Greenkeeper takes charge at The Hills

He's the boss: Brendan Allen has been promoted from course superintendent to general manager of The Hills

The Hill family trust their superintendent so much they’ve made him the boss. Neville Idour speaks to the man running one of  the country’s most exclusive golf courses

Moving his family from Auckland to Queenstown has been a great career move, not a step back, for Brendan Allen.

Allen spent four-and-a-half years as course superintendent at The Hills golf course, near Arrowtown.

For the last six months he’s been general manager.

This type of appointment is rare in the golf world.

But to those who know Allen and his bosses Sir Michael, Christine and Emma Hill, this was a natural progression.

He’s progressively took on more responsibility in the operations and the business.

Allen: “Michael and Emma clearly recognised something in me and are really encouraging to work for.”

Is he the right man for the position? Undoubtedly yes, according to Sir Michael and Emma.

Emma says: “We first interviewed Brendan at the Stamford Plaza in Auckland in early 2012 for the golf course superintendent role.

“It was clear he would be an exceptional leader and manager.

“Michael and I have found him to be intelligent, thorough, logical, creative, empathetic and adaptable.”

That high praise continues to this day. “He sets a great example for all our staff,” Emma adds.

Sir Michael says: “We are fortunate to have a person of his calibre.

“The way he has developed a great team has been an inspiration to me.

“So his appointment as GM came as he proved he was capable of doing everything here.”

Allen is a country boy, spending his formative years in Taumarunui.

Schooled at Tarrangower Primary, he lived next to the golf course.

His first taste of golf was walking along the boundary of the course picking up golf balls – getting yelled at and running away with them.

“We moved to Tauranga when I was 10 and I got a scholarship in English and economics, eventually studying human resource management at Waikato University,” Allen says.

“I enjoyed the outdoors so worked on orchards. I caught the golf bug when I was 16, working a summer at a golf range picking up balls, with the owners giving me lessons.

“My first handicap was 10 because I got quite good hitting so many balls on the golf range before playing on a course.”

Allen served his apprenticeship at Hamilton Golf Club where he worked for Grant Wilson, a knowledgeable, passionate greenkeeper who had a great attitude with staff.

After completing his apprenticeship he became an assistant there at 22.

Allen wanted to better himself, so he worked for three years as assistant at Christ-church’s prestigious Russley Golf Club and then briefly as superintendent.

He then spent the next three years as superintendent at Tauranga Golf Club, before yet another move – this time to Royal Auckland as superint-endent for six years. During that time, Allen earned the nicknames “The Professor” and “Chemical Ali”, stemming from the extensive chemical use.

A lifestyle change came next.

Allen: “With two young children to consider we decided Auckland was not a favourable environment for us.

“I love Central Otago so when The Hills job was advertised I thought here’s the perfect oppor-tunity for my children to grow up in a part of the world where skiing lessons are part of schooling.”

Allen’s new job description?

“I’m accountable for everything from financial bottom lines to member happiness.

“The most enjoyable part so far has been relationship-building with the members and the fascination of learning about their diverse lives.”

His biggest challenge is being a more “overt” leader, given he’s a private person.

He still retains overall course responsibility. He’s handed much of the day-to-day operational work to Ben Taylor, the assistant superintendent.

As for “Chemical Ali”, such things are long behind him.

“I’m a non-traditionalist and The Hills has been a breath of fresh air. Coming to The Hills has given me the opportunity to embrace environmental sensibility.

“The amount of fertiliser we use would be the very lowest on New Zealand courses, having not used nitrogen on our fairways for four years.”

Allen says it’s stimulating working for such a creative and visionary family.

“There is always something exciting on the horizon, such as the new par-three course.

“So I imagine I would find most golf club jobs boring after this.”

Disclosure: The writer is a member at The Hills