Thomson and Tataurangi’s new layout for Tīeke Golf Estate opens for play

  • Tīeke
    Kahu Tataurangi

    The design team exposed sand for the new Tīeke Golf Estate layout on the banks of the Waikato River

  • Tīeke
    Stephen Barker

    The green at the club’s new par-three third hole, and…

  • Tīeke
    Kahu Tataurangi

    …the same hole, as seen from the tee

Toby Ingleton
By Toby Ingleton

A new golf course designed by Brett Thomson and Phil Tataurangi has opened for play at the Tīeke Golf Estate near Hamilton, New Zealand.

Tīeke was established following the merger of neighbouring courses Lochiel and The Narrows to become Riverside Golf Club, and NZ Transport Agency’s subsequent decision to build a new expressway through the site of The Narrows course.

With a sale agreed for The Narrows course’s land, the club decided to reinvent itself, around a complete redesign of the Lochiel course, which was established in 1938 and occupied various sites before settling on its current location on the banks of the Waikato River, with a course maintained by a crew of sheep and some keen local volunteers.

The design of Tīeke’s new course involved the removal of 1,000 old trees, shrubs and bushes, enhancing the natural riverbed landscape, exposing sandy soils and creating a routing with flexibility, adaptability and variability “like no other in New Zealand”. Fine fescue turf and creeping bent greens were chosen to complement the free-draining soils and promote the ground game.

Thomson, the founder of RBT Design who also master planned New Zealand’s Te Arai Links project north of Auckland, said: “As a golf course architect I’m constantly looking for interesting and unique pieces of land upon which to play golf. Tieke is one of those pieces of land. It’s dramatic topography and sandy subgrade allowed us to make small, but significant design adjustments that we think will deliver a very distinct and dramatic golf experience.”

Tour pro-turned designer Phil Tataurangi of Mahi Tahi Golf Projects said: “I’ve got plenty of fond memories of playing tournament golf on the old course back in the 80s, so it was a privilege to come back and work with the club to help shape their future. The bold riverbed landforms guided us towards an old school design with simple lines and symmetrical shapes. A similar feel to courses built during the golden age era of golf course architecture a century ago. Alongside our talented team it’s been a blast bringing the course back to life with a slightly different look for members and visitors alike.”

Club President Craig Meinsmith said: “We set out to build something special for our members, our community and for all golfers. It’s turned out even more incredible than we ever imagined. I know our members are very proud of their new home and so they should be – it’s an amazing layout, club house and facilities.

“We are also proud of the name of our new course. After consultation with local Iwi leaders and looking deep into the history of the region, the name Tīeke was agreed. The Tīeke is the North Island Saddleback bird, once a friendly and plucky companion of Maui that populated the native bush land of the Waipa. With over 30,000 native plants now back in the ground and a greater ecological focus moving forward, the club have partnered with the Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain, nearby to our south, to regenerate the Tīeke.”

Director of Golf Richard Ellis said: “Tīeke Golf Estate is designed for players of all handicaps, the course designers have created a course like no other in New Zealand and it’s destined to be amongst the best in the country.”

Construction work began in early 2019 and the course opened for member play this week, with visitor play to be available from late December. Tīeke also has a new clubhouse designed by Adam Taylor of Industry Architects. The contemporary building provides 270-degree views out to the golfing landscape.

“It’s been a long journey and a huge step for a modest golf club in the heart of farming country,” said Tataurangi.