NEW Zealand golfers are lapping up multi-course tournament challenges at a time when clubs are struggling to increase membership numbers.
Our beloved game of golf is very much alive, despite media commentary and other challenges to the contrary. Different models of membership are being introduced throughout the country and there is more promotion of the many variants of the game, including long drive, speed golf, nine-hole national tournaments and mini golf.
Support for long-standing multi-course tournaments, along with recently introduced multi-events, indicates that ‘traditional’ 18-hole members still want to compete and travel.
Players are competitive and loyal to such programs if there is an attractive balance of courses, prizes and social occasions. Such events draw a large following of Australian players as well as participants from the Pacific – New Caledonia, Tahiti, Fiji – and beyond.
The reasons for this are varied. At the top of the list appears to be the chance to play several courses at below-normal green fees, the feeling of camaraderie among players from across the country and the Pacific, and the opportunity to enjoy social occasions.
One of the oldest multi-course tournaments, known as the Eve’s Course Classic, is now in its 22nd year. Five courses in the Bay of Plenty region regularly attract 400-plus golfers from the Pacific region, and 10 countries were represented at this year’s tournament.
PaR nz Golfing Holidays last year introduced a four-course tournament, the Hawkes Bay 4-Course Golf & Wine Classic, which attracted 100-plus entries within weeks of registration opening. A large contingent from Australia entered, and more Australians have booked ahead for this year’s event.
One of the tournament’s drawcards is its strong social aspect, supported by daily functions for players and partners. Trinity Hill Winery takes a lead sponsorship role, and participants enjoy a selection of top-quality food and wines from the area throughout the tournament week.
New Zealand’s golf mecca, Queenstown, has four multi-type tournaments: Millbrook Masters, Queenstown 4BBB Championship, Central Otago Classic and the Southern Gem. Their course and social offerings differ, with the most elaborate being the Millbrook Masters, now in its 15th year. In addition to golf at both Jack’s Point and Millbrook, this tournament combines luxury accommodation and wine-and-food functions to celebrate all that Central Otago offers. The Millbrook component includes a combination of the 27 holes on offer along with daily tee changes.
There are popular multi-course tournaments at Nelson and the South Island’s West Coast region, and the inaugural Bay of Islands 4-Course Golf Classic will be held from May 28 to June 1, 2018.
The new Far North tournament, which will include play on the five-star, marquee New Zealand course Kauri Cliffs, is backed by the Bay of Islands Marketing Group and managed by PaR nz Golfing Holidays. The inclusion of a course of Kauri Cliffs’ standing will set this tournament apart from other multi-course events. Since opening in 2000, Kauri Cliffs has won numerous awards for its golf course, lodge and spa. The course is currently ranked fifth by top100golfcourses.com and 49th in the most recent ranking of The World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses by Golf Digest. It is described as the late David Harman’s “most impressive” work.
Renowned course architect Rees Jones recently completed minor modifications to the Harman design, including changing the par-3 fifth from its original upward layout to now play as a drop-down hole, adding tees on the second and ninth holes, and renovating a bunker on the fourth.
The 2018 Bay of Islands tournament will also include the scenic Waitangi Golf Course, a recognised national championship layout situated within the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Players can enjoy 180-degree views of the Bay of Islands from many of the back nine holes, including the stunning signature 11th. Australian Society of Golf Course Architects’ first female member Kristine Kerr redesigned the 11th hole for its re-opening in 2011. Today, it’s regarded as one of the most challenging, and scenic, par-5s in New Zealand.
The Bay of Islands Golf Club, Kerikeri will be a host club in the 2018 line-up of courses for the inaugural multi-course event. The club strategically changed its name from Kerikeri Golf Club to attract more Kiwi and international visitors to its pretty inland setting and is set to host the 2018 New Zealand Women’s Seniors.
The Bay of Islands is benefiting from high-profile promotion of late, with a recent inclusion on the Holden Golf Show and Air New Zealand using the region as a backdrop for its current safety video on all domestic and international flights.
If the success of the other long-standing multi-course tournaments is anything to go by, the Bay of Islands 4-Course Classic with the inclusion of Kauri Cliffs is set to become a regular must-play on the South Pacific amateur calendar.
– Denise Langdon is the director of PaR nz Golfing Holidays, based in Auckland.