IT used to be among the biggest golf clubs in regional Victoria – now weeds clog the fairways at Eaglehawk and the once-proud clubhouse has been ransacked by vandals.
Bar stools have been thrown through the windows and lay outside the building in piles of smashed glass. The machinery shed has been broken into and pillaged. Thousands of copies of ‘The Rules of Golf’ lay scattered on the floor amid broken crockery and club memorabilia.
Two former members club members, now in their 70s, showed the Bendigo Advertiser around the place they had spent countless hours over several decades playing golf and socialising.
Both did not want to reveal their identity for fear of recrimination by those who continue to trash the clubhouse.
“When you think of the hours upon hours of volunteer work that went into building up this club... it just breaks your heart to see this,” the man said.
The building has stood vacant since the Eaglehawk Golf Club went into voluntary liquidation in 2013 and its members voted to merge with the Bendigo Golf Club.
The 100-acre parcel is slated for development though Bendigo Golf Club general manager Steven Oliver said the club had hoped to see the clubhouse used as a community centre.
“But over the last four to six weeks things have gotten really bad,” he said.
“At first people were just breaking in and having a look around… there’s very little left of commercial value, so they’re ripping doors of hinges, smashing windows, just making a real mess of the place.
“It is entirely senseless – doing vandalism for vandalism’s sake.”
The former members who brought this vandalism to the Advertiser’s attention are two among many left heartbroken by the mindless destruction of the clubhouse which has escalated rapidly over the last few weeks.
“Another woman came out to have a look when we heard what was happening,” the woman said.
“She didn’t even get out of her car… she just sat there crying.”
The car park itself resembles a Jackson Pollock painting – skid marks are smeared thick over the bitumen and mounds of burnt plastic and metal reveal the spot where a vehicle was recently set alight.
But, bad as the building appears from the exterior, nothing prepared them for what has occurred inside.
Debris litters the floor – paintings, record books, teapots, trophies, name cards of former golf champions, beer glasses, lights. Almost nothing, though, is left intact.
“If they’d had a clearance sale with all this they could’ve raised thousands of dollars,” the man said.
“They could’ve at least donated it to charity – it would’ve been better than this.”
Mr Oliver said he too was distressed by what was occurring.
“We would’ve loved to see it as a flourishing golf course and in an ideal world that’s what it would have been,” the general manager said.
“But the reality is that that wasn’t happening and, due to declining membership and accumulated debt, the club was put into voluntary liquidation.”
Mr Oliver said most of the memorabilia was now stored at the Epsom-based Bendigo Golf Club and much of the equipment had been sold to other clubs.
“We had a big working bee and just recently donated chairs and couches to a charity for disabled adults… but we were limited by time and manpower,” he said.
The club is in discussions with council over planned development on the land, and Mr Oliver said he had hoped to see the clubhouse used as a community centre.
“A number of different people did want to use it for different things, but at the end of day it’s a private facility and we can’t look to lease it out while its future is uncertain,” he said.