Intensity of work builds at The Hills

Trainee green keeper Mark Shuttleworth cuts the approach to the 18th green yesterday at The Hills. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Trainee green keeper Mark Shuttleworth cuts the approach to the 18th green yesterday at The Hills. Photo by Christina McDonald.
It is beginning to look spectacular, but that does not mean it is not spectacular all the time.

This week, the number of groundsmen priming The Hills golf course for the New Zealand Open swells from 22 to 36 and working hours will become more unsociable.

The Hills superintendent Brendan Allen, who works year-round at the course, described the tournament as ''the pinnacle of what we do''.

Mr Allen is well aware of the pressure placed on him to deliver a course to an exceptional standard for the Open.

The course is cut and watered every day and on Wednesday the groundsmen will start work at 4am, raking bunkers in complete darkness and using headlamps to see if they are mowing where they are meant to.

''If you miss [mowing] a stripe at 4.30am, it's completely wrecked a week's work,'' Mr Allen said.

The tournament was last held at The Hills in 2010.

This year's tournament is being co-hosted by The Hills and neighbouring Millbrook (first two rounds only) from Thursday until Sunday.

Asked how the course has changed since it last hosted the tournament, Mr Allen said there had been some subtle changes to strategy, including realigning the 18th fairway and changes to the long rough lines.