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The fascinating history of the Australian Jewish Golf clubs, the Monash in Sydney and Cranbourne in Melbourne

Source: Monash Golf Club Sydney

The fascinating history of the Australian Jewish Golf clubs, the Monash in Sydney and Cranbourne in Melbourne...With Shane Desiatnik, senior journalist at the AJN...Both clubs were founded by Jewish golfers who’s been refused entry to other Golf clubs...The Jewish communities in both cities decided to build new golf courses where there would be no discrimination based on colour, creed, race, or religion.

The Monash Sydney golf club, founded in 1931 by Jewish golfers who'd been refused entry to other clubs

Monash Country Club traces its roots back to 1931. Named after Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, one of Australia’s greatest soldiers, and started as a Jewish Social Golf Club under the Presidency of Doctor, and later Brigadier J Steigrad, and with Barry Chirlian as Captain, the members played their events on a number of different golf courses.

In the first year the club played at St Andrews, now known as Ashlar at Blacktown.  In the next five years, it moved to the old Bonnie Doon course, now Kogarah, Moore Park, Eastlakes and New Brighton. A big year for the club was 1938 when the course at St Michael’s was opened and Monash was offered not only a block time every Sunday morning, but also a clubhouse. 
At St Michael’s, the Monash club went from strength to strength.  The membership rose to 120, the club seemed set for many years of prosperity until the Second World War.   The Army stepped in and took over St Michael’s golf course, and because so many of the Monash members were enlisting in the forces it was decided to close down for the duration.
After cessation of hostilities many of the Monash golfers decided they would like to join golf clubs in Sydney and, to their dismay, found that they were denied entry solely on the grounds that they were Jewish.  A meeting was called to discuss a remedy to this problem, and it was decided to build a new golf course where there would be no discrimination on the basis of colour, creed, race or religion.
A company called Monash Holding Limited was formed to find, and buy, a property on which a championship golf course could be built.  The money for this venture was raised from the Jewish community of Sydney by the issue of shares in Monash Holdings Limited.  Many applicants for shares never thought of this as an investment and most were not golfers. But they saw it as a way to overcome discrimination against Jews or other minorities.

Such a property was finally found and purchased at Narrabeen Heights, above Elanora Country Club.  The construction of the course took place between 1948 and 1952.  The first nine holes were opened in 1950.A separate Golf Club was formed named the Monash Country Club and a long-term lease drawn between the landowner, Monash Holdings Limited and Monash Country Club.  The terms of this lease, which has been extended from time to time, set out the basis for the structure and formalized the relationship that our founding fathers saw for the future of the Monash Golf Club.  During the terms of the lease the rental for the property was to be a peppercorn rental, sufficient only to cover the administration costs of Monash Holdings Limited.  The “quid pro quo” for this low rental was that the members of the General Committee should always contain a majority of Monash Holdings members, elected from the membership by ballot in the normal way.  This was designed to ensure that golf will be played on this land for the duration of the lease and, that the qualification for members shall never be based on race, creed, colour or religion, but solely on an individuals self worth, character and good standing.

Melbourne Cranbourne Golf Club was formed in 1951, following discriminatory practices against minority groups by a significant number of Victorian Golf Clubs. The prime mover in the formation of the Country Club was Sydney Kaufman, who called a meeting of his Jewish friends on June 14, 1951. Some 20 people attended. A provisional committee with Syd Kaufman as President, Harold Lasky as Vice-President and David Morley as Treasurer was elected and the search for suitable land to construct a golf course commenced. Because of the rapid expansion of housing estates in the Dandenong area, the search was concentrated in the Cranbourne district. Assisted by Sam Berriman, Curator of Huntingdale Golf Club and a noted golf course architect, the present site was chosen and purchased as suitable for a championship golf course. The course took over two years to construct and was officially opened by Syd Kaufman on April 9, 1954.

Sam Berriman’s lay-out measured 6,304 metres and provided for 87 bunkers. The course was not completed precisely to Berriman’s design and at the commencement of play measured 6,330 metres with 71 bunkers constructed. Cranbourne Golf Club was formed on May 4, 1953 and assumed responsibility for maintenance and the completion of construction. The first elected executive was Syd Kaufman – President, Harold Lasky – Vice-President, Harry Cohen – Captain, David Morley – Treasurer and Barnet Cohen – Secretary. Gordon Black was curator for more than 20 years. Under his supervision thousands of trees were planted, to change the face of what previously was barren market garden land. These trees now provide outstanding character, as well as both golfing difficulty and enjoyment.

Through the 80’s, 90’s, and over the past decade, the Club has established a Championship Golf Course that has hosted lucrative Pro-Am events, as well successive Victorian Open’s in 2000 and 2001. The Club has often been described as a “Hidden Jewel”. Through maintaining a financially sound Club, and adopting best practice in turf maintenance, the Club now sits proudly amongst Melbourne’s Premier golfing facilities.

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