Royal Wellington golf course gets $7m facelift

12 December 2010 Respond to this article

Royal Wellington golf course gets $7m facelift 

A grand old dame of New Zealand golf is set for a serious makeover 

12th December 2010 

The venerable Royal Wellington Golf Club at Heretaunga in Upper Hutt is to undergo a $7 million facelift, with course designer Greg Turner and his partner Scott Macpherson entrusted to undertake the project.  

Club members officially gave the redevelopment the go ahead today and Turner, who plans being on site by the end of January, hopes a fully renovated 18-hole course will be in use within three years.  

It will be the most significant redesign project undertaken by the pair since they joined forces more than three years ago. Former touring pro Turner, who had 13 tournament wins before quitting the playing circuit in 2003, and Macpherson have to date made additions and modifications to Oreti Sands near Invercargill, developed Millbrook West near Queenstown and renovated Harewood in Christchurch, while another project still to be completed is the redevelopment of the Cromwell Golf Club in Central Otago.  

Turner describes the latest assignment - which will involve a fully renovated 18-hole course plus nine new, additional holes - as the most challenging of his design career, saying a light hand is needed to ensure Royal Wellington does not lose its special appeal in its parklands-style setting amidst long established trees and streams.  

"It would be a braver man than me who would go in and suggest changing that," Turner told NZPA.  

"An absolute strength of the property is the established nature of the flora. It's like playing golf in an arboretum really," said Turner, who has just completed a new project at Close House, near Newcastle, the first new course development in Britain in three years.  

"It is a special place and a special club. But I also think it is fair to say the golf (course) has been considered as adequate rather than exceptional so the opportunity to add exceptional golf into what is an exceptional golfing environment and a club with real history and standing makes this a challenge which is unlike most challenges when you build golf courses."  

Turner and his design team want to bring the venue's streams much more into play than they are at present, meaning a big shift in course strategy will be needed by members, who by 2013 will also be confronted by more challenging greens, bunkering and approaches.  

Established in 1895, Royal Wellington has been on its present sight since 1906, but hosted the last of its seven New Zealand Open championships 15 years ago.  

The pleasant layout nestled beside the Hutt River, stretches just 6450m off the championship tees and has since been overtaken by the advances made in club and ball technology.  

"It has not been decided where the final tee positions will be but I'd imagine it will be longer although not significantly longer," Royal Wellington general manager John Gilbert said.  

"It is extremely exciting," he said of a project which promises to bring the course into the modern era without detracting from its unique qualities. 

"The course needs to be modernised to be a little more challenging in some ways but we want to retain the charm of the course. We don't want to lose any of that," Gilbert said.  

Turner promises limited disruptions to Royal Wellington's members while the remedial work is being carried out.  

"Existing courses are a little trickier than new projects because of the need to keep golf open. One of the strengths of the plan we have come up with for the club is that at no stage during the process will they be playing on a golf course which is any worse than the one they are playing on today," Turner said.  

"Front of mind is making sure we have 18 really good holes open so the club can maintain its current workings throughout the project."  

MARTIN DAVIDSON - NZPA