The Auckland Golf Club was founded in February 1894 at the Northern Club. Businessmen, bankers and insurance brokers were among the eighteen founding members who signed a “List of Members” that day.
The first course was at Greenlane opposite the Ellerslie Racecourse on leased land which was conveniently close to the railway line. A course was laid out and a clubhouse built between the station and the 10th hole. As was the custom at the time, holes had names, not numbers: Forest, Gap Bull’s Run and Long Wall. In 1899 the Captain of the Royal Sydney Golf Club declared that the Greenlane course was the best in the Colony. The winner of the first Club Championship was Charles Gillies himself.
It was deemed wise to purchase the land to secure tenure, so funds were raised and portions of the area purchased. However, when it became known that Auckland Electric Tramway Co. intended to run a track through the course, the land was sold. It was a profitable transaction for the Auckland Golf Club but, of course, a new home had to be found.
John Logan Campbell, Auckland Golf Club President in 1901, had bequeathed his One Tree Hill estate to the people of Auckland twenty years earlier and the Club was able to lease a portion of this domain for its new home. The “father of Auckland” John Logan Campbell himself inaugurated the course with the first shot and an exhibition foursome, headed by Charles Gillies, celebrated the opening on 28 September 1901. The course, laid out for 18 holes, is described as “spectacular” making use of natural features such as the amphitheatre. It was officially recognised as one of the country’s five championship venues in 1904, the others being Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Napier. A clubhouse designed by well known architect, Charles Arnold, was built on land bought on the side of One Tree Hill and four bedrooms for country members were included in the design.
However, a golf course on a public domain was always going to present problems. Members complained that the public got in the way, sometimes deliberately, and that small boys hid behind bushes and stole balls for later resale. Furthermore, the Cornwall Park Trustees and the One Tree Hill Domain Board made it clear that the arrangement was purely temporary.
As early as 1903, thoughts had turned to seeking a permanent home for the Club. Several sites were investigated. Some were unsuitable for being considered too distant, while others were too wet. In 1907 W. Colbeck suggested the purchase of 144 acres at Otahuhu. After a visit of nearly forty members the decision was made to purchase the land. The land had been part of a large tract of land purchased from Maori in 1844 by Rev. William Fairburn of the Church Missionary Society. The land, which the Club now owns, was occupied by the Fairburn family until the 1890s when it was bought by George Thomson. The Thomson family had named the farm Middlemore, the name of the Club retained when the property was bought in 1909.
When the Club moved from One Tree Hill in 1909 the gently north sloping ground was in contrast to the steep sides of Maungakiekie. Natural features – gullies and creeks and the Tamaki Stream presented problems and obstacles for the course design as it became quite soggy in winter. The farm had gorse hedges and absolutely no trees and was also quiet exposed to winds.
It fell to the Club Professional, Fred Hood, to plan the new course. Sheep were brought in to keep the grass down and the ground staff created a 9 hole course in time for the opening on 2 April 1910. Another 9 holes were planned for the opening of the summer playing season.
In 1911 the Australian professional D.G. Souter was invited to advise on bunkering the course. The result was that the Hood design with Souter bunkering was adopted. Construction of raised tees was undertaken and green and fairway improvements were made. The extensive drainage work did little to assist in making the course playable all year especially in the area of the present 5th, 6th and 7th. However by 1913 the whole course was open.
The first nine generally followed the present pattern with areas of rushes at 1st, 2nd, 4th and 9th. The gully fronting the 5th was rough and tidal which made it a severe test. The second nine was quite different from today’s course over an unkempt stream and a one-shot 16th where King’s College swimming pool now stands.
C.H. Redhead, a professional golf course architect with considerable experience of course design in England, was called up on 1924 to redesign the course. Redhead’s design incorporated bunkers with vertical banks that required more skill.
Major alterations were undertaken in the 1970’s. Peter Thomson, partner in Thomson Wolveridge & Associates, became course architect in 1975. His proposed alterations were intended to tighten up the course for the professional player, while having little effect on the average golfer. new bunkers were built on the 2nd and 3rd which encouraged greater accuracy with the longer drive.
In 1984 Michael Wolveridge suggested improvements that would provide “good golf for all”. His first suggestion added three sighting mounds to the featureless 6th fairway making the hole more difficult and elevating it to become the ninth stroke hole on the handicap card.
In 1989 Peter Thomson, a world recognised course architect, proposed more radical alterations for the 17th – but this proposal was not taken up. However, his revised scheme modelled on the famous 17th Road Hole on the St Andrews Scotland old course, was welcomed as it was found to be more testing and exciting. Thomson was proud of the controversy his plan engendered and boasted that there was nothing to match it in Australia or New Zealand.
Peter Thomson came back in 2002 to reform a number of fairway bunkers which had lost character and prepare the course for the 2003 New Zealand Open. For this event he had a brook built at the 4th. He was passionate that the course maintains its position as one of the best test’s of golf in Australasia. In 2005 Peter Thomson was made Honorary member of the Club.
Scenery and Plantation
The open farmland at Middlemore required immediate beautification and in 1910 the Scenery and Plantation Committee was appointed. Its first task was the planting of trees along the drive and the improvement of the Clubhouse grounds. However, it wasn’t until 1930 that an intensive tree planting campaign was initiated. Several thousand pine, redwood, native and deciduous specimens were planted throughout the course.
After a decade of growth it was found that the pine trees were causing shadow and dampness on the greens. As a result a campaign to thin the trees was undertaken in 1942 and the sale of timber proved a welcome addition to Club funds. The pines were replaced by other species and in 1947 along, 450 trees and shrubs were planted along the 18th boundary.
To celebrate the golden jubilee in 1944 the Club President, H.P. Richmond, suggested planting native trees. This was also to be a memorial to members who had lost their lives in the war. After much discussion, a line of trees was planted along the south border of the entrance road with each tree bearing a plaque to commemorate a member killed in action.
In 1950, Charles Nathan, descendant of a founding member, Lawrence Nathan, presented the Club with a bridge across the Tamaki inlet at the 7th hole.
By the late 1990’s most of the original pine trees and many of the eucalyptus trees had reached maturity and were becoming dangerous.
A comprehensive report on plantings was commissioned from Boffa Miskell Limited. The company prepared a plan for removal and renewal of trees that would advise and direct tree maintenance well in to the future. Members and the Cornwall Park Trust Board donated new trees.
Auckland Ladies Golf Club
Ladies had been eager to take up this new sport when the Auckland Golf Club was established in 1894. However, it wasn’t until June 1896 that moves were made to establish a ladies golf club in Auckland.
Many of the ladies at the foundation meeting were related to the members of the AGC. Mrs E. Gillies, Miss Gillies, Miss Colbeck and Mrs L. Bloomfield. At the opening on 8 July 1896 it was decided that women could join as casual members and the rules were to be the same as the men’s – Royal and Ancient often referred to as the R & A.
Initial attempts for the ALGC to have its own course were thwarted by the constant necessity to undertake course maintenance. In September 1897 the ladies approached the AGC with a request to share the men’s course at Greenlane. This was agreed and cattle were cleared from the course in order to make it “perfectly safe for ladies at all times”.
After the move to Middlemore, the two clubs AGC and ALGC continued to use the same course and shared the same club rooms but were very separate identities with separate committees and membership fees.
The first proposal to merge the two clubs was made in the mid 1970’s and was the subject of debate for the next two decades. In 1992 an Amalgamation Committee was set up to discuss combining the two clubs and to reach mutually agreeable format for the amalgamation. A constitution was approved and the amalgamation of the two clubs was celebrated at the Centennial in 1994.
Royal Auckland Golf Club
On 14 September 2010 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II graciously advised that henceforth the Club should be known as Royal Auckland Golf Club Incorporated.
This special occasion for the Club was celebrated with a Black Tie Dinner in April 2011 with invited guests including Their Excellencies The Governor-General The Rt. Hon Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Satyanand, The Prime Minister, The Rt Hon John Key, The Minister for Arts and Culture, The Hon Chris Findlayson, His Worship the Mayor, Mr Len Brown and wife Mrs Shan Inglis, The Rt Hon Sir Thomas Gault and Lady Gault, and Peter and Mary Thomson.
The Grange Golf Club
The Grange Golf Club in Otahuhu has played an important role in New Zealand golfing history for 93 years. This will end on 1 August when the Grange and the Royal Auckland Golf Club come together at Middlemore.
The move is the final part of an amalgamation process that began in late 2014 when an overwhelming majority of members voted in favour of merging the two clubs on Royal Auckland’s Middlemore property, although the Grange’s best golfing land will be incorporated into the new 27-hole Nicklaus Design.
Originally known as Otahuhu Golf Club, the Grange dates from 1924 and set itself apart from the very beginning by offering equal rights to men and women. The Club began as a nine-hole course on the Otahuhu Trotting Club property in Tennessee Avenue, Mangere East. In 1931, it leased the Grange property on Great South Road, later buying the land and in 1944 becoming known as the Grange Golf Club. Besides providing an outstanding test of golf for its members over the years, the Club’s greatest legacy will be the tournaments it hosted and the world-class players it attracted. After being chosen to host the 1970 New Zealand Open, which was won by Sir Bob Charles, it went on to host another four New Zealand Opens. The first Air New Zealand/Shell Open was held at the Grange in 1975, returning for three consecutive years between 1992 and 1994. This event attracted a star-studded international field that included one of the world’s best at the time, Nick Price, who carded a 63 in the 1992 event. The Club hosted its last NZ Open in 2004.
The Future Course
The new layout will spread equally across the Grange and Middlemore properties. Two bridges will link the properties across the estuary, one for golfers arriving to the Clubhouse and another to ferry them across the estuary as they play the course. The club will also boast a brand-new Andrew Patterson designed clubhouse as well as a 300- metre driving range and short game practice facilities. The new entity, the “Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club” will be comparable with the best metropolitan clubs in Australasia.
The project will be carried out in two phases, the first being the construction of the 13 holes on the Grange property, the bridges and clubhouse. These elements will be completed in early 2019. Phase two will see the balance of the holes constructed on the Middlemore property, along with the driving range, all to be complete in early 2021.
1894 Auckland Golf Club established at Greenlane
1896 Auckland Ladies Golf Club formed
1901 AGC move to One Tree Hill
1909 Purchase of Middlemore from George Thomson
1910 Opening of first 9 holes Fred Hood professional and course designer
1930 Tree planting
1944 Golden Jubilee
1970s Peter Thomson – major course alterations
1994 Auckland Golf Club Centenary Amalgamation of AGC and ALGC
2001 New Zealand Open held at The Grange
2004 New Zealand Open held at The Grange
2010 Centenary of Middlemore
2010 Royal Grant – Royal Auckland Golf Club
2015 Royal Auckland Golf Club & The Grange Golf Club amalgamate
2017 New amalgamated Club flag raised at Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club