“The Old Course” of the Southern Hemisphere, but it will never happen.
Just in case you don’t know, I live in California. In March I spent three weeks with my brother in New Zealand. He lives in the small sea side community of Riversdale Beach, situated on the East Coast of the North Island. It’s about a two and a half hour drive from the capital city of Wellington, my old home town.
My brother Ash’s home is on Harapaki the southernmost street in Riversdale. All the homes on that street face South across reserve land I believe is owned by the local government. From Ash’s home you can look across to the beach with it seems, never ending surf. If you could look far enough you would see Antarctica, there’s nothing in between. On some days it can be a wild bit of coastline. Also from his home you look out over this amazing piece of unused golf course links-land. It’s amazing! I hope the photos do it some justice.
You can walk on this land straight from the end of the street, however my favorite way was to walk South along the beach about a half to three quarters of a mile where a path-way starts that takes you North wandering through this amazing countryside, back to Harapaki. Everywhere the land is covered with scrub, high grass, Toi Toi grass and even Scottish Heather. Under all this natural growth is the most amazing rolling undulating sandy links-land. (Links is the name given to the sandy area/strip that “links” the land to the sea). It so took my breath away that I went back several times to walk it again. Every time I did, the beauty thrilled me more. Imagining this was the type of land the “Old Course” at St. Andrews had started as, before sheep were allowed to graze there forming the short-grass fairways.
The length of this piece of land and its width from low hills covered trees to the West and the sandy beach to the East provided enough area to have nine holes playing South and nine holes playing back to the North, “Old Course” style. The famous golf course architecture Dr. Alister McKenzie would have been in his element clearing fairways and areas for greens, without disturbing the natural contours and beauty of the landscape.
I know it will never be made into a links golf course, its reserve land and I expect that will never change. My brother is the green keeper at the Riversdale Beach Golf Club and very pleased development will never take place. Initially that amazed me but when he told me, in his opinion, some nut-case course designer could come in with bull-dozers and annihilate Gods beautiful work. Unfortunately I think he might be right. And so this beautiful piece of links-land will remain untouched. Personally I can’t wait to go back and walk through its beauty again.
As a closing thought, if you’re interested in golf history and architecture, Dr. Alister Mackenzie’s book “The Spirit of St. Andrews” is well worth a read. Written as personal notes before his death in 1933, the “lost” manuscript was not published by his family until 1995. He writes about creating golf courses in the early 1900s using horse drawn machinery and extensive manual labor. It seems he had a great dislike for golf club committees, read his book to find out why. His insights are interesting.