Millbrook looks to offer second course

Millbrook property and development manager Ben O'Malley (left) and director of golf Brian Spicer at Dalgleish Farm, which the resort has just bought. Photo from Mountain Scene.
Millbrook property and development manager Ben O'Malley (left) and director of golf Brian Spicer at Dalgleish Farm, which the resort has just bought. Photo from Mountain Scene.
Destination Queenstown has welcomed news Millbrook Resort has signed up to buy 66ha of neighbouring farmland, potentially looking to create a second 18-hole golf course.

DQ chief executive Graham Budd said the potential development was ''very exciting'' for the resort and golf tourism.

''I think there's already signs we're becoming so popular as a golfing destination we're reaching capacity for golfers at some times of the year.

''I wasn't anticipating any more golf development in the basin. To have them buy the extra land and see that's potentially [an option] is really good news.''

If Millbrook proceeds with the golf course extension, it could become the first course in New Zealand to offer two 18-hole courses, the Mountain Scene reported yesterday.

The deal is conditional only on Millbrook's founding Japanese owners, the Ishii family, gaining Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval.

Property and development manager Ben O'Malley said the resort was ''very excited about the acquisition'' and ''confident'' of obtaining OIO approval, given Millbrook's contribution to the local economy and the New Zealand tourism industry and the fact acquiring the land would enable Millbrook to create further employment and tourism opportunities for the district.

Four years ago, Millbrook added nine holes to the west of its 18-hole course, supported by substantial residential development around it.

It has now bought Dalgleish Farm, west of its new Coronet Nine, to attempt another expansion.

Mr O'Malley stressed no firm plans had been made and the company would take time to assess options.

''There are some obvious rural lifestyle options that we could work towards. However, it is the prospect of an extended golf offering that has us the most excited.

''We'll have a better idea of preferred options once we have the OIO decision and have been able to consult with relevant neighbours.''

Mr O'Malley said the golf option, again accompanied by residential development, would probably also be the hardest route, as it required a council plan change.

However it was also likely to have more benefits both for the resort and the wider community, he added.

The resort can offer only one 18-hole course at any time, through a mixture of its three nines.

''In peak times, we experience capacity issues regularly and so moving to a two-course layout would not only ease the pressure but also enable us to offer NZ's only two-course resort complex and double our capacity,'' director of golf Brian Spicer said.

Local course designer and former golf pro Greg Turner, who designed the Coronet Nine, has already looked at the new site's suitability for another nine holes. A member of Tourism NZ's golf tourism working party, he said the reputation of Queenstown as a golf destination was growing so rapidly demand risked exceeding supply.

''Expanding to 36 holes would, to all intents and purposes, add another course to the Queenstown offering.

''There's international evidence that demonstrates a high percentage of visitors will stay additional time to play the second course at a resort.

''That's not only good for Millbrook but also for Queenstown and New Zealand as a whole, given the high daily spend of the average golf tourist.

''Given the contours of the upper terrace of the land, with work and capital investment this land could be changed from unproductive sheep farming land into a spectacular highlands attraction, further enhancing Millbrook's reputation as the jewel in the crown of resort golf.''

John Hart, former All Blacks coach and chairman of the New Zealand Open organising committee, was also excited about the potential of a two-course layout.

The Open golf tournament was hosted for the first time this year by Millbrook, as well as The Hills nearby.

''It means we'll have a great opportunity to consider further expanding the NZ Open in future years,'' Mr Hart said.

Mr O'Malley said if Millbrook Resort opted to build another course, it was likely to be five years before anyone teed off.

 - by Philip Chandler, Additional reporting Tracey Roxburgh.