The Hills News
One of the most interesting - and admired - developments in the Wakatipu in the past three years has been the rise and rise of Sir Michael Hill's private golf course, The Hills.
Nestled in an expansive area on the outskirts of Arrowtown, The Hills has been credited with giving the New Zealand Golf Open a new lease on life.
In November 2007, the course was opened to the public for the first time when it hosted the the open, with the level of interest exceeding expectations.
Aside from the sporting action, there was an entertainment area, Main St, which catered for those more interested in the atmosphere than the golf, and Mark Hill's sculptures were dotted around the course providing talking points for golfers and non-golfers alike.
The New Zealand Open was back in March 2009 and again in January 2010, before it was announced earlier this year the tournament would be moving to the Clearwater course in Christchurch.
Bringing the Open to Queenstown confirmed the resort's standing as not only a holiday and adventure tourism destination but also as a premier golfing destination.
It has also turned The Hills into an internationally recognised brand.
The Hills general manager Ian Douglas said losing the Open was disappointing, but he remained hopeful it would return to the course. A feasibility study is under way to see if The Hills could host the smaller PGA tournament and it hopes to gain hosting rights within the next year.
However, hosting a PGA event was dependent on affordability and player pulling power, Mr Douglas said.
Despite the Open not returning in 2011, it is a busy year for the 202ha course, which is hosting several former international rugby players during the World Cup, taking on a new event on the international golfing calendar - the Four Nations Cup - in October and holding its annual Cure Kids Open.
The Four Nations Cup is contested by the top four male amateurs from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Mr Douglas said since 2008 The Hills' biggest challenge had been dealing with the recession, while the highlight for the club had been the recognition of its brand both locally and internationally.
The Hills was recently named by the New Zealand Professional Golfers Association as the second-best course in the South Island.
Jack's Point was rated No 1 and Millbrook No 3.
The Hills has 110 members - membership costs $10,000 per annum - and Mr Douglas said the club was keen to build on that number as it looked to achieve its goal of standing "at the top of the heap" in terms of golf courses and brands.
"It is building slowly and it's looking positive."
But aside from its golfing success, The Hills has won awards and widespread recognition for its ground-breaking design and concepts.
The Andrew Patterson-designed clubhouse won an award at the 2008 New Zealand Institute of Architects Resene Awards and was also a finalist at the inaugural World Architecture Festival in Barcelona in 2008.
In 2009, Sir Michael received consent to construct 17 subterranean houses around the course, 15 of those to be used as visitor accommodation.