Meet the locals
Simon Forshaw has been instrumental in leading the team’s sustainability and nature protection initiatives since the start of the course build in 2005.
Golf has been a big part of Simon Forshaw’s life for over 35 years. In 1987 he represented New Zealand as a Junior Under-21 player, and since then he has worked on 15 golf courses in four different countries.
Simon has applied his expertise at three British Opens, a US PGA, the Australian Open, the World Cup of Golf at Gulf Harbour, as well as consulting as Golf Course Superintendent at Clearwater NZPGA Tournaments and the NZ Women’s Open.
Simon also worked in design and construction at the Graham Marsh course in Sydney’s Terrey Hills, as Assistant Superintendent for the construction and grow-in at Gulf Harbour, Assistant at Millbrook Resort, and Course Superintendent at the Otago Golf Club where he redesigned all the bunkering. From there, Simon’s resume continued to develop with the grow-in and opening of the Lakes Resort in Pauanui.
With experience longer than a par 6, Simon brought his considerable skills to Jack’s Point with the course construction sow-out and grow-in.
In 2016 Simon was asked by Golf Digest Australia to be one of their judges to rate Top 40 golf courses in New Zealand.
We talk to Simon about the amazing journey for Jack’s Point Golf Course since it opened for play in 2008.
Q: What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in 10 years?
A: Jack's Point was designed in harmony with the natural environment, weaving through native tussock grasslands, dramatic rock outcrops, steep bluffs and swathes of native bush to the edge of Lake Wakatipu.
We have witnessed the maturing of the golf course over the past 10 years. The ageing process of a golf course is one of ongoing refinement to expand the qualities of the topography and evolution of the playing surfaces to provide the best possible presentation for our visitors and residents.
This is a farm with golf holes running through it which is unique. Native planting throughout includes the thorny Matagouri and grey scrubland, many as old as 500 years. We have created buffer zones around wetlands, and chosen grass varieties for low impact, water management and fertility. We don’t overspray, and don’t waste water – we do hand-watering over summer, so everything is controlled.
Q: How did you learn your art - or is it more a science?
A: One of my passions is golf course and landscape architecture. I’ve been studying it for years through the University of Guelph (Canada) where I qualified in Golf Course Design and Construction and Turf Management. I’ve visited 78 of the Top 100 World Golf Digest courses which has taken almost 20 years. When I return from visiting some of those great courses I make a special effort the first day I am back to walk the course at Jack’s Point, and I can say we stack right up there with the world’s best, thanks to the foresight of our designer John Darby of Darby Partners.
Playability is one of the arts of a good golf course design. Jack’s Point is a golf course that has some similar traits that you might find on a links-style course, but we are not next to the ocean, sand dunes or sand-based ground. It’s in the mountains. We use fescue grasses to make the course play firm, fast and as smooth as possible allowing the ball to roll along the ground as much as flying through the air.
Golf course management is both an art and a science. You need to understand the technical side – the turf, the drainage, read the situation when turf is going into stress mode due to heat and traffic pressure, and be able to predict the weather forecast as much as possible, know horticulture and be mechanically minded too. You need an excellent eye for detail – the devil’s always in the detail. And you need to be an excellent communicator. Our team understands the need to communicate closely. We encourage all our staff to play when it’s possible, noting down anything of interest, anything we should pay attention to from the golfer’s perspective that’s very important to us. It also gives me a chance to walk the course as a player, with a fresh eye, and see things the way players do.
Q: How do the seasons affect Jack’s Point?
A: Of all the factors influencing our course, the biggest challenge is frost which is guaranteed every winter in the Central Otago and Southern Lakes regions.
Jack’s Point is playable all year round apart from a short few weeks of the year between the second week of June to the third week of August we close for winter maintenance. The growth of the turf normally doesn’t start until September and starts slowing down pretty quickly after Easter.
Q: Tell us about the Jack’s Point team
A: I worked out that between Jack’s Point designer John Darby, our General Manager of Golf, John Griffin and myself we have over 110 years’ experience.
Now we have a crew of 16 staff – 10 full time plus six seasonal workers mostly from Europe but also India and the United States. They come over here during their winter time, so it works out really well. We attract some of the best people from top courses in the UK, Europe USA and Australia, their experience includes working on such golf courses as the Old Course St Andrews, Royal County Down, Golf National, Augusta National, Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne just to name a few.
We promote personal development for our crew, so they can experience what it takes to present golf courses to the top end of professional golf. They have worked at The Players at Sawgrass, the TPC at Scottsdale, and soon The Australian Open at The Lakes in Sydney.
Two of the people who assisted right from the start have both sadly passed away. Mark Hills who was my Assistant Course Superintendent and helped me sow-out the golf course was a great contributor to the original evolution of Jack’s Point, as was Mark Stevenson who was closely involved in the landscape design and planting. We never forget them or their efforts to make this course one of the world’s best.
I feel very fortunate to work here at Jack’s Point its been such a privilege to work at such an amazing place I do sometimes really have to pinch myself that I am involved here.
I’ve always appreciated too that I have been very lucky to have worked with some incredible people who have great drive, passion and are some of the best around in all they do.
To win such an award as the prestigious IAGTO Sustainability Award, be Certified Environmental GEO and Voted #2 Best Golf Course 2016 in New Zealand are all testimony to the great team that are involved.
Knowing that our caretaking of this very environment here makes it all very special. The team and I are all very excited for what the future holds.