City golf club reborn as Ipswich Country Club
AS a former professional player and current state PGA chairman, Darren Richards understands the appeal of golf.
He's been around golf clubs all his life, becoming more passionate about the game after injuring his knee playing first XV rugby for Villanova College in year 12.
"Golf is one of those great sports where you and I can have a game of golf and actually compete," Richards said.
"It doesn't matter what your handicaps are because the handicap brings you back.
"When I was a junior, I could be 15 and play with a 90-year-old guy who could beat me and vice versa because you have a handicap.
"You can play with people of any demographic and have a game of golf and enjoy it. And still compete.
"That's the best part about it."
Richards was the professional at Indooroopilly Golf Club for 10 years. His father Bill was a pennant player.
However, as venue manager of the revitalised Ipswich Golf Club, Richards is enjoying two new challenges.
The friendly Ipswich newcomer is overseeing the restaurant/ entertainment aspects of the club, along with looking after golfers who want to play competition or socially.
After being closed for some months, the 117-year-old Ipswich Golf Club at Leichhardt is open again. It has been rebranded the Ipswich Country Club to reflect a family friendly focus.
New owners Sirromet Wines have added the restaurant and bolstered the entertainment on offer at the Samford Rd venue.
A qualified Ipswich-based chef has been employed to enhance the dining experience in one of the major changes at the club.
"The credibility of Sirromet Wines has given people a lot of confidence to feel that they can come back and the doors are still going to be open," Richards said.
"The money that we are spending on the venue, upgrading greens, tees and the golf course gives people the confidence that everything is going to be okay.
"You can see that the actual place is trading, so it makes a huge difference."
Members who enjoy a game can play under the Ipswich City Golf banner.
"It is the Ipswich Country Club and it will be the home of Ipswich City Golf," Richards said.
The new manager is excited about the recent lift in golfing numbers.
"We have 142 members at the moment," he said, having started his new job two months ago.
"Within six months, we'd like to have 300 and we'd like to have 64 members playing a Saturday competition.
"By Christmas, 100 would be a good goal (for Saturday play).
"Last weekend was our highest one, almost 70, men's and women's with equal rights."
"We want members to come back to the club with other members here, have a decent competition with nice prizes and enjoy that," Richards said.
A new 12-month membership package allowing seven-day access to the course is being offered to entice players back to see the improvements.
Golfers can play from 6am.
The restaurant, and associated entertainment, is open throughout the week.
The Ipswich Country Club welcomes members for the social activities, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
"They are two different customers," Richards said.
"We have people that just come in to dine, we have people who just come in to play golf.
"It's important to give the golf members a feel that they have got their own brand rather than swamping them into a clubhouse and saying good luck.
"Once people know the venue is actually open, the restaurant and the entertainment and the bar trading will kick off anyway.
"When people get comfortable with the golf course improving, that goes hand in hand."
PLACE TO ENJOY
Venue manager: Darren Richards. Age: 43.
Role: Overseeing the Ipswich Country Club (the home of Ipswich City Golf) on Samford Rd, Leichhardt.
Previous jobs: Professional and director of golf at Indooroopilly Golf Course; ran Brisbane office of Yamaha golf carts; worked at Brisbane Golf Club, City Golf Club and Brisbane Broncos Leagues Club.
Focus of revitalised club at Leichhardt: To be family friendly. "We have a great advantage that we have the golf course but we actually have a venue first. Whether they play golf or don't play golf, they can still come along and enjoy the venue."
Golf play: From 6am, with weekend competition back.