By Brian O’Hare
MORE people associate the Northern Territory with crocodiles rather than golf but visitors to the Australian Veteran Golfers Union (AVGU) National Championships in Darwin this year needn’t be alarmed.
A run in with one of the area’s man-eating denizens on course isn’t all that likely.
“There’s only a toy one in one of the dams,” admits tournament director John Baylis from the Northern Territory Veteran Golfers Association.
While visitors to the annual national championship for over 55’s amateur golfers can expect a great week of golf, crocodile encounters and other unique tourism opportunities are purely optional.
The AVGU National Championships are an annual event that rotates around Australia’s states and territories and among other benefits offer entrants inspiration to visit locations they might not otherwise get to.
The Darwin event in 2015, to be held toward the end of the peak tourist season from August 16 to 21, is a case in point.
The championship is open to male veteran golfers and their partners and apart from a much sought after scratch national trophy there are also lots of other trophies and prizes in four handicapped grades.
Arrangements for the tournament are progressing nicely and the event has had good local support from people like major sponsor Fuel Express and the NT Government.
“[The] 2015 Championships will be spread across three of our most picturesque golf courses in the stunning Dry season,” enthuses NT Minister for Sport Matthew Conlan.
“Darwin is home to world class sporting facilities and with the great weather, lifestyle and unique tourist attractions this is one championship not to be missed. Learn more about Darwin’s rich war history, visit the bustling Mitchell St for cafes, restaurants and bars, cool off with a swim at the Waterfront Lagoon, get a photo with some of Australia largest crocodiles or venture to Litchfield to see amazing waterfalls and wildlife. It’s all here waiting for you to enjoy. So come along, enjoy some fantastic golf in the tropics and see first-hand why we believe the Northern Territory is Australia’s number one holiday destination.”
The courses scheduled for the men’s championship will be the Peter Thompson and Michael Wolveridge designed Darwin Golf Course, together with Palmerston Golf Course.
The Darwin course is only minutes from the city and is an acclaimed par 72 layout. It is also home to the “toy’ crocodile.
“It’s anchored to the bottom of a dam, Baylis said. “It’s just a head and its sticking out of the water so that might scare a few to start with.”
The Palmerston Golf Course is located just 22 kilometres from the Darwin CBD.
The field is restricted to a maximum 288 men and 72 ladies and with an entry fee of just $320 that includes a Welcome Day on the Sunday, four rounds of golf and gala Presentation Dinner on Friday evening, is great value.
Men play a 54 hole stroke championship (Men’s D Grade will be stableford only) while the women play a 54 hole stableford event.
The ladies will play at the very picturesque nine hole Gardens Park Golf Links, which is also very handy to the city. (Baylis explains there are space restrictions with the tournament with the next available 18 hole venue 1500 kms away in Alice Springs.)
The Wednesday of the event is a rest day with the opportunity to further explore the area’s many tourist attractions.
“It will be a terrific tournament and the weather will be fantastic,” Baylis says. “It will probably be around 31 degrees with very little humidity during the day and get down to around a 16 degree minimum overnight.” (The tournament was brought forward from its usual November setting to get the best of the peak season weather conditions.)
“If people are organised they can go to Kakadu, they can go to Litchfield Park which is one of the other highlights of the Top End. There’s lots of crocs to see, there’s a number of tourist operations that have crocs. There is one actually right in the city itself which is quite good.”
Baylis says many participants arrange the vets tournament as the central part of a longer holiday or road trip.
“They usually try and coincide it with a road trip, with a group from their home club or whatever. They visit all the spots and play in the vets on the way up and things like that,” he says.
“And even some of them I hear are coming up with their caravans or camper trailers or whatever and playing in the vets then parking them and going across to Bali and similar places.”
For many, the AVGU championships have become an annual ritual that eventually takes a long, slow lap around Australia and provides the chance to meet and maintain some great new friendships, to see new places … and play a bit of golf on some great courses.
The championship moves to Adelaide in 2016, the Gold Coast in 2017 and Port Stephens in NSW in 2018.
Entries are currently scheduled to close at the end of May but it is advisable to get in early and book accommodation and other details.
For further details and bookings see the NTVGA website hereAustralian Veteran Golfers Union: A Proud History Veteran Golf in Australia: A state by state overview Veteran Golf News and Events Veteran Golf Forum