New Zealand’s very own ‘leftie’ Sir Bob Charles who won his first Open as a gangly 18-year-old amateur and went on to lift the trophy three more times, is one of this year’s ambassadors for the 100th event.

More than 100 amateur players will play alongside the professionals in this uniquely successful pro-am format, and take aim at a prize purse of around NZ$1.3 million.

Queenstown’s appeal

Over the years the Open has been staged at golf courses around the country, but these days a major drawcard for professionals from around the globe, keen amateurs and well-known ambassadors is the fact that it’s held in Queenstown.

Outstanding championship courses at Millbrook Resort and The Hills (and at Jacks Point where those who don’t make the weekend ‘cut’ play on Saturday) are on a par with many around the world.

The Remarkables mountain range and Southern Alps make for a magnificent backdrop that wows visiting spectators and global TV viewers. Queenstown’s thriving tourism activities, world-renowned wineries and world-class walking and biking trails are a drawcard for golfers, families and friends. 

Tournament week fun

Tournament week isn’t all about the golf – NZ Open organisers like to inject some extra-curricular fun into the build up and the event itself.

Monday 25 February

Some of the world’s biggest sports stars are taking part in a fun, family-friendly and free cricket match from 4:30pm. The inaugural ‘MCG Invitational’ invites a stellar line-up of cricket and golf greats to play a Queenstown All Stars XI at the Millbrook Cricket Ground.

Former NZ cricket captain Stephen Fleming leads the internationals, joined by former Blackcaps captain Brendon McCullum, Australia’s Ricky Ponting and ‘Double All Black’ Jeff Wilson. Other names include rally driver Hayden Paddon, Indian golfer Shiv Kapur and Aussie golf pro Matt Guyatt. Sir Ian Botham will coach.

The lucky Queenstown All-Stars XI lining up to play their heroes has been selected from the Queenstown 20/20 League. 

Wednesday 27 February

For the first time ever, the NZ Open hosts a fun Par 3 event where the world’s best golfers take a break from the stress of professional golf and involve wives, girlfriends, children and friends.

This Par 3 will be played on Sir Michael Hill’s brand-new ‘The Farm’ course, the only chance for members of the public to walk the course. Free to watch, it features event ambassadors and international sportsmen such as Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum, Tom Walsh, Josh Emett, Ricky Ponting, Sir Ian Botham, Sir Russell Coutts and Grant Fox, and a stack of retired and former Open winners including Sir Bob Charles and Greg Turner.

Thursday 28 February

A Family Fun Day at The Hills including a petting zoo and chances to meet some sporting heroes. As always, the Village Centre at The Hills will have a range of food and drink outlets for spectators to relax and enjoy the day.

Friday 1 & Saturday 2 March

The Hills will host a ‘Pop Up’ restaurant Rosie B’s offering two very special lunch sessions on Friday and Saturday (bookings required). Saturday is officially spectators ‘dress-up’ day, so pull out your old vintage gears as there will be spot prizes for best-dressed.

Who’s playing – ones to watch

This NZD$1.3m event is co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour, running in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour. Top players this year include:

  • 24 year old Nick Voke, one of NZ’s most exciting young golfers. Turned pro and climbed to #240 in world rankings in his first year
  • Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, a rising star who last month won the SMBC Singapore Open
  • Korea’s two most successful golfers, KJ Choi and YE Yang. YE Yang won a famous victory over Tiger Woods in 2009
  • Former US Open champion Michael Campbell, coming out of retirement to play
  • The ‘Flying Fox’ AKA NZ’s own Ryan Fox, fresh off his win in Perth