Golf has a long history in New Zealand and one particular club in the South Island has been there for most if not all of it.
Otago Golf Club, the oldest golf club not only in New Zealand but in the Southern Hemisphere, brought up its 150th anniversary last weekend and there were plenty on hand to celebrate.
1871 is when Otago Golf was formed – long before beginnings in Australia, South Africa and even America.
In fact, it is the fourth oldest club in the world outside of the British Isles.
“It’s been a privilege to play here for so long,” club legend Colin Munroe said.
Joining Munro was another great of the game in Sir Bob Charles who made the trip to Otago like he did as a 17-year-old almost 70 years ago.
“This was my first New Zealand Open championship here in 1953,” Charles said.
“We drove from Masterton to Wellington, took the boat to Lyttleton and then took the boat from Lyttleton to Dunedin here!”
Since making a home at Dunedin’s Balmacewen in the late 1800s, the club has witnessed a lot of history; from Gary Player driving 283 meters for a hole in one to Arnold Palmer going head-to-head with Sir Bob.
In fact, while the two were at the 11th hole, a 359m par-four better known as “The Glen” and the course’s signature hole, a piece of history took place between the two golfing greats.
“Sir Bob and Arnold were playing an exhibition match,” said Shelley Duncan, Otago Golf general manager.
“Apparently it went that Arnold questioned whether you could drive the green and Sir Bob wasn’t going to take it on, but Arnie was like, ‘it’s an exhibition match, let’s take it on,’ and he drove the green!”
Sir Bob Charles confirmed the story, saying Palmer drove the ball a full 370m.
“I knew it was beyond my capabilities, it was always position the tee shot and hope for a good putt and a birdie but he went for the green and put it on the green and two-putted for three.”
Duncan hopes to see more such stories unfold during her time as GM – a job she says she was destined for.
“I grew up on the sixth fairway and we moved there when I was three,” she said.
“So I certainly remember looking across at the sixth and not too many trees in the early days but I remember golfers going past and inquisitive with their sticks and balls and here I am 50-ish years later and still enjoying the game.”