gates that winter, not even he could have ever envisaged what would eventually unfold over the next four years.