The Club was the third to be formed in Auckland, originally taking over the site vacated by Auckland Golf Club, who not long before had departed to a new home at the Middlemore course in Otahuhu.
Initially, only nine holes were open for play, but with the lease of nearby land it was not long before members were able to enjoy an 18-hole layout.
This stay, though, was to be short-lived. One Tree Hill was public open space and with uncertainty over the security of their tenure going forward, members yearned for a home they could truly call their own and so the search was on for a new site.
It did not take long to locate. Land at New Lynn seemed perfect, with a 130-acre site not only a wonderful location for a course, but with excellent public transport links, an important consideration in times when cars were a luxury rather than the vehicle of the common man.
Plans were put on hold until the cessation of the First World War, but in 1919 two local professionals – FG Hood and Gilbert Martin – were engaged to undertake a permanent layout of the course, some preparatory work having already been undertaken. The New Lynn course was formally opened on 29 May 1920.
The Club continued to operate with two courses on two sites and rapidly grew at that time to be the largest in New Zealand.
This brought with it some problems and, concerned about course congestion, the forward-thinking committee of the day began seeking a golf course architect knowledgeable and sympathetic enough to effect changes they both desired and needed.
It took several years to find him, but the wait was worthwhile. Enter Dr. Alister MacKenzie, born in Yorkshire to Scottish parents, a man who had made his name designing courses both in his homeland and overseas.
He was on this side of the world overseeing a major redevelopment project at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, but through cable correspondence let it be known that he would indeed be interested in working his magic at Titirangi.
MacKenzie arrived in Auckland from Sydney on the passenger ship Marama on 4 January 1927 – and promptly went fishing!
Rejuvenated by this recreational time he duly got to work and it was a measure of his genius that it took less than a week following his return to analyse thoroughly the New Lynn golf links, assess its features and produce a full plan of the course and detailed diagrams of nine greens to be revamped.
In so doing MacKenzie at a stroke resolved all the issues that had dogged the Club since its inception, addressing the committee’s desire for a second starting place near the clubhouse and embracing the magnificent local features to come up with a masterplan that must have left the committee of the day drooling!
MacKenzie departed New Zealand, never to return. He never saw his work completed, though that mattered not to the Club’s forefathers, who now had a very clear and exciting direction for the future and one on which they were anxious to embark.
Bert Cooke was entrusted with the work, and an outstanding job he did. Between March 1927 and October 1928 he supervised and implemented the MacKenzie design to the letter.
It was a mammoth task. Only five of the existing greens were retained and new fairways were formed on nine holes.
The new course was officially opened by President Lawrence Taylor on 22 October 1928. Cooke was awarded honorary life membership for his significant contribution and the Club swiftly received its own accolades, being awarded the 1933 New Zealand Open Championship.
Incredibly, two courses were still in operation under the same Maungakiekie Golf Club banner right up until 1930. It was then that ties were severed, and two clubs were formed. The original club at One Tree Hill became Maungakiekie Golf Club, with the new site relinquishing that name and becoming Titirangi Golf Club.
Sadly, little more than a decade later Maungakiekie was requested to leave the site in 1942 when its lease expired.
Titirangi, by contrast, prospered. Having hosted one NZ Open, two others followed in 1951 and 1966 and a number of other tournaments confirmed not only the course as a layout of championship standard, but underlined the high regard in which it was held.
Exhibition matches, especially from professionals, were popular for a number of years, particularly early in the life of the course. Among the greats to have graced Titirangi are the legendary American players Walter Hagen (11 Major championships) and Gene Sarazen (a mere seven, but unlike Hagen one of five golfers to have won all four Majors). The South African Bobby Locke also visited several times and described Titirangi as New Zealand’s best course.
This, though, was only the precursor to the golden years that were to lie ahead as the Club became the country’s foremost tournament venue. From 1976 to 1992 Titirangi played host to a series of high-profile tournaments – most notably the Air New Zealand-Shell Open – that drew some of the world’s great golfing names.
Over this time the Club hosted the great Arnold Palmer, along with David Graham, Billy Casper, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Ian Baker-Finch and the then current US Open champion Andy North. Many other household names also discovered Links Road, with in all 19 winners of major championships taking part in these events.
These tournaments attracted thousands of spectators and evening larger TV audiences. If Titirangi was an undiscovered gem prior to this time, it was now most certainly on the golfing map.
And there it intends to stay. The Club enlisted the services of one of the leading course architects of modern times, Chris Pitman, in the late 1990s. A disciple of the principles of MacKenzie, he drew up a masterplan to return the course to its halcyon days.
It was no small task. At a cost of almost $5million it reflected the importance of what was essentially Titirangi’s crown jewel – the course – its place in the history of golf in New Zealand and the necessity of preserving it for future generations as a reminder of just how good golf course design could be. The results, we hope, speak for themselves.
2016 saw the Club needing to engage the services of a new course architect trained and versed in the MacKenzie principles and doctrines as it needed to address safety concerns on the boundaries of two holes and to complete the restoration of the remaining two holes that had not been performed.
Clyde Johnson, a young course designer based at St Andrews in Scotland, who did his internship under Tom Doak, was recommended. He was commissioned by the Club to not only look at the four holes mentioned above but to review all Titirangi’s holes to see if any improvements were needed or changes made to ensure our MacKenzie design was being upheld.
Those further developments and recommendations will take shape over the next few years.