The PaR nz Team checks out the new Wainui Golf Course
Peninsula Golf Club opens Wainui course
By Denise Langdon, PaR nz Golfing Holidays
After what seems an extraordinary interval – more than seven years in fact – the Peninsula Golf Club in northern Auckland has a new home, a new name and plenty of new on-course challenges for players.
The 60-year-old club, now known as the Wainui Golf Club, opened for members-only play in early August and is scheduled for general green fee play from October this year.
The club’s relocation from suburban Red Beach-Orewa to a rural setting 30 minutes’ north of Auckland CBD along the Northern Motorway can be viewed as a natural consequence of the city’s rapid population growth and demand for new housing. Though potentially very lucrative for the golf club, the transition process has not been painless.
Peninsula Land Development Limited (PLDL), about eight years ago, offered to ‘swap’ the Peninsula Golf Club’s existing site, clubhouse and course for a new course that would be developed as a world-class golfing facility. It proposed a new clubhouse, driving range, 18-hole and nine-hole courses, and pro-shop facilities on the new, 81-hectare site. The understanding was that the project would take about four years to complete.
The club’s membership voted on the offer in 2009 at a special annual general meeting, and 83 per cent said ‘yes’. This opened the way for PLDL to develop the club’s original site to accommodate 600 new houses. With today’s average house price in greater Auckland about $1 million, that roughly equates to $600 million of potential sales. The new Wainui course and clubhouse cost an estimated $62 million.
The golf club would have new facilities and a new course with cash considerations to boot. A publicized $12 million was destined to make the club cash-rich after the exercise. The only hitch being that various resource consents and other planning constraints took years longer than anticipated to be worked through and the move was finalized almost eight years after the idea was first mooted.
In the meantime, members had to muddle through much uncertainty, playing on a reduced nine-hole track for several months, and holding discussions about possible new membership fees. There was also heightened media coverage and much local resentment, submissions and public protests against the club’s 44 hectares of green space being turned into a residential development. Staff members were asked to re-apply for positions, and a new name was adopted, despite some opposition to losing the Peninsula identity.
The wait was worth it. Course designer Grant Puddicombe and his team at Puddicombe Golf have come up with a design masterpiece that fits in well with the rolling hills of Wainui. The golf course design and construction company has worked on New Zealand’s Remuera, Lakes Resort, Russley, Terrace Downs, and North Shore Golf clubs and is also known for its international projects. Spring Hill Country Club in Oregon and the President Country Club in Gunma, Japan, are examples.
What struck me most on my recent visit to the new Wainui course were the tight lies off many tees often coupled with tight approaches to well-guarded greens. To top it off, many holes feature tricky doglegs, so accuracy is the key to negotiating this course well.
The adjoining nine-hole ‘genuine’ par-3 course due to be opened will give golfers the chance to fine-tune their skills before taking on the new challenge of Wainui. Though many members are electing to walk the lengthy 6500 metre course, (and that’s just the hole lengths) it’s not easy. Cart play is a must for many.
Bunkering is not extreme but water hazards do come into play. True to its Maori name, Wainui has plenty of water features, including a lake, which has to be negotiated on the eighth, ninth and 18th holes and which provides run-off to streams encountered throughout the course.
The tee markers and course names add interest and variety. Rather than typical gender-specific blue, white, red and yellow course names and tee markings for men and women, Wainui describes the tees and course by length and invites players to choose their own. For instance, the 45 tee and course denotes a course of approximately 4500 metres, the 55 indicates 5500 metres, and so on.
The new set-up is impressive from the moment you arrive at the course entrance, which is only five minutes off the motorway. Visitors pass through a stunning reception area through to the main club area, which is the top floor of the new clubhouse by Grant Harris, of Harris Butt Architecture. The firm’s portfolio of award-winning work includes sports stadiums, commercial offices, the Waitangi Museum and Education Centre, and the distinctive Knoll Ridge Café at Whakapapa Ski Field, Mt Ruapehu.
You straight away feel connected to the first tee and are provided with a commanding view of your golf challenge. An entrance via the lower level, which includes the pro shop, also gives you an expansive view of the course.
There are multiple function areas, which can be divided or expanded for differing room sizes and activities. The mono-pitched roof slopes towards the south to maximise direct sunlight into the building from the north, while large overhangs are designed for shade in summer. The new Wainui Golf Club is certainly worth a look, and you’re sure to find a relaxing place to unwind for that all important 19th-hole drink after play.