First day: From left, members Jane and Mick Burdon, golf pro Micah Dickinson, property and development director Ben O'Malley, and Kiwi golf legend Sir Bob Charles who designed Millbrook's first 18 holes

There’s nothing unusual about Millbrook members playing golf on Fridays. But just over a week ago a group of them became the first golfers to play the resort’s newest nine holes. PHILIP CHANDLER talked to two ‘architects’ of the new course and two members as they negotiated their way around

For two locals, February 26 was a red-letter day.

Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort members were having first lick at the resort’s latest, and last,
nine golf holes.

For property and development director Ben O’Malley it culminated seven years’ hard work since the resort’s owners acquired neighbouring farmland.

For golf course co-designer and former pro Greg Turner it also closed a chapter that started 15 years ago when he designed Millbrook’s first nine-hole extension.

That nine and the new nine will together make up the Coronet 18, and the first 18, the Remarkables 18.

To O’Malley’s knowledge, it’s only New Zealand’s second 36-hole course.

He explains the 2014 Dalgleish Farm acquisition was ‘‘a nervous purchase’’.

‘‘We had no idea as to what kind of zoning we would achieve, and when we would achieve it.

‘‘It could have happened reasonably quickly, like it did, but it could still be going through  the Environment Court.’’

Consent for the golf holes also allowed for 42 ‘Mill Farm’ house lots, many of which have sold already.

The new nine, interwoven amongst farmland, comprises three holes on the valley floor around Mill Stream and six on an upper plateau — one hole, at 480 metres above sea level, is thought to be NZ’s highest.

Last Friday, a fizzing O’Malley calls it ‘‘a momentous day in the history of Millbrook’’.

‘‘The smiles on the faces of the members as they go around is well worth the effort of the last seven years.

‘‘They’re just blown away by the scenery, by the quality of the grass, considering we’re still in the growing phase.’’

O’Malley, who started at Millbrook 20 years ago when it ‘only’ had 18 holes, says the new nine probably won’t open to the public till December.

‘‘We don’t want to get on too early — you get issues with compaction, and we’ve still got areas of ground under repair.’’

When fully open, the two 18-hole courses will open to the public and members on alternate
days ‘‘to keep it interesting and varied’’.

In the swing: Greg Turner tees off

Turner quips that he, his wife Janey and son Jack all won prizes on Friday — Janey was women’s winner, Jack was longest driver and he got a two.

He says there was no thought of another nine-holer when he designed the original Coronet 9, ‘‘so it was sort of pleasing, eight years on, to get the call to finish it off’’.

He believes it’s been a real advantage living five minutes away in Arrowtown — ‘‘there’s no
substitute for being there almost on a daily basis’’.

‘‘Essentially, it’s a huge land scaping exercise — you uncover stuff you mightn’t have known was going to be there.

‘‘It’s really diverse landscape — it’s got a bit of everything.’’

Asked about the balance between a resort and a championship course, Turner says ‘‘I’ve
never quite bought into the idea there were two different things’’.

‘‘I think the scoring [on Friday] sort of shows it’s very playable for your average golfer, but if you want to tuck the pins away and go to those back tees, I think it will be a very good test for the top players as well.

‘‘But as long as people play from the tees they ought to play from, I don’t think it’s going to be seen as particularly difficult at all.’’

Member Grant Smith, however, still thought it was challenging enough.

‘‘The rough is quite deep and of course you’re playing unknown greens — they do seem to be a different speed to the rest of the course.’’

But to be able to play on the first day was a privilege — ‘‘I think it just reminds us of the environment we’re living in’’.

Another member, Nicky McQuilkin, says it has a different feel from the rest of Millbrook.

She’s still using the same putter she bought when the original course opened in ‘93 — ‘‘I don’t know it serves me very well’’.

She says the new holes will take some pressure off the course.

‘‘It was getting quite busy, you were having to book a bit further ahead.’’