This Wakatipu win is NZ’s win


It’s a hearty welcome back to the Wakatipu to the NZ Open golf tournament which flailed in the wilderness up in Christchurch the past two years.

The Wakatipu’s gain will in some quarters be seen as Christchurch’s loss but moving it back to the country’s tourism jewel is all of New Zealand’s gain.

At least, that’s what many of those behind the move are hoping.

On the face of it, the bold decision by NZ Open’s NZ Golf, the NZ PGA and Michael Hill Tournaments Ltd to pool resources and back the Open at the expense of the NZ PGA Championship makes sense.

Instead of two middling events with limited appeal, the country now has the makings of what many are saying could become an “internationally significant” event.

Combining the Open with the Wakatipu’s novel pro-am is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a masterstroke.

The pro-am component has been hailed as one of the main reasons the open – a Tier One Australasian PGA Tour event – has partnered up with the lucrative Japan Golf Tour. That’s going to ramp up the interest from that country and fuel business and tourism-related exposure.

There’s also the small business of 64 pay-to-play amateur spots – all places for the 2014 event have been filled and at $10,000 a pop that’s a decent chunk of change in the tournament kitty.

The whole shebang is an extremely marketable proposition – and, in the words of pro-am mastermind John Hart, NZ’s icon tournament is now in NZ’s icon destination.

Factor in that it’ll be the only open in the world played on two courses – The Hills and Millbrook Resort – with a pro-am to boot, and you can see why people are getting excited.

It’s no wonder Queenstown business leaders, the mayor and Destination Queenstown are thrilled.
Queenstown-based ex golf pro Greg Turner, involved with drafting a national strategy to more effectively unlock NZ’s golf tourism potential, notes golf tourists – like convention delegates – tend to spend more than your average tourist, in fact it’s between two and three times as much.

“They’ll go walk the Milford Track, buy our nice wines, eat in the nice restaurants, so they’re really good tourists,” Turner told a crowd in Auckland on Tuesday gathered for the announcement.

Turner also pointed out just 20 per cent of revenue from golf tourists is spent on what’s considered the golf sector. The rest of their spend falls across the travel, food and beverage and accommodation sectors.

As Queenstowner Mike Davies – involved with ground floor pro-am sponsor Milford Track Guided Walks – notes this week it was a bit of a punt supporting it two years ago.

Now it’s looking increasingly like a punt that’s going to pay off.