Millbrook Resort near Queenstown, New Zealand, has opened nine new holes to extend its Coronet layout to a full 18.
The South Island resort opened its first 18 holes, designed by John Darby and major winner Bob Charles and now named the Remarkables course, in 1992. Scott Macpherson and former professional Greg Turner added a nine-hole Coronet layout in 2010 and revamped four holes of the original course.
In 2014 Millbrook purchased the former Dalgleish Farm on its western boundary, allowing it to move forward with the $50million Mill Farm development: two residential developments and another nine holes.
Millbrook returned to Macpherson and Turner for the new holes, now the Coronet’s stretch from six to 14, which Macpherson describes as “amongst the most scenic and challenging in the country”.
“The routing deliberately gives golfers a tour of all the best features of this wonderful landscape, including the rocky canyons, babbling streams and wetlands, whilst offering incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and lakes,” said Macpherson. “While moving between rocky outcrops, the fairways have been designed with the resort golfer in mind – receptive and open, to allow golfers of all abilities to enjoy the course.
“Around the greens, the vision is to cut the turf at a low height, so golfers have the option to chip or putt. The green surfaces are generally orientated on an angle to the line of play to add strategic interest, and have a range of pin positions.”
The new par-three sixth plays slightly uphill over a small stream to a two-tiered green – defended by two bunkers – angling from left to right. “It has become an immediate favourite,” said Macpherson. “It opens the new sequence with a bang. The hole is made more memorable by the view up behind the green to the Crown Range, and the rocky cliffs immediately to the right of the green, which create the feeling of an amphitheatre. It’s a deeply atmospheric hole.”
Turner said: “The new seventh plays up a valley and between rocky outcrops, while the eighth has a gentle dogleg left and is defined by a strategically placed central bunker and a wetland to the left of the green. It appears the best tee shot is to the wider right-side of the fairway, but that leaves golfers with a less receptive approach shot to a green angling toward the wetland.”
Holes nine and ten are both par fours that play in opposite directions around a large lake, which collects water from the mountains to irrigate the course.
“One particularly noteworthy charm of the ninth hole is its infinity green which sits above a rocky outcrop and looks out towards the popular and historic gold mining village of Arrowtown,” said Macpherson.
“Amongst the large swathes of Browntop grass that sway in the fields around the course is the par-five eleventh, which plays from an elevated tee down into a large fairway basin. From here the fairway snakes around an ominous rocky outcrop before climbing back up to the green – this time with a rocky cliff face on its left. Longer hitters will try to get to the green in two, but danger lurks all around. The club professional recommends playing to the front of the green!”
The twelfth is a short par three that plays downhill to a large green. The back tee provides panoramic views across the course and out to the parachutists that are often seen leaping from nearby Coronet Peak.
“Having taken the winding path down from the twelfth green, for many golfers, the thirteenth is a keenly memorable hole – a short par four where golfers are tempted to try and drive the green from the elevated tee,” said Turner. “However, a wetland guards the putting surface so it’s a risk and reward hole, where a par can be made with little strain for those laying up, but disaster lurks for those letting their ego off the leash. On top of that, it may have the most interesting putting surface of the new holes with rolls and plateaus that separate intriguing areas for a hole to be cut.”
The last of the new holes is the slightly downhill fourteenth, a long par four that gives golfers two primary options off the tee: either play for the narrow speed slot on the left side of the fairway or to the wider area right of the central bunker that leaves a shot around Mill Stream and over a greenside bunker. “Part of the players’ decision may be determined by the hole position, and the rest by the wind direction,” said Macpherson. “Sometimes the better play may be to the right side of the fairway to get a better angle into the green. It will be interesting to see how the professionals play it in the New Zealand Open.
“The new nine is a game changer for New Zealand golf. The 36-hole offering allows for two dramatically diverse experiences and allows members to have exclusive use of 18 holes on any given day while guests enjoy the other course. In this way, the year-round golf opportunities remain dynamic and diverse.”
“Despite the interruptions of Covid, the new holes at Mill Farm have been extremely well received by both our members and fee-paying guests,” said Millbrook director Ben O’Malley. “We were extremely excited about the prospect of hosting the New Zealand Open over both of our courses for the first time this year, however due to the impacts of Covid, we will have to wait until 2023 for this opportunity.”
In addition to completing the Coronet course, Millbrook has also been progressing with its Mill Farm development, including the restoration of key areas to protect existing habitats and native species.
“Mill Farm is a carefully considered development which takes into account the land’s natural history as well as its agricultural roots,” said Ben O’Malley, general manager of Millbrook Resort. “Millbrook and its design team have gone to great lengths to maintain and build upon the challenging geographical aspects to provide unparalleled lifestyle opportunities surrounding the new golf holes. The new homes at Mill Farm will nestle into rising elevations, dramatic escarpments and alongside the picturesque Mill Stream.
“Commitment to both stewardship and sustainability means that the infrastructure of Mill Farm has been kept intact through a massive effort to tread lightly. The earthworks, for example, are not only carefully carved alongside the existing contours of the land, but also ensure that anything removed from one place was reshaped to another on the farm.”
Mill Stream has had its meandering breadth reinstated, connecting two natural springs together.
“Extensive riparian planting has also been undertaken to support and encourage fish and birdlife to thrive,” said O’Malley. “To complement the existing mature oaks, willows and walnut trees within the lower valley floor area called Willow Glen, additional beech, maple and plane varieties of European specimen trees have been planted to tie in with the existing Millbrook landscape.
“In excess of 30,000 native flora have been planted across Mill Farm, and on the Grand Terrace area, extensive revegetation reflecting and supporting the unique alpine environment has also been initiated.”
A version of this article first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Golf Course Architecture. For a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.