Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 51, September 2007

(by courtesy of New Zealand Golf News)

Appropriately, the centenary of the Waihi Golf Club was held over Labour Weekend, October 20-21, 2006.

Appropriate because it was exactly one hundred years ago, at a public meeting on Friday, October 26, 1906, that Waihi Golf Club was formally constituted.

The town of Waihi is synonymous with gold, its origin and continued existence to the present day bound up with the mining of this precious metal.

The great Martha gold lode, up to 100 feet wide in places, made Waihi in 1906 one of the great mine centres in the world and the largest town south of Auckland, and it was time it had a golf club.

The Superintendent of the Waihi mine, Mr H.P. Barry, became the first president of the club, and 25 other gentlemen and eight ladies made up the inaugural membership.

The history of the club reveals an association with many of Waihi's prominent citizens and as the century unfolded some individuals and families were to play important roles in the growth of the club.

From 1906 to 1952 the club was sited on farmland belonging to the pioneer family of William Hollis, well known for years as "Hollis's Bush" from the small remnant of bush surviving from the demands of mill, furnace and mine.

On the whole the Hollis landlords and the club co-existed amicably though naturally there was some friction between the competing needs of golfers and farmer.

Lady golfers, not surprisingly, were wary of the Hollis bull and more than once asked the committee to request it be tethered on ladies day.

The Hollis pigs were guilty on occasion of rooting in the fairways and their goats were known to break into the clubhouse verandah.

However, younger son, Edgar Hollis took over the farm and with other family members joined the club.

Edgar and brother Bill both took on green keeping duties at times, and Edgar won the senior championship every year between 1939 and 1949 except for the year 1946, while Bill was still playing in his seventies in the 1960's.

The name of Morpeth is honourably associated with New Zealand golf and the Morpeth family with the Waihi club.

Father, Henry Douglas Morpeth was appointed the first Town Clerk of Waihi Borough in 1902.

He and his six sons were all at one time or another members of the club, one or other holding such offices as secretary, treasurer, or caddy master.

Two sons, Gerald a.k.a. Tad, and youngest son, Sloan, won the senior club championship, and Sloan, while still at school, won the Auckland Provincial Championship in 1914.

Sloan was to go on to win the New Zealand Amateur Championship on three occasions, in 1920, 1927 and 1929 and in 1928 the New Zealand Open (as an amateur) at Balmacewen, Dunedin.

Following the death of two of the brothers in the First World War and their father in 1918 the Morpeth family left Waihi.

Waihi Golf Club Hollis' Bush course was a nine-hole course, initially with a par of 73 for men (the eighth, Sheol, was par 3 ½) and par 100 for women (the seventh, Jacksons, was par 8).

After the second World War, a rapidly expanding membership, an anxiety over the annual leasehold arrangement, and a looming possibility that the land could be taken by the government for educational purposes forced the committee to look for an alternative site.

Farmland five kilometres out of town on Woodlands Road was bought and in 1953 Waihi Golf Club was reborn on its new site.

Eighteen holes were developed at the Woodlands Road course by dint of hard voluntary labour and many hours of back-breaking toil chopping out manuka and blackberry, removing fences, building greens and a clubhouse, and planting trees and shrubs along fairways and boundary fences.

Until 1969 the grazing of sheep and closing the course for a hay harvest provided revenue for ongoing course improvement and clubhouse upgrading.

A farm committee and a finance committee were critical components of the administration.

Two adjoining clubs at Katikati and Waihi Beach closed their doors and joined the Waihi Club at its central Woodlands Road site.

Fifty-three years on and following a re-construction of all eighteen greens between 1993-1997 and a major clubhouse makeover, Waihi Golf Club stands tall among the country clubs of New Zealand.

A gathering of past and present club notables, or their family representatives, attended the Centennial Dinner on Labour Weekend.

Nine past residents, five life members, including John Woodland, the longest-serving member, (24 years as secretary or treasurer), Diane Spiers, the longest-serving active member, and Raynor Nottle, ex-treasurer, ex-president, eight times club senior champion and a golfer who has beaten his age so many times the club ran out of honours board space were in attendance.

Hopefully, the club will also be able to honour other individuals and families who did more than their share in shaping the 100 year history of the club.

Names such as Haszard, Jesney, Kneebone, Dillimore, Cullen, Pivac, and Quinlan hold a memorable place in the history of the club.

There may not be as much gold in them thar' hills, but there was no denying the golden celebration of Waihi Golf Club.