Golf course tees off

Rural look: The Hogans Gully golf course clubhouse designed by Auckland architect Andrew Patterson

Planning is in full swing for a $30 million world-class golf resort near Arrowtown.

Hogans Gully Farm Ltd has applied for resource consent for an 18-hole championship course, clubhouse, practice facility and 96 homes on a 132-hectare plot bordered by Hogan’s Gully Road, McDonnell Rd and State Highway 6.

The company is owned by Queenstowner Sir John Davies’ Trojan Holdings – which controls skifield operator NZSki, Milford and Routeburn Track guided walks and part-owns bungy company AJ Hackett.

And it’s run by Davies’ son Michael, who has a home on the property, which largely comprises uneconomic farmland.

Trojan’s also a major NZ Open golf tournament sponsor.

The development, in the vicinity of the Arrowtown club course and Millbrook and The Hills championship courses, is driven by the fast-growing golf tourism market in Queenstown and New Zealand.

Arrowtown-based ex-golf pro Greg Turner, who’s designed the course along with Queenstown’s Baxter Design Group, says it will have a different look and feel to the courses that have put Queenstown on the golf tourism map.

“The site is rugged, and the golf course will blend in rather than stand out.

“We will use the site’s natural features, especially the abundance of schist, to create a very unique golf course.”

The application says it’ll “look as if it was created by the hand of Mother Nature”.

Before finalising his design, Turner says he produced 20 to 30 versions, dating back to 2007.

“I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours out there, wandering around.

“I’ve introduced myself to every rabbit.”

While challenging enough for pros, it’s also designed “for the average Joe”, he says.

With very little long grass, “it gives the shorter hitters a much better chance”.

He points out the course will also stand out from others for the scope of its golf practice facility, featuring the latest in technology, and plans for an academy for aspiring pros around NZ.

There’ll also be a stunning but low-scale clubhouse, including golf shop and gym, designed by Auckland architect Andrew Patterson to resemble a low farm wall.

Patterson designed The Hills’ award-winning clubhouse and New Plymouth’s international Len Lye Centre.

Turner says the major change from when Millbrook Resort opened 25 years ago is a recognition that expanding the range of local courses grows the pie.

There’s also acceptance, he adds, of the value of golfing visitors, not only for their spending power but also their willingness to travel at off-peak times.

“Most people would sooner see golfers than freedom campers, I suspect.”

In a coup, the lead project consultant is Ryan Brandeburg, who’s driven Tourism NZ’s golf tourism strategy.

He’s worked at high-end private and resort facilities in the United States, before overseeing prestigious North Island courses Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers as their director of golf.

“My role is to ensure the outcome of this project is world-class, pulling together all the right components for not only the construction side but also the finished product, the service levels, the look and feel and the branding,” he says.

He notes that the houses – in five clusters – will comprise only about two per cent of the development, “which is quite small”.

Michael Davies adds they won’t be visible from McDonnell Rd or SH6.

He says there’ll be a mix of land and house sales.

His company originally applied for a plan change, but is now seeking a resource consent due to delays in the district plan review.

Davies – who personally sponsors local golf pro Ben Campbell – is hoping for a hearing in August, and, if he gets the green light, that dirt will be turned next year.

At earliest, he says the resort could open in late 2021.

He believes the project “will attract the kind of tourist we want in the area”.