Riverside Golf Club has appointed one of New Zealand’s longest-serving golf professionals and an old familiar face to two key positions at its new Tīeke course.
Richard Ellis will become golf director while well-known Waikato golf identity Warren Collett becomes part time general manager. The pair have a combined century-long golf knowledge and experience.
Tīeke Golf Estate is the former Lochiel course renovated over three years by Te Awamutu College old boy Phil Tataurangi and Brett Thomson of Mahi Tahi Golf Project.
On the site adjacent to Mystery Creek Events Centre is a redesigned 18-hole championship course and a new club house. It will reopen next month with more than 30,000 native plants back in the ground after the removal of hundreds of old trees and shrubs and the uncovering of sandy soils which sat dormant underneath the turf for more than 25,000 years.
Ellis is a life member of the New Zealand Professional Golfers Association and an honorary life member of the PGA of Australia.
“Tīeke is a spectacular achievement, an incredible new course and one that is going to rate highly in New Zealand. There is already great anticipation and huge demand to play Tīeke and it will very quickly become a must play course for golfers from everywhere,” he said.
Ellis recently moved to Cambridge from Pauanui with his wife Cushla and children Michael and Sarah. His company Pacific Golf Management have managed the golf operations since September.
The Tīeke Golf Estate is named after the ancient North Island saddleback which was o
nce widespread across New Zealand but declined in numbers during the 19th century because of forest clearances and introduced predators such as rats, cats and stoats.
Tīeke numbers are on the increase in Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and the Riverside club has formed a unique conservation partnership which will hopefully see the member of the wattle bird family return to the Mystery Creek area.
Collett began his golf administration career at Lochiel Golf Club from 1998 to 2007 and has managed North Shore and Manawatu golf clubs.
“I’m impressed with the strategy and planning that has gone into Tīeke over the past few years and I’m confident the club can be even more successful,” he said.
The club superintendent is former New Zealand Māori golf champion and Web.com player Jason Laing.
Riverside Golf Club was formed from a merger between the Narrows and Lochiel golf clubs in 2014. Not long after Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) designated several holes at the Narrows course as part of the proposed Southern Links Expressway.
After a lengthy settlement, the club sold Narrows enabling the investment to take place on the former Lochiel site.
Once Tīeke opens, the Narrows course will close, and ownership of the land revert to Waka Kotahi. It will not be used for golf.
“When I first heard about the renovation taking place at Lochiel, I was interested to see the changes. I didn’t expect to see an entirely new course and club house. It’s not just a new course but a fantastic development and a golf course unlike any other in New Zealand,” said Ellis.
“I’ve been involved in the start-up of a number of international golf courses, the Tīeke course and clubhouse is extraordinary, and I know once the members play the course, they will be very proud to be part of what has been created ‘One of the best courses in New Zealand’.”
Collett said he said yes when he was approached to work at Tīeke.
“I was so impressed with the layout, the quality of the new course, and the beautiful new clubhouse, I just knew I had to be involved.”