Work has begun to turn Hawke's Bay Golf Club into a viable entity and to counter declining membership that all clubs are grappling with in the country.

Club president Mike Maguire said last night the club had sold 11.6ha of the 56.4ha course property in a bid to repay about $500,000 debt, believed to be a mortgage dating back to late last century.

"The challenge for any golf club is financial sustainability and, as a club, we've been carrying a substantial mortgage for quite some time," he said.

A member at the club since 2001, Maguire's research revealed the debt dated back almost three decades from the time he started there.


"We managed to stabilise our debt but for a small club, or even a larger one, to service a debt like that takes a lot of your funds and you're not reinvesting in the game to enable your course to develop properly."

He said the club was managing "to hold our head above water". In the past four years, bar one year, it posted a modest surplus.

The club has a sale of purchase agreement, which has passed "its traditional stage" and should be done and dusted come January.

Gourmet Blueberries Ltd, a neighbouring business, has bought the 11.6ha property.

"We've got some funding applications in so the overall success of our development will be on things like irrigation," he said, adding they would come via grants.

Everything adhering to the script, the course redesign and redevelopment will be completed by June next year.

"We wouldn't be doing this if we weren't going to be mortgage free," he said.

The club is teeing up the whole exercise to coincide with its 50th anniversary next year.

Grant Puddicombe, based in Auckland but whose course designing and building services offshore to Canada, the United States and Japan, is the architect behind the revamped course.

The Canadian, who designed the Wainui golf course in Auckland, has completed his work.

"The trees should have started coming down [yesterday]," Maguire said of the more than $300,000 project.

The men's par-73 course measures 6103m (club) and 6436m (championship), and the women's par-74 one is 5417m. They will become shorter after the restructuring.

"It'll still be 18 holes but we'll be building four new ones but the course will be modified quite a bit."

The men's club course will mutate to a par-71 course and it'll end up with one more par-3 hole, which means a par-5 one will disappear.

"Two holes will require people to play over water. We have currently got water hazards so those holes with water will go and two other areas will be used in what will become attractive water hazards."

With the rest of the holes remaining the same in dimension, Maguire said the redesign would incorporate the features of the landscape with minimum disruption to the topography but accentuating features "within a very tight budget".

The club's close to 300 members had requested the redesign should offer challenges but not lose its character.

"That's what we've tried to do. The new par 3s will introduce a new challenge in Hawke's Bay," Maguire said.

In keeping with kicking the mortgage into touch, the members were assured their subscriptions would remain the same after the facelift.

"This project will not increase our members' fees."

Maguire said there would be some disruptions at the course while construction work was under way but every effort would be made to keep it to a minimum.

"Most of the whole redevelopment will be this spring and there'll be a growing season for the fairways and ground areas."

He said in early autumn the turf would be peeled off the existing greens and laid down on the new ones.

"We will reuse the greens because their pliability is close in terms of the grass surface anyway."

The youngest of the four major golf courses in the Bay, the club, formerly the Flaxmere Golf Club, is built on pumice land at the end of Valentine Rd, 10km from the Hastings central business district.

Commander John Harris designed the course, which was opened in 1969 after enthusiasts, including non-golfers, spent countless hours collecting pumice and lugging buckets of water from a tanker to the newly-planted trees.

The club was among the first in the country to lay down Kiwi browntop and fescue fairways, sporting expansive Pencross greens, on the entire tree-lined course that has become a sanctuary for fauna, such as doves, wild duck, plover, heron and the noisy pied stilts, which nest in and populate the water hazards skirting the course.

The course, which offers panoramic views of Te Mata Peak to the east and the Northern Ruahines to the west, is adjacent to the affluent Hastings Golf Club.

In the yesteryear, the two clubs often combined courses to offer a more challenging proposition to pro-am golfers.

Next month the Hawke's Bay GC is hosting the New Zealand under-17 girls' tournament while Hastings, also known as Bridge Pa, is staging the equivalent boys' one.