New Zealand is a great golfing country

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south
Last month I had the enjoyment of visiting more than a dozen of New Zealand’s finest golf courses and some local favourites.
The visits were all in a working capacity for myself in some form or another. I was able to see how well our visitors are treated and also how they enjoy some of our finest golf courses.
I had the fortunate experience of working for a high-end cruise company and it’s group of international tourists, I had been busy in my role as the caddymaster for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open and had been away with my own group of golfers. It is amazing how local NZ golfers see the country and then to learn how visiting golfers see us and what they think of our famous and not so famous golf courses.
Personally, I believe Sir Julian Robertson has been the greatest thing to happen to the New Zealand golf industry in the last 20 years. Both Lydia Ko and Michael Campbell have been major forces but no one has made a greater impact than Sir Julian.
The vision and investment in Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers has really put us on the golf tourism map. Watching golfers look out from the 15th green at Cape Kidnappers for the first time, or seeing their awe as they tee off from the 8th at Kauri Cliffs, really is a memory for a lifetime. To me Kauri Cliffs is my favourite golf course to play of all time; it really is fun and challenging and always in superb condition.
As I watched the cruise ship group arrive at Cape Kidnappers, they were as excited as a 16-year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Actually I joke, as I think they were even more excited than that. The excitement before and after the golf was amazing; mind you it was a perfect day and they only really needed to be concerned about putting on enough sunscreen.
So here are my ramblings from the 30 days of last month:
• It can take less than 20 minutes for someone to spend nearly $5000 in the golf shop at Cape Kidnappers. They seemed pretty happy with their purchases though.
• Please, please make sure your course has updated its GPS mapping with all the providers. Standing at the 135 metre mark and being told you have 378 metres to the pin does not excite a visiting golfer. Clear signage is also important, so look at your golf course through visitors’ eyes and not your weekly members’ eyes.
·  I can tell you that some pennants play is extremely slow and I will not play on a golf course where they are playing on the same day ever again. Sorry, but being delayed an hour to tee off and then playing the front nine in nearly thee hours is no fun. A notice to all golf associations: Put players on the clock and penalise them for slow play. Nobody, and I mean nobody, enjoys playing golf like that; it ruins it for everyone else. My group of 12 golfers walked away from a particular golf course quite ticked-off as we all struggled to enjoy our golf after spending more than $1200 to play.
• The best greens in New Zealand are at Christchurch Golf Club. Fast and true with great rolling contours. Not like some of the new tricked-up designer ones. Also, if playing at Shirley, you have to check out the Sir Bob Charles Room. The room details his legendary career and reminds us how good he really was.
• Waipu Golf Club probably has the best clubhouse view in the country and the highest flagpole. You can see which way the wind is blowing from anywhere on the golf course.
• Windross Farms will pose an interesting challenge for the New Zealnd Women’s Open come this September. It is a lot of fun to play with some great risk-reward holes. You definitely need to play it more than once or twice to appreciate its nuances.
• Waitangi Golf Club has the friendliest locals, cheapest beer and the best $6 lunch of any golf club I have come across in quite a while. But, the blue cod sandwiches and camaraderie at Balclutha Golf Club are hard to beat.
• The Manawatu Golf Club showed nearly every provincial golf club how to host a major tournament. Hosting the New Zealand PGA Championship is a huge task but the club’s board of management, manager, club members and greens crew did an amazing job. It would be great to see other clubs like Manawatu step up and host this event in the future.

Sarah HeadComment