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The history of the Opotiki Golf Club inc.

The Opotiki Golf Club was founded in 1918 and laid out initially as a 9-hole course. Over the clubs first 50 years the framework for the current course was established through additional land purchase, new greens construction, extensive tree plantings, and erection of the Clubhouse building. Over the next 25-years major initiatives resulted in a water reticulation scheme for greens irrigation, clubhouse renovations, parking improvements through expansion and sealing, and purchase of significant machinery items (notably the clubs first greens mower in 1979!). General improvements to the course were on-going, and plantings on the banks of No. 6 and 14 were undertaken in the early 1980's. This period was also the time of the first re-modelling of the No.6 green - arguably (though vying perhaps with No.14) the clubs signature hole. Jubilee events celebrated the clubs first 50 and 75 years and the club’s history has been outlined in booklets provided for these two events. The club’s success to date has always relied on the generosity and hard work of individual members. Through the appointment of a succession of green keepers, and together with generous voluntary input by members, the club has endeavoured to maintain and present the course in the best possible was for the enjoyment of members and visitors.

World War II and the 1950’s

The onset of World War II caused a big drop in membership until only 10 financial members remained, supported by many ladies. Opening day 1942 drew just 16 people. Ladies and men played in a mixed draw on Sundays. Those few members during the war kept the club going and eventually paid off the major indebtedness of the club. At the expiry of the grazing lease the club itself decided to farm the land. Then President, Mr J. Gordon, managed the stock and to him as much as anybody should go the credit of placing the club on its sound financial footing.

The end of the war saw membership climbing again and more money became available for course improvements. For some years only 16 holes existed, and various course alterations were tired to overcome this. In 1951 part of the swamp area at the back of the course was brought into use and another new green, the present No.17 created. Difficulties were met and overcome by succeeding committees – drainage work and improvements to greens and fairways being affected by members themselves. Many farmer members played an active part giving time experience and machinery.

Trees were planted, natives, Pinus Insignias, gums and other species were tried with varying degrees of success. With the course improving rapidly it soon became apparent that the existing pavilion was too small and lacked the appearance and facilities for a live club. Mr Arthur Wylde, a member and local builder offered to build a 1920 sq. ft. clubhouse at cost and this was financed by voluntary interest free loans from members repayable from revenue from the sheep.

Disaster struck in late summer 1955 – facial eczema meant the entire flock of 280 sheep had to be sold to the works at a loss of about £700. Again, finance for replacements was forthcoming by way of interest free loans from members. For some years following this misfortune the emphasis shifted to consolidation. Six new greens were laid down, machinery purchased, and schemes devised to attract new members.

The 1960’s to 1990’s

In 1960 a Pro-Am Tournament was successfully staged with support from leading professional and amateur players. A year later four of New Zealand’s leading amateurs played two exhibition rounds on the course doing much to generate public interest and promote golf in the district. The 112 entries for the Labour Weekend tournament would make today’s Match committees green with envy!

During the 1960’s the Club investigated water reticulation on the course at an estimated cost of $3,300. By 1971 ten greens were able to be watered. In 1970 sheep were eventually taken from the course. Little did they know the tremendous part they had played in the Club’s history! Also, in 1970 various proposals were made for club house alterations and a plan was eventually endorsed to raise the clubhouse with a loan of $10,000. This was done in in November 1971 with a huge club effort of working bees as required. It was a far cry from the ground floor clubhouse where a folding door could isolate ladies and men’s lounges yet still provide ladies with access to the bar.

In 1972 improvements were made to the parking area and improvements to the course continued but lack of water pressure was causing problems with the watering system. In 1974 $17,000 was approved for a water scheme and complete reticulation of the course which was laid and working efficiently in 1975.

During this period it was taking greenkeepers two full days to cut the greens and so thoughts turned to more modern equipment and in 1979 a Jacobsen Greens Mower was purchased. Around this time the clubhouse was carpeted, and an ancillary bar licence granted. In 1978 the Ladies Club Captain became a member of the General Committee as of right.In 1982 a Jacobsen Verticut mower and electric gang mowers were purchased. During this year the condition of the course was reflected by the equalling of both course records; Kaye Johnson 69 and Sloan Morpeth 65.

Over the next few years club and course facilities continued to improve, the Hospital Hill boundary hedge was removed, the parking area was sealed, sponsored tee markers put in, trees were planted on the banks of Nos.6 and 14 and the No 6 green was remodelled. In 1986 using a $20,000 loan from the breweries the bar facilities were completely upgraded and tanks and a cooler system installed a new Jacobsen mower was purchased, security system installed, 2 poker machines purchased, and fairway marker trees planted. Membership remained constant around the 280-300 mark. . On the weekend of June 4-7, 1993 the Club celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a tournament and associated social functions, including a cabaret at the Pakowhai Hall. Earlier in Clubs 75th Jubilee year Alec McDonald, a local player set a new course lowest score with a 64.

The last 25 years: 1993 to 2018

Emphasis during the 1990’s was on consolidating the financial base of the Club, with bar takings, lotto grants, a ANZ loan and debentures from devoted members allowed renovations of the Clubhouse in 1997/98 to go ahead.  These included changing the roof line to incorporate the balcony into the main lounge area, and addition of a locker room on the North side.  These additions under the guidance of John Petersen.   The upgrade to the Clubhouse included new carpet and new furniture.  By 2000 the Clubhouse seating was 120, and community use grew. In 2005, the Bar and kitchen were renovated with a new refrigeration system and new appliances for the kitchen, supported by an Eastern Bay Energy Trust grant. In 2006 the greens were converted to a sand-based system.   This was a huge undertaking. The greens automated irrigation system was substantially upgraded in 2007/8 with a new Rainbird automated control system, new sprinkler heads, and a new distribution pump and water bore.

The year 2006 also saw the first of the Marae Golf challenges (known now as Pa Wars contested by local Whakatohea hapu marae teams) which has become an annual event. About this time the now well-known Waiotahi Contractors Hams Tournament became established and has continued to grow in popularity with a great prize table (nearly 200 competitors competed in 2017 for some 90 hams!).    national standardized handicapping was established, and the club purchased Autoscore, which was subsequently replaced in 2014 by Dot Golf.  This included upgrading automatic card readers, computers and the addition of a kiosk at which members could print their own cards and enter card scores.

From about 2005 onwards course equipment continued to be up-graded and new additions made.  These included a 6-year rotation plan for the greens mowers (Toro and Jacobsen triplex’s) , a John Deere wide area roughs mower (replaced in 2015 by a Trimax Snake), a sand spreader, spray equipment, and two larger powered tractors.   Improved greens renovation practises were put in place and a routine of regular verti- cutting and dusting is supported by annual and sometimes twice annual verti-draining and coring.  The Club has had a succession of paid or part-time green keepers but as of 2015 the contracted greens keeper role was dis-established and over the last 2-3 years the greens “group’ have all been volunteers.   

In 2015 a lift to the Clubhouse lounge floor was installed by the late Hekara Mato, with the assistance of Eastern Bay Energy Trust and Lions Foundation grants.   Old trees and Phoenix palms along the main and side road frontages were removed with the help of Waiotahi Contractors and Council support. That improved the course vista immensely, not to mention helping in maintenance.  As part of this work the No 3 men’s tee was remodelled.  From 2015-2018 many other tasks were accomplished as laid out in the Clubs 4-year plan leading up to 2018, the Clubs Centenary year; including much tree husbandry and removal, a new on-course toilet, new steps to No 14 green, a covered dry-sand storage facility for greens renovation, and general greens renovation improvements. Cyclone Cook in April of 2017 hit the course badly with many trees being blown over and others severely damaged. The up-side was that the tree renovation plan was greatly accelerated!  

On the playing front, the Club congratulated three players in 2016 for gaining Champion of Champions in the BoP regional Championships (Tyla Kingi senior Ladies, Micky Huriwaka senior Men’s, and Suzanne Nelson Bronze II Ladies champion).    For the first time in the Clubs history the Men’s senior team was elevated to Championship status for 2017 by winning the Regional Senior Division.     In 2016 Micky Huriwaka set a new course record score with a 63. Membership has held steady over the past 3 years and is currently around 150.