You get the feeling when you first meet Ivor and Helen Chappell that they are, in human form, what Curlewis Golf Club is all about. Friendly, enthusiastic and welcoming.
I met with the couple because the club has big plans for the future and I wanted to get a feel for the story from the people at its heart.
Ivor was the founding treasurer of the club, established in 1970 by the East Geelong Golf Club as a new development.
He’s always been part of the team and has been a key driver of much of the development of the club in the 46 years since its inception. In fact, Helen describes his relationship with Curlewis as an affair of royal proportions - and Curlewis is Camilla.
They both speak lovingly about years gone by – of working bees to establish the grounds, the immense work of volunteers to establish and grow the Club and of Ivor taking a weeding tool with him on his rounds to tidy up greenery while on the greens.
I especially enjoyed hearing Helen talk about the changing role of women within the club. Women were important right from the beginning, but their role grew as time went on with a big role in the physical maintenance and management of the course - especially during water restrictions when greens had to be watered by hand! Now women golfers make up a large portion of membership, have equal voting rights and run dedicated ladies programs at the club and on the course, including competing on Saturdays.
That’s what Curlewis Golf Club has in spades – a genuine story of evolution. An irrevocable back story filled with legends, hard work and achievement.
The evolution continues, with new faces and a fresh strategy voted in by members in July 2015. Ivor was one of the major advocates for a new management strucutre, understanding it was the only way forward for the club.
Lyndsay and David Sharp (of Jack Rabbit Vineyard, Flying Brick Cider House and Leura Park Estate fame) are now custodians and have great plans to grow the club in various ways – as a golf venue, as a hospitality provider and as a community club.
The transformation has already begun under their watch, with a slick new fitout of the clubhouse (maintaining a balance of vintage character and modern amenities) and a change of direction in the kitchen and bar. Award winning wines from The Bellarine and some seriously talented chefs have taken the social dining experience to a new level.
In fact, it’s a legitimate dining option now, even for non-golfers. The clubhouse is open seven days for lunch as well as dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
The evolution has included golf too. Work undertaken on the course has seen it jump ten places to 78 in Australia’s Top 100 Courses.
There are school holiday programs for the budding golfers in your life and weekly group golf exercise programs. Plus, the awesome new GolfBoards - a golf cart / snowboard / segway hybrid - bring an element of Back to the Future to the Curlewis fairways.
Fittingly, when I asked Ivor what the highlight of his time at Curlewis was, he didn’t flinch when he said “The highlight is the future.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Find out more about Curlewis Golf Club.