Turf Wars. The world's top golf clubs take on Titirangi (and Gazza)

At BOW, the outdoors is very much part of our DNA. For Helen and Gary Norris, their form of torture is spending hours trying to get a small white ball into a hole...only to swear they will do better the next day!

They love golf so much they are helping organise one of the biggest club-based golfing events on the NZ calendar, the Mackenzie Society Annual Gathering, at their home club, Titirangi. This event is so big it takes up accommodation at the top four hotels in Auckland and golfers are jetting in from 15 clubs around the world to compete.  

1. How did this event come about? 

A number of the courses around the world were designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie (a world famous golf course architect of the 1920 and 1930s). They got together and decided to play an annual tournament against each other. There are now 15 clubs in this Society, including Cypress Point (Ca, USA), Royal Melbourne, (Melbourne, Aus), Cork (Eire), The Jockey Club (Buenos Aries, Argentina), St Charles (Winnipeg, Canada), Alwoodley (Leeds, UK), Titirangi (Auckland, New Zealand) and many others.

2. Tell us what the tournament entails?

The tournament is held annually. There are men’s and women’s tournaments, which are held separately. This is the men’s one. Teams of 8 golfers from all 15 clubs, play 3 days of competition, and the team with the most points at the end wins.  Many of the players bring their partners, and they are also catered for with lots of activities over the 3 days; including golf, trips to Tiritiri Matangi and Waiheke, America’s Cup boat and harbour sailings, Bridge Climbs, all sorts. There are about 230 players, partners, ambassadors and then numerous volunteers, so easily over 300.

3. Run us through the massive prep involved

How long have you got!  We started planning in 2019 with putting together a full events programme. There’s a full powhiri welcome at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, a Gala Dinner at Sky City Grand, and all the partner activities over 4 days. There’s setting up the golf course for a three-day competition, and all the logistics that involves, with equipment, signage, caddies, marshalls, practice area facilities. All the transport logistics. Full individual programme schedule for players, where they need to be and when, who they are playing with each day etc. It’s huge.

4. Do you need a caddie (Sarah's hubbie,Will Hall, volunteered)

Hahaha. We have caddies on the practice day, so players get to play the course before the competition.  Will would need to do a crash course on how to play Titriangi, but he’s welcome. The caddy's main job is course management for the player, as well as carrying the clubs.

5. Describe one of the players or clubs?

Alister MacKenzie designed courses for what are now pretty prestigious clubs. Cypress Point for example has a small membership and it’s by invitation only.  It’s a beautiful course on the Monterrey Peninsula in California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with virtually no signposting to get there - either you know or you don’t.  A course with arguably the most famous par three in the world, and right next door to the famous Pebble Beach.  They couldn’t be more welcoming once you are there though. No casual play, ALL invitation only. 

Then there are famous UK clubs who are great fun, the Argentines, who live it up big time, and the Irish clubs who’ll party to the wee small hours.  However, Titirangi, Green Hills Alwoodley and St Charles, (all staying in the same hotel at the last trip) have the honour of actually drinking the hotel bar dry. The girls were the main culprits, I have photos.

6. Who are the top contenders

Home course advantage loosely applies, so this year Titirangi would be favourites as we have a strong team.  Green Hills (San Francisco) won last year at the Valley Club. They’re always strong. 

7. What are the courses?

 It’s all played at Titirangi Golf Club. 6-9 November.

8. When did you and Helen start playing golf?

  12 years ago, properly, although I had played a little before that, but only sporadically.

9. How well do you both do do it?

My best handicap is 8.9 last year. Helen has been down to a 10.4, which is low for a woman amateur.  She is a big hitter.

We’re good, but not great, amateur golfers. We’re currently in the final of the mixed competition at our club. We’re fairly even, but I take it more seriously. If Helen took it as seriously, she’d be in a very select group of sub 5 handicap amateur women golfers.

10. Why is playing golf like working with Sue? 

  Never engage with Sue on an empty stomach, same with golf.

11. If you could pick one person to play golf with who would it be.

Rory McElroy, or Bill Murray. (The comedian, and golfer)


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