The final day of the Mt Nessing Golf Club’s 2019 season was no ordinary one – it also marked the club’s 80th anniversary.
To celebrate the milestone, about 60 guests, comprising members, former members and their families, attended a dinner at the clubhouse after the day’s competition.
The evening also included the annual prizegiving and a speech by life member Peter Simpson, whose family leases the land on which the course is situated to the club.
The Opawa Golf Club was formed at a meeting in May 1939, and a committee elected. Of the group, only two members – Otto Richards and Jim Maitland – had ever played golf before, but that did not stop the committee setting up the course and preparing for opening day, which was followed by a dance.
The course was officially opened on June 24, 1939, by Mr D.C. Kidd, MP, who drove the first ball in front of a gathering of about 50 members and visitors.
At a meeting in July 1939 it was decided to change the name of the club to the Mt Nessing Golf Club.
The nine-hole course was designed by George Forrest, of Timaru, and established on a 24ha strip of farm land on the river flat part of Mr D. Simpson’s Mt Nessing property.
Many stones had to be picked up by hand to clear the course and the greens were mowed with a hand mower out of virgin turf. Fruit tins were used as cups and the flags were bamboo with red and white calico flags.
During spring, sheep grazed on the fairways and greens and each Saturday the greenkeeper – a member of the club – swept the greens with a bamboo rod. The course is closed from September to February so it can be used for lambing, during which time the greens are fenced off.
In the early days, few members had golf bags. Most players carried their clubs in their hands, and some even had golf bags hand-made from sugar or flour bags.
Balls were scarce and used even if damaged. Initially, many new players bought two or three secondhand golf clubs from Morton’s auction rooms in Timaru.
The course became known as one of the most interesting and testing nine-hole country courses in the South Island, sitting at about 305m above sea level.
The first club championships were held in 1940, the winners being C.F. Maitland and Miss N. Glass, and the first Mackenzie Championship was held on the course in the same year.
On July 13, 1940, an open tournament was held to raise patriotic funds for World War 2. The charge for the day was 2s, and the green fee was set at the same amount.
The women formed their own club in 1971, and a major achievement for the club was the installation of water to the greens in 1973.
In 1988 the course was expanded from nine holes to 18.