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A club built for fun: Reporoa Golf Club

An idea that began over beer has brought more than 60 years of golfing pleasure to Jack Martelli. The 86-year-old has scooped 10 Reporoa Golf Club championship titles and still plays the 18-hole course, including its infamous tenth hole.

But, back in 1960, he was a young dairy farmer who knew nothing much about the game that had his fellow farmers and the local Waiotapu Tavern publican so excited. The group wanted to repurpose a disused tract of rough land opposite the tavern to create a golf course amidst thermal pools, a creek and some small lakes, with three former army huts as a clubhouse.

And they needed Jack.

“They asked me to take my tractor to cut the blackberries and rushes in the paddock by the pub,” he says.

No airs or graces

“When I went to cut those blackberries, it looked pretty interesting so I thought I’d try it out. To practice, my brother and I had an old three-iron and we used to hit that thing around the farm, down the paddock where the cows were.”

Jack has been a club stalwart ever since, though the course has expanded and relocated (it now stands south of Reporoa township) and changed names (formerly Waiotapu Valley Golf Club). The membership has altered, too.

“The club was originally made up of farmers, most of them returned soldiers who came to Reporoa in the 1950s, for balloted land. A lot of rehab farmers settled in this area.

Golf was something to do, I guess.

“Now, most of our members are from Taupō."

"It’s quarter of the price out here and a lot more laid back. People mostly start off here as a learner, but then they discover how much fun we have and they stay on. It’s very open and friendly, no airs or graces and you don’t have to dress up in your best."

“It’s also a good course; a few years back, it was voted one of the best country clubs in New Zealand because of its nice greens and layout. Back in the 70s, we had three of the top players in the Bay of Plenty.”

Today’s golfers will still find themselves surrounded by farmland and, on weekends, can often spot children on ponies at the pony club over the fence.

A community hub 

Although paid professionals have periodically helped care for the course, volunteers are its undeniable backbone. Jack was among those who helped plant trees, sew grass and build greens and a small clubhouse in the mid-1960s. He helped extend the clubrooms and has done his share of groundskeeping and maintenance work over the years, as well; a farmer knows how to install a water pump. In the early years, four legged lawnmowers – sheep supplied by locals – also played their part in keeping the grass down.  

It hasn’t all been work, though. Jack has spent plenty of time on the fairways with his clubs. 

“I started playing when I was 23, in the little course up the road, and I’m not such a good golfer now but I got down to a four handicap at one stage.” 

He still lives in the house where he was born, says the club has served as an important social hub for the Reporoa community. Wife Noeleen was ladies’ club captain for several years and helped with catering for Saturday club nights, or for visitors attending interclub events. One of their daughters had her wedding reception in the clubhouse. 

Jack is a life member of the club and of the Eagles Golfing Society of NZ.

Jack’s favourite spots

It’s a good open course, so you can pretty much play from anywhere. It’s easier for beginner golfers and a pleasure for anyone. The course is fairly flat overall but every fairway has its own character, they’re all different. There are big areas of trees in the middle of the course and you do have to hit over quite a few gullies so you can lose a lot of golf balls.

Hole 12

- Everyone talks about the number 10 par five hole we call ‘the donga’. There’s a big backwash, where the river used to run, and it’s close to 30m deep, with steep banks and a bit of swampy water in the bottom. If you hit your ball in there, it’s gone. To get across it, you have to hit right across the fairway, about 140m.

- Number 12 is a three-par and quite a tricky little hole. The green’s on a little knoll with a big gully right round it so have to get it right.

- I built designed and built half the clubhouse, which now has nice lounges and a great outdoor patio. Our club always been this way – we all like to sit outside and have our beer rather than inside the club and recently, we added a big wooden deck. From there, you can look out at the 18th and 15th greens and see right down the last five holes, down towards the road gate.

The Taupō region is truly a golfers' paradise with all types of golf offerings for whatever mood you're in to play! Don't miss Jack at the Reporoa Golf Club! 

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