Opportunity to buy your own golf course

An 1860s sod cottage makes an unusual club house.
An 1860s sod cottage makes an unusual club house.
The Margaret Mackay Private Golf Course.
The Margaret Mackay Private Golf Course.
John and Anna Mackay at their Waianakarua farmstay overlooking the river.
John and Anna Mackay at their Waianakarua farmstay overlooking the river.

Dreaming of squeezing a round in any time you like? North Otago reporter Rebecca Ryan discovers a private Waianakarua golf course with a special story lies in wait at for the right buyer. 

Not many people can say they own their own private golf course.

But there is a rare opportunity to do so at Waianakarua, North Otago, where the nine-hole Margaret Mackay Private Golf Course is for sale.

Officially opened in 1927, the golf course has been owned and maintained by Anne and John Mackay for the past 13 years and has been in Mackay family since the early 1900s.

Designed by a course designer of the day, the course is named after Mr Mackay's aunt, Margaret Mackay, a stalwart of the North Otago community.

In 1929, she became the second woman, after Ethel Benjamin, to be admitted to the Bar in Dunedin and was subsequently promoted to the position of managing clerk.

Miss Mackay practised law in Oamaru until she was 85 years old and was known as a ‘‘real character'' about town.

‘‘Many, many people around North Otago remember her,'' Mrs Mackay said.‘‘So many people still say: ‘Oh I remember Miss Mackay when I bought my first farm. She was good to me'.''

Miss Mackay's service to the law and her clients over a long period was without equal anywhere in New Zealand and she was regarded as a true pioneer among women in the legal profession.

The story of the Margaret Mackay Private Golf Course started in the early 1900s, when a Waianakarua farmer received an offer for a 40-acre (16ha) section of his land.

The farmer went to his lawyer to discuss the offer, from the Sargood family firm, concerned about possible developments.

The area was a favourite venue for the Sargood family firm's annual staff picnics.

His lawyer, A.J. Grave, expressed his own interest in buying the piece of land and the farmer instead sold the land to Mr Grave.

Mr Grave subdivided the land, keeping one section for himself and sold others to family and a friend.

He developed his section into a golf course, which was officially opened in 1927.

The course has hosted players from around the world, including the Scottish Ladies Champion in 1935.

Each of the other sections was developed with a holiday house and they all remain in the ownership of descendants.

When Mr Grave died in 1948 he left the golf course to Miss Mackay, his niece.

She owned, maintained and played on the course for 50 years.

When she died in 1998, the golf course was passed on to her 11 nephews, including Mr Mackay.

‘‘All 11 nephews were very delighted to be gifted a golf course, but the practicalities of the cost and everything else, some of them started saying they would rather have their share,'' Mrs Mackay said.

Thirteen years ago, Mr and Mrs Mackay made an offer to buy the golf course in its entirety. They were living nearby on 100-acre (40ha) farm Glen Dendron.

‘‘We never planned to own a golf course, and we don't play golf, but it's been a privilege to have it,'' she said.

They had moved to Waianakarua, seven years before buying the golf course, from Moa Flat in West Otago.

As a teenager, Mr Mackay boarded at Waitaki Boys' High School.

‘‘My brother and most of the male cousins went to Waitaki Boys' High School, so in the weekends we'd be taken out [to Waianakarua] and we went to see [Miss Mackay] in the office every Friday,'' he said.

There was an opportunity, with consent, to build a home by the private golf course on a terrace above the Waianakarua River.

Mr and Mrs Mackay had always planned to do so, but instead decided to move to a country club in the North Island, where they would be closer to family.

‘‘We've done a lot of travel overseas, but it's time to see a bit more of New Zealand,'' Mrs Mackay said.

They said it was time to ease up from running the farm, farmstay and golf course.

None of the family had shown interest in owning the golf course, so it had been listed for sale.

A small group of golfers uses the course once a week and assists in maintaining the green.

‘‘Other people ring up and ask to play and we're always delighted to have it used,'' Mrs Mackay said.

In 2002, the course hosted more than 200 people for a Grand Victorian Picnic, staged jointly by the Herbert Heritage Group and the Waianakarua Lions Club, as part of the final day of the New Zealand Rhododendron Association's annual conference.

‘‘It was a community effort, but it was based at the golf course [and] I remember thinking how John's aunt would've enjoyed that,'' she said.

The course looked its best in the spring, when daffodils, azaleas and rhododendrons were in full bloom, Mrs Mackay said.

An 1860s sod cottage remains on the course, with its sod floor intact. The rest was rebuilt to become the golf house, decorated with golfing memorabilia.

Farmlands real estate agent Barry Kingan said there had been significant interest in the property since it was listed in early January.

Owning a golf course was a unique opportunity in North Otago and New Zealand.‘‘I don't know how many others there would be around the country,'' Mr Kingan said.


Margaret Mackay
Margaret Mackay

Margaret Mackay (1903-98)

- Worked as junior typist in her uncle's Oamaru law firm, Grave & Grave, and studied law by correspondence.

- In 1929 became the second woman, after Ethel Benjamin, to be admitted to the bar in Dunedin.

- In 1946 became a partner in Lee, Grave & Zimmerman, but opposition from one partner was so strong that her name was not added to the partnership list until his retirement in 1961.

- Involved with the Presbyterian Support Services and the opening of the Iona Home; a wing is named after her.

- Died in 1998, aged 95.

 

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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