Kingston Heath Golf Club denies discrimination

26 March 2010 Respond to this article

Kingston Heath Golf Club denies discrimination 

The prestigious Melbourne golf club has denied accusations of anti-Semitism after a Jewish golfer’s application was turned down.

26 March 2010

By Naomi Levin The Australian Jewish News

Kingston Heath Golf Club has strongly denied allegations of discrimination.

Kingston Heath Golf Club, the course where Tiger Woods won the 2009 Australian Open, said rumours it recently rejected membership based on the applicants’ faith were unfounded.

Gregg Chapple, Kingston Heath’s general manager said the Jewish golfer in question – a man known to be a champion golfer – was turned down because his application did not have enough referees. He had two but the membership committee expects up to five – it was, in Chapple’s words, “thin on the ground”. 

The membership proposer took a message from the committee that if the applicant wanted more referees he was invited to play golf the following week with club members. The committee also recommended he get referees from Metropolitan Golf Club, where he is already a member. 

Chapple said the applicant then raised the matter of his faith, which the proposer denied had come into the committee’s calculations. 

The general manager called it a “quantum leap” for anyone to assume the applicant was knocked back because of his faith. 

“Application forms do not have anywhere a question that contains their faith.” 

The applicant was also invited to speak with Steve Zamel, a Jewish Kingston Heath member, and also a committee member with the Maccabi Golf Club. 

“The proposer is miffed that the interpretation was anything other than that [the referee issue] … He was shocked when he raised it,” Chapple said. 

While he could not list the club’s Jewish members, the general manager said Kingston Heath’s president knows of Jewish club members and “we have a Smorgon on the waiting list and a Smorgon who has applied for membership”. 

It is not the first time one of Victoria’s famous “sand belt” golf clubs has been accused of anti-Semitism. 

Speaking to radio station 3AW this week, former Victorian Liberal politician and Melbourne Football Club champion Brian Dixon said he too knew of a Jewish applicant who was knocked back from the club. He said that rejection led him to cancel his own membership. 

Chapple said the scenario Dixon was referring to happened three decades ago and club members had informed him the application was problematic for other reasons.

However, the general manager admitted the club does not appear particularly multicultural. 

“If you walk in here, it looks pretty white, Anglo-Saxon,” he said. 

He blamed this on the nature of the 100-year-old club, which is slow to reflect the changing make up of Australian society. 

“It’ll take time, but this place, in another 100 years, will be completely different,” he said. “These clubs take a bit longer to catch up.”