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International minigolf coming to Whitianga

What do you do when you struggle to find time to see your partner, you know you need to change something significant and you are aware that Covid will soon lock down your city?

Well, Darren Prole and Krissy Robinson decided to start a new kind of life together and made the decision to leave Auckland and buy a business. Their first point of enquiry was minigolf businesses for sale. Beyond Auckland, there were two on the New Zealand landscape. They chose Wild Wood Mini Golf in Whitianga. This was a year and half ago and their predictions about Auckland locking down proved to be correct.

When asked why minigolf, Darren chuckled, “When we came to Whitianga, I was the New Zealand minigolf champion. Yep, it sounds good saying that as people think of golf or tennis when it comes to being the champion of a country, but not minigolf. I was always into sport and enjoyed athletics, but finally had to change due to injuries which determined that running as a sport wasn’t an option. Looking for something else, I chose cricket but my friend and I were after a sport where we could participate together. We did not think of minigolf as a sport until we came across a story about a minigolf tournament. We entered and that was the start. I love the game.”

Krissy hastened to add, “Darren is very serious when he is playing, so much focus.” When asked about their new business after just one year and a half, Krissy said, “We love it. We needed to make some changes to branding and the way we marketed the venue. We dropped the prices to welcome in the local market. We offer craft workshops and on Sunday afternoons from 4:00pm to 5:30pm, it’s the Social Club at Wild Wood. Adults bring a drink of alcohol and enjoy a game of mini golf. The first time is free and with just $10 a game, it is very affordable.”

Both Darren and Krissy were aware when they made the leap to live in a smaller town, that it wasn’t always easy getting to know people and fitting in as newcomers, so both have jumped into Whitianga life.

With a graphic design background, Krissy has taken up the role of marketing coordinator for both the New Zealand Toy Library Federation and the New Zealand Minigolf Federation, as well as the role of president of the Whitianga Toy Library. “I am very involved with the Toy Library and have made good friends,” she said. “Whether you feel at home or feel you belong in a community depends on how involved you decide to be. Growing up we were always told to give back. We love the people here. We know their names and they know us.”

Darren added, “Covid helped us find this business and move to Whitianga. You run a business so that you can make a life, but you also have opportunity to improve others’ lives. Minigolf is not a spectator sport, it really only works when you are a participant and I think that’s our attitude to most things we do.”

In December this year, Wild Wood will host the New Zealand international open minigolf tournament. As an open tournament, anyone can enter, even on the day. Competitors from all over New Zealand and Australia are expected to participate, plus a small contingent from Europe.

As part of the preparations for the open tournament, a “putting tour” is underway with eight stops around New Zealand. Whitianga is the second to last stop, hosting the tour on 13 October.

In March 2022, Darren lost his title of New Zealand minigolf champion, but he is very keen to reclaim the title in December on his home turf at Wild Wood. Krissy will also be entering the open. “I’m an enthusiast” she says. “Minigolf is for everyone. We simply don’t have a target market. We have been so busy and that has to be a good sign.”

Pictured is Wild Wood Mini Golf owners, Krissy Robinson (fourth from the left) and Darren Prole (second from the right), with some of those who enjoyed the venue’s Social Club last Sunday afternoon.


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