Coloured revolution at Manawatu

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 13:03 24/07/2014

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Resort courses aside, the board of the Manawatu Golf Club consider themselves revolutionaries.

No other course in the country is pushing the benefits of their newly installed multi-tee system like Manawatu.

It means Hokowhitu golfers now have seven options when it comes to playing the course from different lengths, two more than the remodelled Royal Wellington layout.

It came about through the persistence of board member Karen Manninen who started the project 29 months ago when Hokowhitu had only three tees, championship, club men's and women's.

"The committee straight up thought it was a good idea," she said.

Now the only dedicated men's tees are the black ones. Gone is the term "ladies tees" in favour of "non-gender".

Most male club players have been hitting off the blue and red tees. The reds were initially anathema to some of the men who gave Manninen a flea in her ear about playing a shortened course, based on how long they hit the ball off the tee.

She said a week later some of them came back and told her they had liked the experience, especially in cold, damp winter conditions. This time of year is when most player handicaps blow out.

"So many are now choosing to play off the reds and really enjoying it."

Initially there was disbelief from some that it would work and that anyone would use then. But Manninen continued undaunted.

"There have been times when it would have been easier to say, ‘stuff it'," she said.

Manninen got the idea from a Golf Digest article championing the idea of playing shorter courses, to also quicken play.

Now Hokowhitu is strewn with colour, from black tee markers to blue, red, white, orange, green and purple (the equivalent of a 9-hole layout). Each has its own course rating which the computer adjusts for handicapping.

"It is the way a lot in the United States are going," Manninen said. "You've got to move with your customers and encourage them to stay. Golf has to be more enjoyable to people."

She said there is no point in asking beginners to play on long courses, getting disenchanted and walking away from the sport.

It has come at a cost with new signage needed and new tee blocks and irrigation.

Jack Nicklaus is backing the Tee it Forwards programme in the US, as are the PGA of America and the USPGA.

NZ Golf's Phil Aickin said no club is pushing it like Manawatu. He intends doing a case study on it.

"It's a nice option with everyone now pressured for time and with memberships falling, it seems to be a good move to shorten up the course," he said.

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"It doesn't mean scratch golfers can't tee it up at the back tees."

He said a few other progress clubs are looking for shorter course options."

- Manawatu Standard

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