The Cut : The Cut - Winter 2016
134 THE CUT F ormer Royal Auckland Golf Club boss Warwick Hill- Rennie chuckles to himself about the commotion he caused in his first few days at Royal Melbourne. As he surveyed the sweeping grandeur before him from his first-floor corner office, the serenity below the majestic clubhouse suddenly imploded. For there, just beyond the bunkering around RM’s legendary East 18th, he spied what he thought was an out-of-control blaze about to engulf the club. The panic only subsided when an amused staffer put the frazzled new general manager straight: the “inferno” was in fact safely confined to a brazier, around which a foursome of women huddled for warmth before teeing off. It’s lit every morning, on request, by one of the 30-plus greenkeepers. The carpark may be lined with the latest Porsches and Maseratis, but old-world traditions are all part of the charm at this exclusive private members’ playground. Add in the revered Dr Alister MacKenzie design, a rich tournament history and gushing pro reviews and Royal Melbourne has a mystical allure on par with St Andrews or Augusta. Not even the chance to manage the merger between RM’s New Zealand sister club, Royal Auckland and the nearby Grange – and the resulting 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course – could stop Rennie-Hill from making a beeline through these gilded gates. “This is the number-one job in golf,” proclaims Hill-Rennie, barely two months into the role, but clearly finding his feet when The Cut drops by. Just that morning he was at a GM summit to discuss ways to make the “Sandbelt collective” a more bucket-list-friendly destination. The concept of unifying this revered group of eight neighbouring private clubs southeast of the Melbourne CBD has been around for a while. But aside from a website (sandbelt.com), logo and hardback book The Melbourne Sandbelt, published in 2011, the “destination marketing” has never got out of first gear. “What’s tended to happen until now is a bucket-list ticking off of one or two clubs,” says Hill-Rennie, who is drawing inspiration from Tourism New Zealand’s hugely successful tailored golf strategy with our acclaimed courses. “But we’re hoping that players will stay and play a bit longer and we can also bring the tier-two clubs into our thinking – there are some amazing golf experiences to be had in Victoria that aren’t in the headlines.” The Sandbelt’s other new kid on the block, Yarra Yarra Golf Jason Day and Adam Scott with the World Cup trophy.
The Cut - Spring 2016