Changing course


Queenstown Golf Club’s general manager is swapping one stunning piece of local real estate for another.

John Stephens, who’s managed the club’s iconic Kelvin Heights course and facilities for the past six-and-a-half years, has bought a visitor accommodation property, Manata Lodge, along with his wife Nicola.

It’s situated off Tucker Beach Road, just 80 metres from their Quail Rise home – they take over June 1.

Stephens, 46, who managed Arrowtown Golf Club for four years before taking the reins at Kelvin Heights, says “being able to manage two great golf clubs for 10 years was fantastic”.

Coincidentally, Stephens oversaw 100-year celebrations at both.

Prior to Arrowtown, he also spent four summers as a Kelvin Heights greenkeeper.

He says when he started his current role, the club was “in a little bit of distress financially”, but he managed to turn that around.

“The club’s going very well now, and I’ve got fantastic staff.”

Membership’s increased over the past year or two, he says, and $530,000 in visitors’ green fees were collected last year.

Stephens says what he enjoyed most was setting up the Wakatipu Junior Golf Club five years ago.

“Now it’s going ahead in leaps and bounds, and there’s lots of places in New Zealand that are copying the idea.”

He’s also happy that the local council, which took over the Frankton course from his club, has kept it going after initial fears it might close it.

“It is just such a good feeder course.”

Other highlights have been building a Wall of Remembrance and a new pro shop and clubhouse entrance in recent years.

He’s also proud the club’s helped out others like Roxburgh, Omakau and Kingston.

“I’m giving up the best office in Queenstown, but it’s also good for the club to get new blood and some fresh ideas to push it even further forward.”

Though he finishes up May 17, he’ll still keep a hand in a sport he loves so much.

He’s planning a 250sqm golfing green at Manata Lodge for golf groups “and anyone who wants to go and have a putt”.

Stephens says he’s always wanted to run his own business, and he has a hospitality background which, he points out, includes running golf clubs.

Local Tourism broker Adrian Chisholm, who marketed Manata Lodge for vendors Ethel and Warren White, says it’s a feel-good story because locals beat off foreign buyers in a “shootout”.