Where it all began...
Tauranga Golf Club owes its existence to a colourful character, Dr William Brown who, besides being a golf enthusiast, served two terms as Mayor of Tauranga.
Dr Brown arrived from Dunedin in 1903 to take over a Practice and the ex-medical Missionary made an immediate impact in the town of approximately 1000 people.
Dr Brown instigated meetings to discuss and then establish a Golf Club. Initially, the Course consisted of nine holes stretching from the Domain across to Sulphur Point. Not surprisingly, he became the Club’s first Captain.
Dr Brown became Mayor of Tauranga in 1905. He also served on the Racecourse Domain Board , on the local school committee, and apparently introduced Tauranga citizens to the intricacies of Contract Bridge. He resigned the mayoralty in 1906 and left Tauranga for Great Britain, eventually returning to Dunedin where he died in 1916.
100 Years of Challenging Play
The Tauranga Golf Club has been based at its current site on the Racecourse Reserve since 1914.
Historically known as the Gate Pa Course, there is clear evidence the Club actually dates back to 1904. A Bay of Plenty Times archive from 20 April, 1904 mentions golf played on the original course at the Tauranga Domain – bounded to the North by Brown Street, to the East by Cameron Road, to the South by McLean Street and the West by the sea. The second hole ran through the present rugby grounds at the Domain which caused an unusual hazard for the intrepid golfers when rugby was in progress. Hitting around or even through the rugby games was one of the extra challenges and a major catalyst in the Clubs decision to seek an alternative location.
The plan for the new Course was drawn up by Auckland Golf Professional, Fred Rutter; Club member working bees systematically cleared the ground and created greens and tees.
Approximately 45 hectares in area, the original layout was a far cry from today’s Course. The current 11th Tee is the site of the first Clubhouse; a grim corrugated iron shed shared with jockeys from the Racing Club. Most members cycled to golf with clubs slung over their backs; they carried wrapped lunches which everyone shared around a single long table. There was little or no golf played during the week and none at all over the summer months.
Initially, there were several long holes within the Racecourse oval with fenced greens to protect them from cattle. The signature hole, The Knoll, is now a pleasant, easy hole compared with the original which was played from the same Tee as now. Previously players had to hit over a sea of gorse to a small sloping green surrounded by bunkers and knee-high grass!
The first official Clubhouse was built in 1938 on the site of the present car park, immediately behind the 18th green. Membership numbers inevitably outgrew the “car park” Clubhouse and in 1954, a new Clubhouse was opened on the present site to accommodate the 600 plus members at that time. It was financed by debentures from Club members then extended and modernised a number of times over the years prior to the major reconstruction in 2001.
The present course with its beautiful trees and hundreds of flowering shrubs is a lasting tribute to the untiring efforts of the original Club members, in particular, Mr A J Mirrielees who was Club President in the depression years of the 1930’s. Mr Mirrielees used the Government Work Scheme to plant out the 30,000 trees and shrubs, many of which are still in evidence today.
In 2014, the Course is considered short by some players and strenuous by others because of its hilly terrain. It has earned the respect of top amateurs and professionals alike as an exacting test of shot placement and concentration. The Course has interesting topography and variation in holes, and with the introduction of the Windsor Green fairways conversion programme, members will eventually enjoy consistent playing conditions all year round.
In the year the Club is celebrating 100 years of Golf at Gate Pa, an exciting and innovative addition to the Course, will be the opening of a new Practice Facility. Consisting of 4 greens, a practice bunker, a variety of tees and set on Windsor Green fairways, the facility will benefit all players from complete novice to highly skilled . Beginners just starting the game, juniors and corporate groups alike, will have the opportunity to learn, develop and improve their short game in a purpose built learning environment before hitting the course proper.