Category Archives: sports centres

Sharpie’s Golf House/Harmex Golf/Derelict – Sydney, NSW

I see you back there, Edwards & Co. Ltd. You’ll get your turn…

Yes, the kitschy neon sign is what Sharpie’s Golf House is best known for, but there’s a bit more to it than that. For starters, the sign has been gone for years, having been taken down by the City of Sydney in 2007 for ‘refurbishment’. How long does it take to replace a few tubes?

The origins of Sharpie’s Golf House lie in the shop next door. It’s currently the empty shell of the former Gold Sun Supermarket, but in 1918, when Russian immigrant Harry Landis bought it, it was the Railway Loan Office, named for its proximity to Central Station. Landis moved into the current Sharpie’s address in 1923, and proceeded to divide the pawn shop into two sections: musical instruments and sporting goods, with an emphasis on golf.

After the Second World War, the sporting side was renamed The Golf House, and in 1964 the animated neon sign featuring the world’s best golfer (he always gets a hole-in-one) was erected after six years of construction. Until its removal, it was Australia’s second oldest neon sign (Melbourne features the oldest. You gonna take that lying down, Sydney?). The music business moved to Park Street in 1977, and the Golf House became Sydney’s premier golf store. This prestige attracted pro golfer Lindsay Sharp, who bought the shop in 1985 and renamed it after himself, forcing a change to the neon sign. That’s why the red ‘Sharpie’s’ part looks so out of place.

Sharp himself sold the ever-declining business in 1999, and in 2004 it became Korean-owned Harmex Golf, which limped on for a few years before closing its doors for good in 2007. Looking around the area it’s not a surprise – what was once a thriving business zone has become a wasteland with a bad reputation, filled with backpacker hostels and husks of businesses long gone. I’m not complaining; it’s great for what I’m doing. But it’s a sad look for the city, especially so close to the train line. Besides, it’s not like there are any golf courses in the immediate vicinity, so it’s not hard to imagine the golfing community getting fed up with making the trek out here every time they wanted a decent 5-iron. At least they made for good weapons when they stepped back out into the street.

The building today is a mess. Sharpie’s has been dulled. It’s dirty, covered in posters and falling apart. Even by Elizabeth Street standards it’s an eyesore. The part I’m having a hard time getting over is the indoor driving range. It had an indoor driving range! For how long? How did it work? I’ve played those virtual golf simulators indoors before, but surely this was set up long before those were around. It’s not even that long a building, how did Sharpie have room to get his drive on?

Do all those hole-in-ones count if he’s been playing the 19th hole all these years? Image courtesy SMH, 25 Aug 2003

It’s alleged that the sign sits inside, heritage listed, waiting for a spit and polish that’ll likely never come. There have been a few proposals submitted to the Sydney City Council to demolish the current site and reincorporate the sign into whatever is built in its place, but all have been declined. It’s not like they’re going to build another Golf House, so why not just leave it in the past? Why not take the opportunity to breathe some life back into this part of town, and create tomorrow’s heritage listed signs? For all the talk of preservation, Sharpie was quick to flush a 20-year-old sign down the toilet to remake it in his image. It’ll likely go the way of the Regent Theatre on George Street, and we’ll be able to live in Sharpie Tower in 20 years time. There’s something to look forward to.

St. George Bowling & Recreational Club/Derelict – Bexley, NSW

Here we have the festering remains of the St. George Bowling Club. Like many of its members, the bowling club came into existence in 1900, when a meeting at the Rockdale Town Hall ended with a decision to form a bowling club. I wonder how many town hall meetings end like that these days? For that matter, I wonder how many town hall meetings actually start these days?

Feathers were ruffled in 1919 when the land the bowling club was built on was suddenly and urgently required by New South Wales Government Railways to enable quadruplication of the railway lines by that project’s estimated completion date of 2030. The club was moved, and seemed to land closer to the jack here on Harrow Road.

In an apparent passive-aggressive display of entrenchment, the little street beside the club is named Bowlers Avenue. Doesn’t it look silly today. Bowlers Avenue sounds more like a memorial garden in a cemetery.

While the building is a rare example of a Federation era bowling club, it’s also been abandoned for several years. Unfriendly signs threaten would-be bowlers to stay the hell out, and many of the building’s windows have been boarded up.

No one is picking up the sport of lawn bowls these days, and as the current superstars of the game fade away, there really is no need for these clubs. This one didn’t even have a TAB. And after all, it’s not like this is an isolated incident. Unless there’s some big recruitment drive for new members sometime soon, the game will end up with most of its players on that big Bowlers Ave in the sky.

TAB/Nothing – Homebush, NSW

Oh no! The Homebush TAB…it’s closed! It’s moved! However will I get my bet on now? I-eh?

The TAB moved next door. To the Horse & Jockey Hotel. Which probably already had a TAB. The part I like is how specific the sign in the TAB is about exactly when it will close, but the part I don’t like is how there are people out there to whom that would have mattered dearly.

Hurstville United Sports Club/nothing – Hurstville, NSW

On the outside, it looks like an ordinary 80s-style sports club. The door is perfectly positioned in front of a busy main road for when drunks stumble out at the end of a night, clueless as to where they are or how much cars hurt.

Unfortunately for fans of empty buildings, the outside is as close a look as we’re gonna get. The Hurstville United Sports Club has moved, leaving the shell of its former home behind as it establishes a new pokie storage room at South Hurstville under the shorter, trendier and more abstract name ‘Club Hurstville Sports’. One can only imagine the third iteration will be titled ‘Hurstclub Sportsville’.

The most notable feature of this old building is the addition of what appears to be the world’s biggest wasp nest in this window. Or second biggest, in case the wasps moved to South Hurstville too.

Odeon Theatre/Pacific Gym/Lifestyle Fitness Australia – Carlton, NSW

Doing its best to hide its 70s facade behind 21st century bleating that ‘it’s all about YOU’ is Carlton’s Lifestyle Fitness Centre. Sometime around the turn of the last decade, public consciousness as a whole decided that going to a ‘gym’ was suddenly either retro or gay, but attending a ‘lifestyle fitness centre’ was the new yoga.

The Pacific Gym (formerly the Odeon and later, DeLuxe, Theatre from 1925-1964), not wanting to be branded retro or gay, caved to the peer pressure and started catering to lunch-break athletes and muscle-monkeys from all over the St. George district. That said, I could be completely wrong, and they just have that Pacific Gym roof mural on a standard escape-proof gym membership plan.

UPDATE: The Pacific through the ages. Here it is in 1939…

Carlton Odeon, 1939. Image courtesy Barry Sharp/Ken Taylor.

Carlton Theatre, 1939. Image courtesy Barry Sharp/Ken Taylor.

1959…

Carlton Odeon, 1959. Image courtesy Barry Sharp/Ken Taylor.

Carlton Odeon, 1959. Image courtesy Barry Sharp/Ken Taylor.

…and finally, 1970.

Pacific Photo Lab, 1970. Image courtesy Kogarah Library.

That colour’s jolting all of a sudden, isn’t it? Pacific Photo Lab, 1970. Image courtesy Kogarah Library.

Really makes you realise just how ugly that gym is.