Parkins Bay - a new course for Wanaka


Don’t forget Wanaka! A new golf course - Parkins Bay

By Denise Langdon, PaR nz Golfing Holidays

Much public and media attention is focused on New Zealand tourism hotspot Queenstown, but neighbouring Wanaka and the wider Otago region are also humming. Wanaka MP Jacqui Dean recently commented on how increased visitor numbers were boosting business development and economic growth. Wanaka Golf Club is doing its bit for the region’s prosperity, committing to hosting the 2017 New Zealand Mixed Foursomes.  

The club hosted the national golf tournament earlier this year, and in 2015. The dates for 2017 are set for October 21-22 with on-line entry forms available in the New Year. The event’s revised programme includes happy hours, breakfast and lunch, and a prize-giving ceremony. 

It is also worth keeping a watchful eye on the development of another Wanaka golf course known as Parkins Bay. It is the dream of Bob and Pam McRae, who own Glendhu Station on the south-western shores of Lake Wanaka, to have a world-renowned golf resort sympathetic to its awe-inspiring lake and mountain surrounds. 

The McRaes live and work on their high-country sheep station, along with their son John, the third generation to do so.   John Darby of Darby Partners has made the families plan to secure a business venture that addresses farm succession possible.  The course and entire project enables the generation of an ongoing income for their three children and the generations to follow.   It also restricts large-scale housing developments on the lakefront, they so cherish. 

Both passionate golfers, Bob and Pam asked golfing great Sir Bob Charles to look over the land in 2005, seeking his opinion on its potential as a golf course. After further research, the family formed a partnership with John Darby, who designed Queenstown’s Jacks Point and The Hills. 

Avid supporters of the Wanaka Golf Course, Bob and Pam McRae competed in both the 2015 and 2016 New Zealand Mixed Foursomes, as a pair. The McRae whanau, or extended family, also have a long association with the sport. 

Bob’s brother Jim married a local, Liz Purvis, whose mother Molly was an outstanding golfer in her day. Liz has recorded more than 130 representative outings for Otago, 100 at the elite interprovincial level. Pam’s grandfather, John Lethbridge, was made a life member in recognition for his services to the Wanaka Club. 

Their connections with the land run deep. Bob’s parents were pastoral farmers in Canterbury, and Pam’s Lethbridge family farmed in the Cardrona Valley and Tarras. In working the land, the McRaes have hosted many home stays and weddings on their stunning piece of the waterfront.  

Now at the end of 2016, the course is still waiting to be completed, well, started actually.  Final resource consent was made public in August 2012, and since then land has been cleared and lines and fairways plotted ahead of scheduled construction work set for 2017, but not much more at the time of writing. 

Local newspapers have reported on the delays, with no less than 86 articles published over the past 11 years. Resource consent processes and opposition to the development have hindered progress, but the McRaes have not lost heart.   

The development partnerships and land ownership have changed since the initial agreement in 2005. John Darby, of Darby Partners, who was involved in the recently opened the Tara Iti golf course north of Auckland, now own’s the main area of land that will be the golf course.  The McRaes have retained the lakefront land designated for the clubhouse and main reception area, luxury lodge and lake jetty. 

I have had the pleasure of a tour of the site, and the land and views are outstanding. When Parkins Bay opens for business it will complement the world-renowned Queenstown courses of Millbrook, The Hills and Jack’s Point, and will be a major boost to the Wanaka economy. 

The hint is in the figures Wanaka MP Jacqui Dean highlighted recently, when she said: “Statistics NZ’s Commercial Accommodation Monitor tells us there were a record 794,840 bed nights in Wanaka in the year ending July, 13.7 per cent up on 2015, but Lake Wanaka Tourism’s James Helmore tells me that Spark's new cell phone data-tracking venture, Qrious, suggests at least 1.2 million visitors have come into the area.” 

Don’t forget Wanaka, I say. The town already has a great members’ course and I predict that when Parkins Bay opens, the golfing dynamics of the Otago region will change for the better – with Wanaka firmly on visiting golfers’ minds. Watch this space.