It might be jeweller Sir Michael Hill’s course, but in many ways Craig Palmer’s the face of The Hills.
Appointed GM last year, he’d formerly been club pro from the Arrowtown course’s early days, initially part-time, then full-time for 13 years.
Auckland-born Palmer grew up in the Bombay Hills on an avocado, tamarillo and kiwifruit orchard.
‘‘It was a golfing family, and my father was a touring professional and a club pro at Manukau Golf Club for many years — he actually played in a British Open.
‘‘Mum was a good golfer too.’’
Palmer, however, played rugby and cricket, instead, and didn’t take up golf till he was 13, after his dad, Alister, had taken the club pro’s job at the Timaru Golf Club — he’s now club pro at Nelson’s Greenacres.
‘‘We lived at the Timaru course and it was a great place to learn to play,’’ Palmer says.
In fact by 15 he’d made his first senior Aorangi team.
‘‘I played for them for a few years before moving to Dunedin after high school.
‘‘I played for the very good Otago team, met my wife-to-be, played golf together, and the rest is history.’’
Palmer says he aspired to play professionally but ended up doing a traineeship in Christchurch.
‘‘Towards the end of it I saw a job advertised at Kelvin Heights [Queenstown Golf Club], so I went there for an interview with Allan McKay, one of New Zealand’s most experienced professionals.
‘‘I worked as his assistant there and also at Frankton Golf Club — I learned a lot from Allan.’’
Palmer had heard Sir Michael was looking for someone to help with his fledgling golf operations.
‘‘At that stage there were only about 16 members, so I started on a part-time basis for a couple of years.
‘‘I was in my late 20s and I guess I was in the right place at the right time.
‘‘They asked me what my title should be and I picked ‘director of golf’ — it was too grand for me at the time, but I spent the next 10 years growing into it.’’
Palmer says he feels fortunate to have been involved with The Hills and to have played a role in what it’s become, including the annual NZPGA-sanctioned pro-am invitational which he got the idea for after playing a similar tournament at the Royal Sydney Golf Club.
He’s also played some NZ Opens at The Hills, with some success, but has no regrets about not trying the touring life.
‘‘My real passion is this club and everything to do with it, as far as I’m concerned this is as good as it gets in this part of the world.
‘‘We live in a vineyard in Gibbston with a couple of acres which keeps us busy — we just love it here.’’
Palmer says one of The Hills’ newly-set goals is to give back to the community, ‘‘and I think we are making some good progress there’’.
This includes hosting a community open day a few months ago and trying to support other, smaller local clubs, such as recently helping with
Glenorchy golf club’s greens.