Gentlemen, it’s time to charge up your engines


IN A covered shed on The Hills golf course, Alan Spencer is tinkering with the pocket-sized carts that will keep the NZ Open’s volunteers connected.

Expect to see more than 70 of these golf carts whizzing around behind the scenes during the January 28-31 event at The Hills.

Spencer, The Hills property maintenance manager, and mechanic Roger Fleck will spend large chunks of their festive period giving the racy carts their final bill of health.

The Hills course has 41 of its own “champagne gold”-coloured Yamaha carts, and Yamaha NZ is loaning the event another 30 – in matching off-white.

All of the battery-powered buggies will be out on the course for the pro-am the day before the Open tees off – when players, sponsors and invited guests play 18 holes.

Once the tournament proper starts on the Thursday, 10 carts will be set aside for PGA officials, another 10 for event officials, and the remainder used by volunteers, staff, St John and police. They’ll be scooting between points at a top speed of 15kmh.

The golfers, themselves, are bound by rules to walk the course.

During NZ Open week, Spencer will arrive at the Hills at 5am sharp and won’t leave until all 70 carts are put to bed around 10pm.

“The carts don’t come in until the last game of golf each day, when they start dribbling in,” he says. “We’re still going there until a good 10 o’clock at night cleaning them, parking them and getting them all charged up ready for the next morning.”

All Hills backroom staff will have a 5am curtain call during the tournament. “The likes of the officials do a full check of the golf course before anything happens so need to be going out at 6am to check things up,” says Spencer, who’s preparing for his third Open at The Hills.

“Once they’re all gone, you tend to relax –the traditional workshop cooked breakfast is slotted for 9am – before you start up again in the afternoon.”

Spencer’s family isn’t forgotten in the madness. Lunchtime always gives him a chance to catch up with wife Susanne – one of many golfing widows in NZ Open week – and nine-year-old twin girls Brooke and Renae before late-afternoon rush hour starts.