Anything But Rough

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Meet the new Armidale Golf Club manager, Nathan Chapman. He and his family have been living in Armidale for the past 6 months and believe “it’s more like a country town than a city.

When and why did you move to Armidale?

The locals are warm in welcoming us, as well as the Armidale Golf Club members. My first month was a barrage of BBQs. I’m not saying BBQs are a bad thing, but I’ve never experienced a welcome like this. Prior to my appointment at the Armidale Golf Club, I was working in Canberra at the Federal Golf Club as Operations Manager. This was a private club and only 2 minutes from Parliament House on Red Hill lookout. The winters were cold like Armidale, but seeing snow every morning on the Brindabella Ranges just added the extra chill factor.

With the birth of my second child, daughter Charlotte, I moved back to Newcastle to be with my family and help as a father. When I was appointed at the Armidale Golf Club, my wife (Kristine) and I looked at a long term commitment to the Club.

Lifestyle and schooling was the main drawcard; not only the private schools, but the public schools in Armidale are among the best in the state. We have enrolled our son Chaise at The Armidale School known as TAS, and our daughter Charlotte will go to New England Girls School (NEGS).

The physical size of the town was also a big drawcard, being only 6 minutes wide and having a population of 23,000 people. So it only takes me 6 minutes to get to work, and everyone knows everyone. This is the second quickest work place to travel to I have every worked at – the longest being Newcastle to the Hunter Valley, which was 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. So if I lived in Sydney and was offered a position in Armidale, I would jump at the first opportunity!

Tell us about your family …

Well, Newcastle born and bred, living in Lambton for my junior years – and moved out to Blacksmith Beach for my senior years of schooling. My parents are both from Newcastle, and my wife is also a Novacastrian. My wife Kristine is a former Executive Chef, and we both worked in the Hunter Valley but met in Newcastle. Kristine worked at the famous Robert’s at Peppertree Restaurant, while I worked at Tyrrells Wines.

We found it quite funny that we both went to Harrigan’s Irish Pub for quiet beers and hadn’t ever seen each other. We married in 2009 in Newcastle and have 2 beautiful children, Chaise (4) and Charlotte (1). Both our families live in Newcastle, only 3 hours from Armidale, so the weekend visit is not out of the question.

Describe your golfing history?

My golf days started when I was 8-years-old, caddying for my grandma at Belmont Golf Club during school holidays. I know it doesn’t sound like fun, but I enjoyed the walk and the game of golf. At age 11, I had to pick between two sports: soccer or golf. Golf won, and I started playing on Sunday morning at Belmont Golf Club in their junior development program, run by Belmont professional, Paul Robertson.

I joined Belmont Golf Club at the age of 12, and my first handicap was 29. By the age of 15, I was playing off 3. I moved clubs from Belmont to Newcastle Golf Club and represented the Newcastle District in golf.

The best handicap I played off was +2 and I captained the NSW Combined Catholic Colleges Team in my senior years of school. Currently, I’m still a member of Newcastle Golf Club and play off a handicap of 5. I enjoy the social side of golf, apart for the tournament aspect. My son Chaise (4 years) has already started to play golf because of his dad – a family thing I must say, from generation to generation.

How have the local golfers welcomed you?

They keep taking my money! I have played about 20 rounds of golf now at the Armidale course, and every game is getting worse than the previous one. Thursday afternoons, the local business fraternity have a roll up competition, playing for a little purse. This is normally scheduled for a noon tee off, but its first here, first to tee off. The names on this trophy are like those on the British Open Claret Jug.

I don’t see a Tiger Woods, but there is Tiger Clutterbuck living in Armidale. Saturday competitions are the envy of all golfers across Australia, and that’s no different in Armidale. If you are lucky enough to have your name down with the silver pineapple, shag and the President elect, you’re sure to have a laugh and make a dollar or two. Overall, the members of the Armidale Golf Club have been very welcoming to me.

Are you a winemaker as well?

I worked for Tyrrells for 3 years and was involved in the winemaking production and the front of house cellar door operation. The joys of the job were meeting all the visitors on Saturday, when I conducted the Cellar tour of the winery. Showing the public how a winery operated and what I did for a living gave me a real buzz.

I have also worked for Bluetongue Brewery as a brewer at their Cameron Park Brewery, before the recent move to Warnervale on the Central Coast. Brewing is a lot similar to wine making, but oxygen is not your friend when it comes to brewing beer.

Working with a team of 14 brewers from all parts of the globe, we produced a fine drop under the guidance of Bruce Peachy, Head Brewer. Our flagship beers were the Bluetongue Lager and Pilsner, and when the Pilsner was bottled, everyone – and I mean everyone – lined up at the bottling machine to have a sample. This was the down side to brewing: all the beer you could drink!

But golf is my passion. I worked for a company called Troon Golf, the world leader in golf course management, at several facilities across Australia. I started with Troon Golf at the Greg Norman designed course, The Vintage in the Hunter Valley. During my time with Troon Golf, I visited all their facilities across Australasia and played a round or three. More recently I worked at Riverside Oaks Golf Club in Western Sydney, after Troon Golf were appointed managers when the property was purchased by Nanshan. Prior to Armidale Golf Club, it was the Operations Manager of the Federal Golf Club in Canberra. The golf industry moves so fast, and I have moved with it.

Your advice to others thinking of moving here from the big smoke?

Do it! You won’t regret your decision.

Thanks Nathan.

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