You’d be forgiven for thinking not much! However, there is one common thread, which has excited us ahead of this year’s Masters in April. The answer is that they’re all linked by revered golf course architect Dr Alister MacKenzie.
MacKenzie is one of history’s most prolific and skilled golf course designers. Born in Yorkshire in 1870 his early career was as a doctor, working in his father’s medical practice. When he was called to serve in the Boer War in 1900 he developed a keen interest and aptitude in the principles of camouflage, a skill put to great use in later life. Not long after returning from South Africa he left his doctor duties behind and embarked on a career that would take him around the world and into the annuls of golfing history.
So, the answer to our question of what links the Masters, Auckland and New Zealand In Depth is of course nestled in Mackenzie’s astonishing portfolio of works.
After cutting his teeth at courses in Yorkshire, MacKenzie went on to develop and hone his skills at the Cavendish Golf Course in Buxton in 1924. The course, coincidentally, is just down the road from the New Zealand In Depth office. Two years later MacKenzie was working his genius at Titirangi Golf Club, north of Auckland. This was all before being invited to co-design the Augusta National alongside its founder Bobby Jones. Mackenzie declared the Georgia course his finest work, but he never got to see it finished as he died shortly before the inaugural Masters Tournament in 1934.
Titirangi is the only MacKenzie course in New Zealand, yet his design principles resonate at clubs across the country. One of his beliefs was that a course should appear natural by blending into its surroundings (remember his love of camouflage). New Zealand is a small country blessed with an embarrassment of incredible scenery, and it’s unsurprising that clubs make the most of what they have on their doorstep. Who can blame the likes of Cape Kidnappers, Arikikapakapa Rotorua Golf Club, and the Hills for revelling in their respective cliff tops, bubbling mud pools and majestic mountain backdrops?
Another of MacKenzie’s philosophies was that a golf course should be enjoyable and challenging to everyone, regardless of their expertise. What’s more he believed in the health benefits of the game and when he was a medical doctor prescribed it to many of his patients. In New Zealand golf is a game enjoyed by the masses and ability isn’t an issue. Nearly every other person has a set of clubs and green fees, even for the top quality courses, are very low, sometimes there are just honesty boxes. Very few courses have a dress code and you will often find Kiwis playing in shorts and “jandals” (flip flops).
It’s easy to imagine Alister MacKenzie approving of the New Zealand approach to golf, where courses make the most of their beautiful surroundings, and where the game is accessible. There’s an abundance of clubs dotted around the country, in fact it’s listed as having the third most courses per capita in the world, behind Scotland and Ireland. The Christchurch area alone has 22 courses. Like MacKenzie’s courses they vary from the best of the best, with the likes of Kauri Cliffs to clubs like Paraparaumu, Arrowtown and Kaikoura which, like the Cavendish in Buxton, are less celebrated but arguably as challenging or scenic.
Do get in touch on +44 (0)1298 74040 if you’d like to fit a round or two of golf into your New Zealand adventures. Whilst we can’t make your dream of playing Augusta a reality, if you visit us at the Buxton office we should be able to help you tick one or two MacKenzie courses off your wish list!