Golf-course design has taken this Kerikeri woman all over the world
Kristine Kerr became the first female member in the history of the Australian Society of Golf Course Architects when inducted in 2010.
Words: Heather Kidd Photos: Jess Burges
1969–1980: Growing up
A connection with the land, in its tamed and untamed state, is an enduring feature of Kristine Kerr’s life. Born in Whāngārei, her earliest memories include time spent outdoors. When she was six, her family shifted to Auckland before moving to the Gold Coast, where her parents, Milton Colson and Pat Kerr, were instrumental in developing the Palm Meadows Golf and Country Club.
1980–1989: Focus on
Living on the Gold Coast meant Kristine could continue to indulge her love of the outdoors; it also influenced her decision regarding tertiary studies. She opted for regional planning and landscape architecture. “The world was changing, and in Queensland, a lot of strategic planning was being done, particularly due to Japanese investment, and new resorts were being built.”
Following graduation from the Queensland University of Technology in 1989 and a stint working in planning in Cairns, the development sector slowed.
1990–1992: Going abroad
Kristine decided to do her OE and moved to London, where she got a job nannying; her charge was the daughter of a composer and leading literary agent. Because the girl was school-age, Kristine was able to get a part-time job with a planning and architectural consultancy.
1992–1996: Settling in Singapore
Post-OE, Kristine moved to Singapore, where her parents were now based. She got a job with Peter Dalkeith Scott & Partners, a landscape company involved in developing golf courses in Malaysia and Vietnam. “I loved working with the land, creating challenges for golfers and learning to appreciate the reasoning behind the designs. I think people are drawn to an industry because they instinctively recognize that they fit in. I was sporty and outdoorsy and had an aptitude for seeing big spaces.”
Keen to establish herself as a golf course architect, Kristine’s next role was with specialist golf-course design firm Nelson Wright Haworth where she did the equivalent of an apprenticeship in golf course design, as well as master planning for courses throughout Asia.
1997–2002: London calling
Kristine’s return to London was relationship- rather than career-driven. Still, once there, she gained valuable work experience in her role with an American planning and landscape company. Working on the master plan and landscape at the Palazzo Arzaga Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort in Italy, Kristine then joined golfer Gary Player to work on the design of one of the golf courses there. She also worked on projects in the Czech Republic, based out of the London office. Drawn to the history of town planning, she changed tack, commencing further study and returning to town planning, but she missed working with the land.
2003–2005: Asian adventure
Golf course construction was a booming industry in China in the early 2000s, and Kristine moved to Beijing in 2003 to work with American master-plan company EDSA. The company won a competition for its design of a resort in Nanjing, and because its complemented the resort’s golf course, designed by Gary Player, Kristine went to work for him again.
An opportunity to be the lead designer for a new course northeast of Christchurch prompted Kristine to return to New Zealand, where she worked with environmental and landscaping consultancy Boffa Miskell. “It was incredibly special to get a contract to design a course in my own country.”
During the four years of construction, Kristine also established her own company, Kura Golf Course Design. Since then, she has never been short of work, taking on the remodelling of golf courses, including Waitangi, Waimairi Beach, Pakuranga and Tai Tapu. She also continued drawing up master plans, providing expert evidence, and doing landscape design.
2015–2022: Near and far
Kristine returned to the north in 2015, settling in Kerikeri. Three years later, with her mother, she purchased 3.5 hectares, intending to subdivide it for residential development. Plans were put on hold when she was offered a job on a $9 billion resort development in Saudi Arabia. “I was the associate director of golf. It was a super-exciting project, working with top design consultants worldwide.” Kristine stayed two years, returning in October 2020 to resume work on her Kerikeri development.
“It’s called Waterfall Lane because there’s a lake and a pond on the property that lead to a natural waterfall. We’ve created eight one-acre [0.4 hectares] lots. I’ve project- managed and done all the landscape design. It’s exciting doing a project for us. It’s special to do it with Mum.” Kristine keeps her hand in golf course design with current projects at Ōmaha Beach, Akarana and Boulcott’s Farm Heritage Golf Course.
Teams: “When you’re starting, a team is the people you work with and learn from. As your career develops, you have wider teams, such as clients and other stakeholders. Your family can be your team, too. Workwise, if you don’t feel aligned with a team, it’s not always a bad thing to leave.”
Timing: “It’s everything. When I was living and working in China, the lease on my apartment expired. Instead of renewing it, my landlord leased it to someone else. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have looked for and got the job designing Pegasus.”
Trust: “Even if you’re unsure of the direction you’re heading, trust that you’ll be able to figure it out.”