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Brookline town meeting members soundly reject proposal to expand access to public golf course

The proposal to expand public access to the 120-acre parcel of Brookline Golf Course was rejected Wednesday by town voters.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Town Meeting voters in Brookline on Wednesday showed little interest in changing plans for the town’s public golf course, rejecting a proposal to expand public access to the 120-acre parcel.

The warrant article would have broadened a master plan for the 18-hole Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course to “consider what environmentally responsible uses are feasible within the 120 acres,” including “at least one option with a 9-hole golf course.”

After more than an hour of discussion split between supporters and opponents, the article was rejected 147-85, with 14 abstentions.

Supporters argued that the course contributes to pollution and should be available to the wider community, beyond those who play the game. Opponents said the course — better known as Putterham Meadows or the Brookline Golf Course — is popular and should be protected for future residents and players.

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“There’s a demand among Brookline residents for an 18-hole course, just as there is demand for hockey ice and soccer fields, even though these activities attract only a minority of the residents, but that’s true of all our town-supported activities, including skating [and] swimming,” Michael Sandman, a member of the Brookline select board, said at the meeting, which was broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live.

Reducing the course to nine holes could cost the town financially, he said.

“The course is self-supporting, including funding for its capital needs,” Sandman said. “Not many golf courses turn a profit, and a nine-hole course is likely to attract fewer golfers and therefore it may need financial support from the town’s operating budget, a prospect that should send shivers down spines.”

Between 32,000 and 35,000 rounds of golf are played at the course each year, according to town officials. About 2,500 of those rounds are played by Brookline residents, Sandman said.

The course is now open to non-golfers for passive recreation on Monday mornings until noon.

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Wendy Friedman, who supported the warrant measure, said the course is simply too large to support a single activity.

“This land is 22 percent of our open space,” she said. “This is not Dane Park, this is not Summit Hill. This space is enormous and it’s unique.”

Supporters also said the course, and the way it’s maintained, have negative environmental effects, such as the degradation of natural peat on the course.

“The peat bog, which doesn’t enjoy drinking pesticide-filled runoff, is running out of peat and will soon just be a regular bog,” said Town Meeting member Eric Hyett. “It’s the most productive Brookline resident of all, doing more to cool the climate than all of us Town Meeting members combined.”

But those arguments didn’t change enough minds.

“The petitioners say they want to open up around 60 acres or so for more of the community, [but] by doing that, they will close the space to thousands of golfers,” said Town Meeting member Bob Weintraub.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.