Queenstown leads national golf tourism plan


Queenstown is at the forefront of a new national strategy aimed at unlocking the country’s potential for a golf tourism boom. 

At Tuesday’s announcement that the New Zealand Open is returning to the Wakatipu next year, Queenstown ex-golf pro Greg Turner revealed he’s heading a working party creating a national golf tourism plan. 

Turner says figures are indicative only at this stage but the Tourism NZ strategy could increase golf tourism earnings by $100-150 million a year. 

The return of the NZ Open next year and its combination with Queenstown’s established celebrity pro-am to create one super tournament – is, Turner says, a “happy coincidence” to the strategy. 

“It does create opportunities but hasn’t led the strategy,” Turner says. 

“One of the things about golfers that’s different than perhaps other niche sectors is they want to travel and play a lot of different courses. 

“Skiers will come and ski for a week at Coronet but golfers aren’t going to. So it’s important to build some logical golf trails around NZ, but Queenstown clearly is and will be for the foreseeable future, the main focus,” Turner says. 

“As far as we can ascertain, the business of golf-related tourism is worth somewhere between $150m and $250m a year into our economy. 

“We’re operating at about 50 per cent – about two per cent of our visitors play golf. In places like Australia and more mature or known golf markets, that’s about four per cent so we see potential in the next three to five years to grow that by maybe $100m-$150m.” 

Turner adds: “Now that’s a significant input into the NZ economy as a whole.” 

Turner, joined on the working party by representatives from golf, banking and tourism sectors, says a draft strategy will be with TNZ within days. Consultation with stakeholders will follow but no set timeframes to unveil it are in place. 

Whilst the NZ Open announcement was coincidental, Turner says major events like the new tournament – to be held at both The Hills course near Arrowtown and neighbouring Millbrook Resort from February 27 – can play a key role in destination marketing. 

“Every major golf destination leverages heavily off significant international events. They look at that as a really good part of a way to build awareness. It’d be naïve of us to think we’re any different. 

“This provides easily the best opportunity for us to have an event of international significance.” 

The NZ Open pro-am combination will stay in the Wakatipu for at least 2014, 2015 and 2016. It’s the result of an agreement between NZ Golf, NZ PGA and Michael Hill Tournaments Ltd (MHTL) to pool resources and create one super tournament. MHTL has the licence to organise and take full responsibility for funding, presenting and underwriting it. 

The Tier One Australaisian PGA Tour event will also be co-sanctioned by the lucrative Japan Golf Tour, seeing 15 leading Japan Tour pros given entry. 

Government agencies from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Trade and Enterprise and TNZ are all working to support and leverage opportunities from the tournament. 

Last year’s pro-am, which was partnered with the NZ PGA Championship, attracted celebrities like English cricket great Sir Ian Botham and business heavyweights like Samsung’s chief executive. 

The NZ PGA Championship, run in Queenstown at The Hills for the past two years, will move to a new venue and date that’s still to be confirmed. 

Turner says: “This is about golf moving forward, it’s about golf showing a united front but probably more importantly it’s about NZ Inc seeing the opportunity to utilise golf to grow a whole lot of areas.” 

Tournament host Sir Michael Hill called the NZ Open and pro-am arrangement a “new era of golf in this country”. 

“We have the ingredients to develop a legendary tournament and it has my full support,” Hill says. 

NZ Open revamp in a nutshell
– NZ Open departs Christchurch’s Clearwater Resort, returns to Queenstown’s The Hills/Millbrook courses February 27-March 2
– Playing with 132 pros will be 132 amateurs in a separate simultaneous pro-am tournament
– 64 amateur spots open to those willing to pay $10,000 each already filled
– Government’s Major Events Development Fund injects $900,000 for 2014 event
– Japan Golf Tour link will see 15 of its leading pros play NZ Open
– NZ Open winner or next best finisher exempt from Japan Golf Tour gets entry to three of its lucrative events
– NZ Open prize pool jumps from $500,000 last year to $850,000 next year
– NZ PGA Championship no longer in Queenstown, new venue and date to be confirmed