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Moonah Links gets helping Hands from across the Bay

It seemed that the ultimate opportunity to purchase a Golf Home had arrived.

That’s right, not just a house on a golf course, but “The Home of Australian Golf” – Moonah Links itself was “on the market” according to a June report in Melbourne’s “Age”.

Rumours had been rife that the project was financially stretched ever since the rush of work to complete the venue in time for The Open last November. Several of the initial investors were seeking to realize their investment by selling their shares, despite the apparent success of land and apartment sales and the resounding success that Peter Lonard’s win underscored at the inaugural event staging.

The developers, Golf Australia Holdings, in partnership with The Australian Golf Union had sold 200 blocks of land into a rapidly rising real estate market, and have just released a final parcel that comprises a further 21 lots with permits that allow the remainder to be subdivided and yield up to 30 more blocks. The latest releases were delayed in part by the need to complete the routing of the Legends Course prior to subdivision, and have encountered a much more sedate real estate market than the initial lots.

A speedy sale of remaining land might provide sufficient cash injection to keep current shareholders satisfied. Meanwhile a team of corporate finance and real estate experts were engaged to sound out possible purchasers for their holdings. There was no statement available from the AGU, although they have previously said that their 25% stake is not for sale.

In a subsequent announcement, GAH Chairman Bill Leslie stated that a decision is imminent on a which of several new partners will be selected to inject “$15 to $20 million” that is required to complete the hotel apartments and recreational amenities including a swimming pool, tennis courts and conference facilities.
The Moonah Links Golf Complex comprises The Open Course, (venue for the 2003 Australian Open Championship and scheduled to host the event again in 2005), the 18 Hole Legends Course, a fully integrated Golf Clubhouse comprising Change rooms, bag store, Restaurants, Spike bar, lounge bar, Function area, reception, open fireplace, and large viewing deck; The Australian Golf Union Headquarters including The Australian Institute of Sport Golf Academy, The Australian Golf Museum and Golfing Hall of Fame.

Then there’s the world class Peppers Hotel with 60 serviced apartments (and permits for up to 280 condominiums) which will be doubled before the 2005 Open, with Conference facility, Gym and Day Spa centre and plans for tennis and swimming.

In a more than welcome move, GAH announced that the Handbury Family of Geelong would take a majority shareholding in the project and become involved in the management of its ongoing golfing activities and future residential development.

Husband and wife team, Paddy and Helen Handbury own and operate the $250 million golf course and residential development, The Sands Torquay on the Bellarine Peninsula. Paddy Handbury will become the new Chairman.

GAH’s founding Chairman, Bill Leslie, said this “guarantees and enhances the future of the Home of Australian Golf ensuring it becomes internationally recognized as a major golfing destination”. At the same time it would provide the company with the resources and experience to develop Moonah Links – now in Stage 6 of its land sales – to its full potential.

The Handburys bring to Moonah their extensive property, resort, residential experience and expertise. “We now look forward to delivering the vision at this significant property”, Paddy Handbury said. “We believe we have the right mix of resources and expertise, and the synergies offered by management at The Sands are an added advantage for both properties. We will now offer quality golf and residential developments on both the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas”.

A number of parties according to Mr Leslie had expressed interest in buying into Moonah Links

“ Apart from their integrity , what appealed to us most about the Handburys was a common interest we both share in establishing Victoria’s ‘Golf Coast‘ comprising the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas , as the golfing mecca of the Southern Hemisphere” he said.