Ermington Putt Putt course lost

Kim Whybro manager of the Ermington Putt-Putt centre, opened in 1969. Photography Brendan Esposito.

Kim Whybro manager of the Ermington Putt-Putt centre, opened in 1969. Photography Brendan Esposito.

Three generations of families have played upon its greens, millions of golf balls have run underneath the giant rabbit, past the leopard and through the sherrif's office.

Since 1969, Putt Putt Ermington has remained unchanged – a vintage course that reflects an increasingly rare pastime: outdoor family fun. 

Last week, the land was sold by Parramatta Council for $130 million to Chinese developer Aqualand. The development will see 1000 apartments rise where the course sits.

In its 45-year history the course has played host to five wedding proposals and a world record. In 2012, Putt Putt superstar Allan Cox sunk 1516 holes-in-one in 24 hours to set the benchmark.

"A 102-year-old can play and a two-year-old can play, it's a game for everyone," manager Kim Whybro said.

Even the mayor who orchestrated the sale regrets its loss.

"My kids love it," Parramatta lord mayor John Chedid told Fairfax's 2UE radio. 

Ms Whybro, who has managed the course for 10 years, is devastated. She has been overwhelmed with the public outpouring of support.

"People want to be outside in the fresh air; those are public spaces in the community," she said.

"After 45 years, you would think there is a place for us."

Long-time customer Lesley Slender said: "It will be a very sad day for the community when bulldozers come through and destroy a local icon for entertainment."

And mother Kathy Maxwell said: "We don't have much of a backyard, so we rely on these wonderful places to get active outside. In an era of computer games and too much telly watching, it would be terrible for this magical place to be lost."

Occupational therapist and mental health worker Sam Beamish wrote a letter to the course thanking it for its service. 

"It fosters social skills, managing frustration, managing motor skills, co-ordination and most importantly, it's fun, a commodity too often found lacking in the lives of our patients," he wrote.

Cr Chedid said the sale of the 4.8 hectares of public land provides housing in a much needed location.

He emphasised that efforts were under way to find a new home for the mini-golf course.

But questions remain over what infrastructure will be provided by the council and the government to serve the population influx. 

Ryde's west ward councillor Jerome Laxale, whose council borders the putt-putt course, said Ryde Council was not consulted about the development. 

"I think it's a big loss," he said. "It's sad that once again such a big piece of public land is being sold to a developer."

Sharon Symons has lived in the area for 48 years, and each generation of her family has played the 1st to the 18th hole.  

"I don't see how the apartments are going to serve the community," she said.

The redevelopment by Parramatta Council coincides with the development of North Parramatta by the state government.  

The government aims to build 6000 new homes in North Parramatta. It is the latest announcement this year that has been made without a comprehensive metropolitan plan for Sydney's growing population.

Premier Mike Baird said the release of the plan was imminent.  

As Mrs Whybro discussed the sale of the course, the phone rang incessantly, and one of the callers was a grandmother. 

"I heard you're closing," the grandmother said. "Have I got time to bring down my two-year-old grandson to play the course I've always played?"

For those looking to sink a final few putts, the course should stay open for another year. 

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