Harwarden Club Captain Tim Elms describes golfing at one of the South Island’s best and charming rural courses:
“I’ve been asked to give you a bit of information on our golf club – Hawarden Golf Club here in Hawarden, North Canterbury, New Zealand. We have a very nice and challenging 9-hole course in the sheep farming area of Canterbury.
“The club has a part-time green keeper and he only does about 20 hours a week.* The remainder of the work is done by club members. It is not unusual on club working “bee” days to see a couple of tractors and graders working around the course. Many members are farmers which is a great help. Being a small club with a membership of less than 100 we do have limited resources. For example we don’t have a fairway watering system. Consequently during the time of drought in summer it’s like playing off concrete! The benefits are that even with a duff shot one can usually get enough run to make an awful shot a bit better.
“When I first moved to live in Hawarden after living many years in the city of Christchurch, and after playing my golf at a manicured, 18-hole town club I had this great conception that my handicap would come tumbling down. My thinking was that as it is a 9-hole course and to play our 18-hole game we have to play each hole twice. So, I thought that this has got to be easy as I would soon master the course with two “goes” at each hole during every round. Oh dear, my handicap and my theory went out the window and my handicap went out by about 3 shots!
“The other feature of our club is the notorious nor’wester wind that blows across our course. This is illustrated by several trees around the course that are growing at an angle of 45 degrees! It’s an interesting sight when playing during a strong Nor’wester when having a putt, to watch your golf trolley going past under it’s own steam, ‘wind assisted!’
“Our feature hole, in my opinion, is number 4 , also it is number 13 on the ‘back’ 9. This has a spectacular view of Mount Tekoa in the Southern Alps. On the adjoining fairway of #14 is the revered ‘Gin Tree.’ If you play your ball into it you have to buy a G&T for your playing partners! Contrary to popular belief regarding some North Canterbury golf courses, Hawarden doesn’t have its greens fenced to keep animals from grazing and we do not have to round up and move sheep before the day’s play can begin!”
Men’s day: Saturdays at 12:30 pm
Ladies: Tuesdays at 9:30 am
Twilight is Wednesdays at 5:30 pm
There’s an “honour box” at clubhouse front door for the nominal green fees.
Tim’s description of Hawarden in drought conditions is similar to those on our 9-hole course. Spoiled by playing on manicured courses, many find it difficult to play on “concrete,” and as well cope with sloping fairways on what was once a grazing pasture in the 1960′s. No cattle nor sheep now, but those free-flying Canada Geese make a heck of a mess around the ponds and wetland areas. For all the challenges would we change our little course with all its “hazards?” No way!
And for those who would like to visit and perhaps overnight in the area, Tim recommends Hanmer Springs, an alpine township about 40 minutes from Harwarden and about 1.5 hours from Christchurch. Nice walks, scenic golf course, trout rivers and at Hanmer Springs, a uniquely-designed thermal pool complex for all the family to enjoy. Avoid holidays and weekends for a less crowded visit. A few area websites are: www.hurunui.com – www.alpinepacifictourism.co.nz – www.hanmersprings.co.nz – www.hanmersprings.co.nz/thermal/pools.
*A recent update from Tim states that “the green keeper is now……..me! I do one day a week, usually Fridays with one other member. It does not pay much but keeps me in beer!”
Tim’s tips on local digs:
“Accommodation is limited in Hawarden apart from some very basic cabins at the back of our local pub. (A great meeting place on a Saturday afternoon for local golfers). I also have a Dutch couple of friends (Rein and Gertuud) who run a home stay operation just out of Hawarden. Their place is called ‘The Dutch Station.’ They’re a nice couple and have ‘Dutch golf’ which is fun to play. It’s a bit like pitch and putt but the clubs are sticks with a clog on the end and the balls are about the size of tennis balls. Fun and games only 3 minutes from the golf course too. Their web site is www.thedutchstation.com.
“There’s also ‘Tulloch Glas,’ a two-unit motel in a small place just 8kms from Hawarden. The phone number is (03)3144931 and the place name is Waikari – the terminus of the Weka Pass Railway.”
WEKA PASS RAILWAY
Like many other railway lines destined for dereliction around the world, a group of dedicated volunteers have preserved the Weka Pass Railway as part of New Zealand’s rail heritage. Restored locos, cars, coaches and track have recreated a unique treat for passengers – a train ride that takes them back to a long-ago time through the picturesque Weka Pass.
In the early 1880′s many men worked tirelessly to move tons of clay and limestone by hand to excavate all the cuttings and construct large embankments. Amazingly the Pass was completed in just over two years.
During our planned visit to the South Island this year my husband and I will ride the historic Weka Pass Railway along its 12.8 km scenic line. As a steam train buff, Geoff hopes rather than ride the vintage diesel-electric, we’ll once again enjoy the chuff, chuff, chuff of a vintage coal-fired steam locomotive – the 1909-built “A” Class “Pacific” number 428 – the only one of it’s type still operational..
From Waipara the loco will puff contentedly through gently sloping farmland passing a large irrigation reservoir alongside row upon row of thirsty vineyards. When #428 begins to strain along winding track leading into high country the crew will raise full steam to climb grades as steep as 1:50 (2%).
In the heart of the Pass we’ll look for Frog Rock and Seal Rock, limestone rocks affected by constant weathering. And because these lands were once under the sea, perhaps we’ll see marine fossils and shells imbedded in the cutting walls. Then at Waikari the loco will turn around for the return trip to Waipara – No runaway trains on the down grade please!
Other interesting destinations: The Star & Garter Pub, the Historic Hurunui Hotel and Pub overlooking the rushing Hurunui River and the Canterbury House Winery which is now known as “The Mud House.” It still has a restaurant and makes wine but under “The Mud House” label. So there you are – a comprehensive rundown on touring the Harwarden to Hamner Springs area. And thanks again, Tim for taking time out from fishing!