Golfing great Sir Bob Charles has lent his support to a group opposing the scaling back of a popular Auckland golf course.

The 18-hole Chamberlain Park Golf Course in Mt Albert is owned and operated by Auckland Council.

The Albert-Eden Local Board wants to redevelop the course to open it to the wider community - cutting the golf course to nine holes and adding a new aquatic centre, playground, cycleways and two artificial turf sports fields.

But the lobby group Save Chamberlain Park amassed more than 6000 signatures in protest at the redevelopment of the golf course, one of only two public courses in Auckland.

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Lobby group Save Chamberlain Park amassed more than 6000 signatures in protest at the redevelopment of the Chamberlain Gold Course in Mt Albert. Photo / Michael Craig
Lobby group Save Chamberlain Park amassed more than 6000 signatures in protest at the redevelopment of the Chamberlain Gold Course in Mt Albert. Photo / Michael Craig

The group successfully sought a judicial review of the local board's plans.

On Wednesday, an Auckland High Court representative said Justice Simon Moore's decision had not yet been released. It was not yet known when the decision would come out.

Charles - appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to golf in the 1999 New Year Honours - has sent a message of support to the Save Chamberlain Park group.

"It has come to my attention that the Chamberlain Park Golf Course may lose some or most of its 18 hole layout to be used for a facility other than golf," Charles said in his message.

"This is most disturbing to someone who is endeavouring to grow the great game of golf.

"Participation and membership in golf in New Zealand is falling, as in most of the world, due to three things - cost, time and difficulty…

"We can ill afford to lose Chamberlain Park, one of two public golf courses in a city of over one million people, which produces fifty thousand rounds of golf per annum."

Chamberlain Park Golf Course is one of two public gold courses in Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Chamberlain Park Golf Course is one of two public gold courses in Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham


Charles said Chamberlain Park was a family golf course and made the sport accessible to people on a low budget.
 
"Personally, I have enjoyed considerable success from playing this great game of golf, as has Lydia Ko, and it hurts me to think many young boys and girls will not have the opportunity to follow in our footsteps because Auckland's premier public golf course comes to an end."

Charles, one of the most successful left-handed golfers of all time, told the Weekend Herald it was important to him the Chamberlain Park Golf Course be kept at 18 holes. "I'd hate to see it chopped up."

Auckland Council general manager community facilities Rod Sheridan said: "We are awaiting the High Court's decision on the Chamberlain Park judicial review and have no further comment to make at this stage.

"Works on the proposed development have yet to begin."

Charles, 82, who lives in Christchurch, told the Herald he was still regularly playing golf.

"As long as it's 15C or more, I'll go and hit balls just about every day on the range."

Charles said his life would not have been the same if it were not for golf.

"I had an opportunity there and I grasped it and made the most of it."

At age 18 he won the NZ Open at Heretaunga in 1954 as an amateur. He went on to win
75 individual tournaments.

"I started hitting a golf ball ever since I could walk," Charles said. "From the age of 3 or 4.

"Although the golf ball was actually a tennis ball… for safety reasons. A tennis ball doesn't do as much damage as a golf ball."

Charles was appointed to the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest honour, for services to New Zealand, in the 2011 New Year Honours.