MORRIS SWINGS INTO IPSWICH
Written on the 11 July 2014 by Nick Nichols
SIRROMET Wines founder Terry Morris may have just settled on the purchase of Ipswich Golf Club, but the Sirromet Wine owner isn’t about to take a swing at any golfing acquisitions on the Gold Coast.
The deal for Ipswich Golf Club, which was negotiated with receivers, was announced late last year and settled last week.
Morris has acquired the Wayne Grady-designed golf course in partnership with right-hand man Dean Merrell, the CEO of Morris International.
The two have paired up to buy eight hotels and taverns in Queensland, including the Central Park Tavern and Highland Park Tavern on the Gold Coast, since 2011.
Their Good Times Pub Group has a number of hotels in the Ipswich area and, according to Merrell, the deal for Ipswich Golf Club was not something the partners had deliberately sought.
“We weren’t really looking for it,” Merrell tells Gold Coast Business News.
“We heard it was closed, we came up with an offer and were successful.”
Merrell, who grew up in Ipswich and whose brother was once a groundkeeper at the club, says the partners have no plans to buy more golf clubs, but they are looking at taking a leaf out of the book of one of the Coast’s big turnaround courses, Parkwood International, as part of the strategy to reposition their Ipswich asset.
Merrell says the aim is to loosen up the “closed shop” attitude of the club in order to boost membership and casual player numbers.
“The first priority is to get the golf course up and running,” says Merrell who, along with Morris, is a member of the exclusive Grand Golf Club at Gilston.
The Ipswich course was closed for about three months last year after receivers were appointed, but the receivers later re-opened it and have been running it since Morris took control last week.
Morris describes it as “a wonderful opportunity to consolidate, and then develop the club into a viable business”.
"The club has been though some tough times, but we are confident we can get memberships and everything else back up to the levels of the mid-2000s,” he says.
"Both Dean and I are keen golfers, and the sport is flying right now in terms of participation growth, kicked along by the likes of Adam Scott winning the US Masters."
Merrell concedes the golf business is challenging.
“But we see a bit of a void in the region,” he says. “There is nothing there of that standard and of the standard it was designed to be. From our point of view there is a good opportunity for golf business there.”
Good Times Pub Group has entered into a management agreement with the golf club and plans to spend the next few months making improvements to the course and its facilities.
Merrell says redevelopment plans are also being considered for next year.
The Ipswich Golf Club comprises a championship 18-hole golf course, a clubhouse with pro shop, bar, bistro, commercial kitchen, 58 poker machines, function room for 120, and change room with showers and lockers.
Morris says the club ownership will boost cross-promotions opportunities with his other businesses, including Sirromet Wines.
"Sirromet's red, white, and sparkling wines will be served in the bar and bistro, and at functions, so this is a win-win for us," he says.
Author: Nick Nichols