I have just spent three weeks in New Zealand visiting family and friends. Despite the bit of rain we had it is summer in New Zealand so was a lot warmer than my home away from home, Iowa State in the USA. I spent most of my time in Auckland but did venture down to the Hawke’s Bay and then Wellington for a sports fest : )
I had such a great few days with Stevie and Rachel down in the Hawke’s Bay, it was nice to see that they’ve settled in well and are happy down there after making the move from Auckland in March 2014.
I arrived down there early Saturday morning and went straight to the amazing Hastings Golf Club – Bridge Pa. I think Stevie was trying to take advantage of my lack of sleep and sneak in an early victory! I played the golf course during the 2012 New Zealand stroke play championships and it has not changed since then. In my opinion, the fairways are arguably the best in the country – it was such a pleasure to be out there although I wish I got to hit off said fairways a bit more! I did get quite acquainted with the trees, however : 0 I shot a 73 which is 1 over par and lost on the last hole as Stevie managed to sink a 10 foot putt. It was a great start to my sporting weekend away.
The following morning was the Ping Pong Championship. Going into this event I knew I was the heavy underdog but even surprised the master himself when I tied it up at 1 set apiece. The experience of the man and recklessness of the youth ultimately combined for a 5-1 thrashing. Unfortunately we had only scheduled one game and so the point went to the old fart. I did manage to beat Stevie in the non-counting second game 5-2, much to his amazement. I guess David finally decided to show up. Steve 1 , Nick 0 (The golf match is the best out of 3).
During the day we headed out to the breathtaking Cape Kidnappers Golf Course . The course was literally unbelievable, the layout combined so beautifully with the natural vistas that we felt at peace with nature. It was a truly unforgettable experience that every golfer should try and experience at least once in their lives. We were extremely lucky with the weather – the rain had cleared and the wind had dropped. The Golf Professional at Cape Kidnappers said we got a one in a hundred day out there. I played some decent golf and managed to shoot 73 which is 2 over par. I played off the tips and edged the old fella 2 up. (The golf match was now tied at 1 each).
That afternoon we headed to the tennis courts in the hope of completing at least a set in between the showers – let me tell you I am glad we did! I have been playing quite a bit in Iowa and Stevie certainly noticed the improvements. I whipped him 6-1 in the first set just as the rain started to settle in. As Stevie said “I had no chance”. And just like that – Steve 1, Nick 1 with the golf match at one apiece.
Early Monday morning we drove down to Heretaunga in Wellington to have a game of golf at the Royal Wellington Golf Club with John Spraggs (New Zealand Golf selector and the Royal Wellington Golf Course Manager). The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is going to be held there in 2017 so I hope to be able to play the course a few times in the lead up to that event when I am back in New Zealand. I was very impressed with the layout and improvements – the course had undergone a major reconstruction in recent times and it was very impressive to see how it had turned out. I liked the course and feel like I could play well and contend there – personally I think the guys who handle the greens the best will be the ones in contention come Sunday afternoon of the Asia-Pacific Championships. The large undulations in the greens and run off areas will separate the strong from the weak. The natural beauty of the course with all the native bush and waterways will be the perfect showcase for NZ Golf. I played well off the back tee’s and posted a 75 which was 3 over par and demolished Stevie 4 up. It was awesome to finish off the sports fest with the overall victory! Steve 1, Nick 2 and the champion!
Thank you Rachel and Steve for an amazing few days and thanks to New Zealand Golf (Dean Murphy and Greg Thorpe) for helping out with the logistics. I’m heading back to Iowa to start our spring season, which I am really looking forward to. I have a lot of tournaments planned and am very excited about the year ahead.
Hastings Golf Club – Bridge Pa
Hastings Golf Club was founded in 1898, but did not move to its current home of Bridge Pa until 1912. Prior to that the club had several different homes, in Frimley, Mangateretere and Raureka.
The tree-lined golfing dream enjoyed by members and visitors today was achieved through many years of hard work and dedication from members and staff. It hasn’t always been an idyllic setting, however, and those who saw the course in its early days would scarcely beleive their eyes at its stunning transformation. Golfers back then endured many obstacles and conditions that today we would consider simply not workable. Sheep on the course, rodents, dry conditions and an absence of good topsoil. A ‘howling wilderness of sand and pumice’ was one famous description of Bridge Pa as it was.
The course was radically altered in 1970 to provide the two even nines that exist today. While the changes took some time to develop, by midway through the 1970’s the Hastings course was being hailed as something special. The Club has been the venue for every major national tournament. Unquestionably the greatest talent to emerge from the Club was Stuart Jones. Known as the ‘Emperor’, Stuart represented New Zealand from 1953 to 1975 and boasts one of the most stellar amateur golf careers in New Zealand history.
The Club was chosen to host the inaugural New Zealand Stroke Play Championships in 2012, which saw future women’s world number 1, Lydia Ko among the talented amateurs who teed it up over 72 holes.
Cape Kidnappers Golf Course
Designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, the Cape Kidnappers par 71 golf course measures 7,119 yards (6,510 metres) and challenges golfers of all skill levels. It was completed in 2004 and has been hailed as one of the great modern marvels in golf. In 2008 and 2009 Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs (sister course) hosted the Kiwi Challenge, our PGA Tour Challenge event featuring four of the top PGA Tour players under the age of 30. Hunter Mahan won the 2008 event beating Anthony Kim in a playoff. In 2009, Anthony Kim was victorious in a playoff over Sean O’Hair.
In the words of course designer Tom Doak…
‘Our goal in designing golf courses is to create interesting holes you wouldn’t find anywhere else. That wasn’t hard to do at Cape Kidnappers, because the site is not like anywhere else in golf. If it were any bigger or any more dramatic, it would probably be cordoned off as a national park. It’s an overwhelming experience to stand up on the cliffs, 140 metres above sea level, and look out across the waves far below in Hawke’s Bay.’
Royal Wellington Golf Club
The club was founded in 1895 on a site on the Miramar peninsular, the then Wellington Golf Club moved to Heretaunga over 100 years ago. Situated on a parkland site adjacent to the Hutt River, the club has hosted seven NZ Open Championships since 1912 and in 2004 became the first golf club in the country to receive Royal status.
A newly designed (2013), Turner MacPherson championship course in a stunning parkland setting, arguably one of the finest club courses and club house in New Zealand. The Heretaunga course is, arguably, New Zealand’s finest private members parkland course and certainly one of its most beautiful.
Sited on an ancient river bed it weaves its way over crumpled ground through cultivated parkland hosting thousands of mature native and exotic trees. Birdlife is abundant. Water in the form of several creeks and a large lake are all in play and present a true challenge for the adventurers and the unwary.
Undulating greens complexes provide further challenge. Heretaunga is a true test of golf and the most beautiful walk in the park.