At 8.30am last Thursday, when I met Geoff Senescall in the lounge at Chamberlain Park Golf Course, he was in his golfing gear: sleeveless padded jacket and shorts in the kind of loud check that would get you arrested anywhere other than on a golf course.
When I asked him if he was planning a round, he said he'd already played one. A 6.45am start was early enough for him to get through the equivalent of 18 holes by playing two balls up some fairways. At Chamberlain Park, you can rock up on a whim at daybreak and be at your desk by 9am.
On the edge of the northwestern motorway between Western Springs and Mt Albert, only a few minutes from downtown, CP is the only public course on the isthmus. The cheap green fees ($25-$32) and absence of stuffy dress-code protocols add to its accessibility.
But its future - certainly in its existing form - is under threat. The Albert-Eden Local Board is proposing a redevelopment of the course to broaden public access: under various scenarios ranging in projected cost from $600,000 to $18.5 million, it will take some land from the golfers and make it available for general recreation - even though Western Springs Park, just outside the board's boundaries, is just across the motorway.
All four options reduce by between 20 and 50 per cent the length of a course that has been shorter than average since the northwestern motorway carved through its northern flank in the 1970s. Various options take out the northeastern quarter of the course - the existing holes 5 to 9 - and put some greens in the end of two fairways. One cuts the course back to nine holes. Two create sports training fields, for which the board says the area has a crying need.
Regular player Richard Quince, with the help of Senescall, who runs a PR consultancy, is leading the charge against the change, before the final public consultation period ends on June 2. They say there is no public mandate for the "carve-up" of a well-used resource.
How well-used? The board received a report last year by a management consultant saying only 9000 rounds of golf a year are played at the course. The golfers say it's more like 50,000. The revenue for the 2014 year of just north of $1 million, divided by an average green fee, suggests the golfers' calculators are working better than the consultants'.
What's more, say the golfers, CP serves a specific need not catered for by other courses on the isthmus. As anyone who plays there knows, most players are casual: many are pensioners; working-class people and brown faces proliferate.
Senescall: "I spoke to two women out there this morning in their 70s, who had come in from Bucklands Beach and Howick. They like it because it's flattish, the fairways are a bit more generous - and it's cheap."
Quince says the initial consultation, which asked what sports people would like to see played at Chamberlain Park, did not include golf as an option; more than half of the respondents selected "other" as their option, and many of them wanted golf.
But board member Graeme Easte told me last week that the status quo was no longer on the table. "We haven't made up our mind what we are going to do," he said, "but we have made up our mind that we are going to do something."
He acknowledges the initial consultation was poorly handled and inadequately publicised. "That's why we didn't hear from ordinary local people and we are hoping we will hear from them this time round."
Leaflet drops in the area may alert neighbours, but Senescall and Quince want the golfers from far and wide who play at the course to lend their voice to the debate, too.
Easte says that it's not purely a numbers game.
"Yes, if a lot of people say something, we listen, but we also look at the quality of the argument."
One high-quality argument may be that the redesign, which is intended to be included on the Council's 2015-2025 Long-Term Plan, may just be too expensive. Board member Rachel Langton, who is concerned that the status quo has been ruled out as an option, is worried about cost.
"It does seem like a very expensive project when almost 50 per cent of our households are being stung with rates rises of over 10 per cent," she says.
Disclosure: Peter Calder is a very occasional - and risibly erratic - player at Chamberlain Park.