Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 50, September 2006
(By Graham Watton, author of "A Century of Golf Strokes")
The Paeroa Golf Club has established a proud record in New Zealand golf, being one of the very few clubs to reach its centenary milestone by continuous service to its members and the community.
There are clubs who boast of much earlier formation than 1904, but down through the years all but a handful of them have been hit by adversity which lead to recession..
The club records of those early years, from 1904 to 1925, have disappeared and the history has been traced through the newspapers of the time, the Ohinemuri Gazette and the Hauraki Plains Gazette. Several founding members wrote to the 50th jubilee of the club in 1954 recording their experiences at the turn of the 20th century.
Mr H. J. Hanna, in his letter, stated that he had formed a private golf course, on the Ohinemuri River flats on the Buchanan farm, "Hurihuri", just east of Paeroa on the Waihi Road. This property is still in the Buchanan family. He was forced to give the venture away owing to the regular floods covering the area with silt. This could have been around the turn of the century, 1900.
A group of Paeroa ladies joined forces in 1904 to form the Paeroa Ladies' Golf Club and they had their 9-hole course on Mr Nicholls' property (opposite the present Paeroa College). Their men folk joined them, and no doubt they did the heavy development work for the greens and the fairways.
Mr Frank Budd wrote stating that the Paeroa club was in full swing in 1905 as he was a member of the Waihi club team which played in an inter-club fixture between the two clubs.
A report in the Ohinemuri Gazette of April 27, 1906, records that a meeting of interested gentlemen and ladies decided to form the Paeroa Golf Club. The first president was Mr E. G. B. Moss, a prominent solicitor, and the secretary-treasurer Mr D. T. Inglis. At the end of that season members played for trophies.
After another season on the rough course on Nicholls property, the club negotiated a lease for 10 pounds ($20) with the Ohinemuri Jockey Club to use the centre of its race course in Thames Road. Members set about laying out a 9-hole course. The lease included the use of one of the rooms in the grandstand for social occasions.
The 9-hole course criss-crossed the race track and also two gullies filled with scrub, fern and blackberry. Members worked tirelessly to maintain a reasonable course despite fences to stop the sheep and cattle reaching the greens and rough nature of the fairways.
With membership on the increase the club was making sound progress. When the First World War (1914-18) struck, younger members of the club went off to serve King and Country. The older members and in particular the ladies filled the vacancies on the working-bees and maintained a very active club.
There was a surge of interest in 1919, the club became incorporated and in 1920 the lady members formed their own committee to organise their competition and representative teams. This was the foundation of the Paeroa Ladies' Golf Club as it is known today.
During the winters of 1925 and 1926 the golfers not only had to content with the testing course, the stock, the fences, the gates, but had to share the grounds with the local rugby players. They came to the race course to play their club and representative games while the Paeroa Domain was having a complete make-over—ploughed, levelled, drainage and new grass seed.
With increasing membership in both men and women putting pressure on starting times on Saturday afternoons, several members of the club, in 1929, started looking for a property that the club could purchase and have as their own home.
By 1934 the membership had broken the 100 mark, and the women were forced to play their competitions on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Jockey Club now getting more race days, was undertaking extensive renovations to its track, and this caused added problems. The club's attempt to have a fixed 10-year lease was not accepted by the Jockey Club.
Endeavours to find a suitable property were stepped up and by 1938 negotiations for a 21-year lease were held with the Maori owners of some 118 acres on the upper Old Te Aroha Road (Rotokohu Road). This was finally signed off in October, 1939, and the club terminated its lease of the Jockey Club property at the end of the same month.
Closing day, October 28, 1939, brought the curtain down on the race course venue, although there were some members who were not altogether happy with the move. They were leaving reasonable playing conditions to face an area of land covered with tall scrub, fern, huge clumps of blackberry, rubbish growth and a large area of un-drained swamp.
Under the direction of neighbouring farmer and club president Hal Thorp, contractors were engaged and there was a huge contribution of time and machinery by members to clear around 40 acres and produce a 9-hole course of sorts for opening day on May 4, 1940.
The lady members were quickly into action in an old rundown cottage on the property turning this into a comfortable clubhouse, which with renovations and additions served the club for next 27 years. The club had a new home.
The hard slog for members continued as they consolidated the new course and then extended this to a full 18 holes, which was brought into use on opening day, 1948. There was no let-up for members as they developed the greens and fairways into some of the best in the Waikato district.
When the lease for the land came up for renewal, members "bit the bullet", raised the funds and purchased the two blocks, the first of 26 acres in 1961 and the remainder in 1963 for a total of 6000 pounds ($12,000), taking over the titles on June 1, 1963.
Course architect Harry Dale was called in to re-designed the 18-hole layout and produce a course which was the foundation for the current layout. This meant more hard work for members as they toiled making new and renovating other greens, with some massive earthworks on the fairways over a 10-year period.
Now that the club had its own land and was moving ahead with a new course design, attention was turned to the clubhouse, which had been outgrown by the progress and increasing membership. Plans and funding were put in place and in May, 1967 a new two-storeyed clubhouse was opened. The ground floor was concrete walls of comprising the changing rooms and toilets, while the top floor, a large open space serviced by a bar and kitchen facilities.
The clubhouse was opened on July 8, 1967, but 11 months later, June 15, 1968, it was reduced to ashes, and twisted steel beams inside the concrete block walls after a fierce fire started by burglars.
To overcome this severe shock members once again pulled together, called on the club's tremendous spirit, and by July the same year a second club house started to rise from the ashes. This was opened on March 29, 1969. It was of similar design but a little larger than the previous one and, with fittings, cost $20,000.
Apart from these disasters over the past almost 40 years the club has continued to develop its Rotokohu (Valley of the Mist) course and facilities through sound management and loyal green-keeping staff. There must be special mention made here of the club's first profession green keeper, Charlie Moore, who came to the club in early 1970 and played a prominent part in the course development to reach a very high standard.
The women of the club, from that first meeting in 1921, have given tireless and devoted support to the club. During the two world wars they rolled up their sleeves and got "stuck-in" to ensure the club continued to serve its members and the community. In more recent times the women have been the main fund-raisers for the club by meeting an annual budget of around $7000 per year.
Both men and women have carried the name of the club with distinction in competition within the Thames Valley, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty-Thames Valley, and even further afield.
The Paeroa Golf Club can be justifiable proud of their first 100-years—they have one of the best country courses and facilities in New Zealand.