When it comes to international golf destinations most Americans probably don’t even consider New Zealand. However, you may be surprised to know that NZ has more golf courses per capita than any other country in the world. Many of them appear to be laid back municipal tracks which are are very reasonably priced. But there are also some real gems, four of which my dad and I had the pleasure of playing over the past couple weeks.
Preface: For those of you who don’t know my father let me just say that he is an avid golfer. He religiously plays a round of golf each Saturday of the year (and usually sneaks in at least 9 holes during the week). This may not sound all that impressive except that he lives in rainy Portland where the conditions aren’t very inviting for 8.5 months of the year.
That said, I knew that if he was going to make the effort to fly around the world to visit us I’d better line up some good golf.
Here is a brief summary of the courses we played:
Paraparaumu golf club sits about 30 minutes north of Wellington on the Kapiti Coast. It has held the NZ Open 12 times and was named in top 100 courses in the world back in 2001.
This course is a classic links style course with plenty of undulation and long grass which managed to catch a couple of my errant drives. We had great weather on the day we played even though the forecast did not look promising. Our biggest test on this day was figuring out home many ‘meters’ our rental cubs would go (for those of you who face this problem in the future a meter is about 10% longer than a yard).
This course is probably one of NZ’s most famous. It is situated about 20 minutes south of Napier on the cliffs overlooking Hawkes Bay. For those of you familiar with Pacific Dunes (the second course built @ Bandon Dunes) this course was desinged by the same course architect, Tom Doak. In 2005 it was named the #27 in the top 100 courses in the world.
Of the four courses we played this was the most scenic. This picture shows the 16th green which is perched on a cliff over 300 feet above Hawkes Bay.
This course is also a links-style design that features deep ravines and firm surfaces. But what really makes this course challenging is trying to keep your concentration while absorbed in the incredible scenery! What was also unique about this course is that the greens-keeper grazes cattle throughout the course to help his crew with the mowing!
Just mintues north of Lake Taupo Wairakei is the only course we played that was not a links-style design. It was built back in 1970 with the objective of creating the first in NZ to be internationally recognized as a world-class championship course. It was also listed in the top 100 courses in the world in 2005.
This course sits amongst the rolling hills that surround Lake Taupo and has a classic country-club feel. The landscape on this track is the most mature of the 4 courses we played. It didn’t hurt that we caught this course near the peak time for the trees to be displaying their vibrant fall colors. Both dad and I agree that if we had to got the privelage of belonging to one of the four courses we played this would be it.
The owners of Kinlock Golf Club get an ‘A’ for golf but an ‘F’ for marketing. In all of the golf tourist materials I read there was not one mention of this course which is a Jack Nicklaus signature design (the only one in NZ). Fortunately for us our accommodation was only 5 minutes away so we ended up driving by and stopping in to check it out.
If you’ve ever played a Jack Nicklaus signature course you probably know how challenging they can be. Kinloch is no different. It has a slope of 137 and the course record is only 70. Playing the course I can see why. There is no let up. Every shot requires some concentration.
This course is also a links style design with the most undulation I’ve ever played on (not only on the greens but in the fairway as well). There were numerous times where I thought our golf cart was going to tip over. Furthermore, every green is protected by a brutal set of bunkers, banks, and/ or collection areas which makes it difficult to run your approach shot up the green like you can on most links style courses. If you’re a glut for punishment this is your course.
Although neither my dad or I scored well here we still enjoyed the challenge as well as the satisfaction of playing this masterpiece. We were also treated to a series of beautiful views of Lake Taupo and the surrounding hillsides.
If you’re an avid golfer and are looking for an alternative to Ireland or Scotland you should really consider NZ!