Work on the original 18-hole course started in 1934 and because of the Great Depression, most of the
spadework was carried out by “volunteers” – otherwise known as labourers under the unemployment relief scheme.
It was carved from an uninspiring piece of land – a natural basin covered in gorse and bracken – and
as much of the area had been under water, the soil wasn’t particularly receptive to the cultivati on of tees, fairways and greens.
Until 1929 the area featured a small lake. Originally known as Lake Waiatarua, it was often called
Lake St John because it was on the land belonging to the Anglican church. The church established the St John’s Trust to manage the property.
While the army of volunteers contributed their time, skills and equipment to wrestle the course
from the scrub, one man stands out as the visionary who orchestrated it all – Bill Ralph.
In 1934 he secured a 54-year lease on 280 hectares from the St John’s Trust, and drove the team to accomplish the impossible. Money was tight, so several prominent Auckland businessmen became guarantors for a limited company to develop the course.
The club house was officially opened in 1935 and membership grew steadily. But course conditions
were tough: in addition to the fearsome rough (native bush), there was no way of watering the greens for many years. In summer huge cracks would appear in the greens and balls would often vanish down them.
Understandably, members soon began expressing their dissatisfaction and the committee decided an
upgrade was needed. Additional holes were built around the perimeter of the original course. That ultimately led to the establishment (in 1938) of two separate 18-hole courses: the original layout became a “public course” and the new one the “members’ course”.
Things at the club advanced fairly happily throughout the 50s (according to the NZ History website, golf was the country’s fastest-growing sport in the 50s). But driven by the ambition to create the “best course in Auckland” (if not New Zealand), members knew the lay-out needed upgrading.