The former Peninsula Golf Club – now Wainui Golf and Function Centre – has faced a number of challenges since moving from Red Beach to its new location in Wainui.
General manager Terry Yacyshen says attracting and retaining members, drainage, water supply and even the type of grass grown on its fairways have been some of the issues the club has had to tackle.
He says there is still a lot to do to improve the purpose-built, international standard 18-hole course that was developed on a former dairy farm at a cost of around $50 million.
The browning off of the fairways caused considerable angst among members last summer and they are waiting to see whether it happens again.
According to NIWA, last summer was the second hottest on record for Auckland. The course is not on mains supply, reliant on rainwater to fill its irrigation pond and, initially, a single bore. During the drought, the club chose to stop watering parts of the course to ensure that its finite water supply lasted until the winter rainfall replenished those stocks.
Soon after the watering stopped, the browntop grass on the fairways lived up to its name and dried off, leaving the previously lush green fairway grass barren and brown.
Significant concerns were raised by players and visitors at the time and, with the fairways still not wholly recovered to their pre-drought condition, conjecture remains as to how Wainui will best repair the fairways and ensure they never dry out again.
Mr Yacyshen says that work, which includes drilling another borehole, installing new pumps and raising the level of the irrigation pond have been a priority.
He says the club is also consulting with a wide range of golf course turf and agronomy experts to establish whether the fairways need to be completely replanted with a more drought resistant type of grass.
“What we didn’t want to do was make a rash decision,” Mr Yacyshen says. “Any decision we make going forward will be based on scientific fact and proven to work.”
Whatever the decision, there will be no planting done on the fairways this year. Wainui wants to ensure that any trial plots of different grass species are grown in representative locations around the course and given a year to show how they respond to seasonal conditions.
In addition, Mr Yacyshen says that the clay-based soil has created drainage issues that he expects will be ongoing for years to come.
The club is undertaking extensive work to improve those areas that turn boggy after heavy rain, with the aim of creating underfoot conditions that make the course playable all year round. This includes improving drainage and creating access and egress pathways to ensure that players can move easily from the cart path to the tee box.
Mr Yacyshen says that membership has fluctuated since the club’s move to Wainui, but remains on an upward trajectory. When the club shifted in August 2016, it had 613 members. Membership initially grew by around 100, as people tried out the new facilities, but has currently settled at around 657.
Mr Yacyshen says that establishing the club’s reputation is slowly making headway.
“It’s a bit of an uphill battle, because our location in a rural area means we are a destination course. It’s about relationship building and once people are here, delivering on our promises of a great experience.”
He says the 20 percent increase in food and beverage revenue during the first year at the facility’s restaurant is encouraging. “The first year was about getting the message out there, and now we can build on that. We’re getting more and more repeat business.”
During the establishment period, the club is still reliant on the money – believed to be approximately $8 million – that went into the coffers from selling the Red Beach site.
“We are a community club, not owned by a billionaire, so we have to be smart,” Mr Yacyshen says. “We are not at breakeven point yet, and in part that’s because we still need to spend money to get the course where it needs to be.”