With more golf courses per capita than any other country in the world, spectacular scenery, and conditions that allow year-round play, New Zealand is a bit of a golfer’s paradise, Godzone fairway perhaps. There are some very fine, world class golf courses, and some charmingly down-home, country cousins. We’ve listed some of the outstanding courses around the country, both ritzy championship courses attached to luxury lodges, and those diamonds in the rough tucked away in the countryside, where you might need to shoo the sheep off first. Whether you’re a pro or a first timer, you’ll find a course that will challenge and amaze you, with scenery to marvel at between shots. Lace up your fancy Royal Albatross spiked shoes or slip into your sneakers – go ahead!
Note, aficionados may disagree with our list, but we’ve put “world class” next to those courses that golf commentators seem generally to agree are NZ’s best. Feel free to comment, enlighten us or champion your favourite course on our Facebook page!
Carrington Golf Course
Kaitaia Golf Club
Waitangi Golf Club
Waipu Golf Club
The Kinloch Club
Te Puia Hot Springs Golf Club
Mahia Golf Club
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course
Carrington Golf Course World class
Maitai Bay Road, Karikari Peninsula, Northland
Set on the Karikari Peninsula in the far north, the golf course at Peppers Carrington Resort has expansive views of beaches and wetlands to the north and the vineyards of Karikari Estate to the south. The championship standard 18 hole is completely irrigated, with varied terrain, from rolling vales to challenging water holes. The course is 6417 metres long, par 72, and designed to accommodate golfers of all levels. Enjoy the stunning white sand beaches of the peninsula while you’re in the area.
Photo: Carrington Resort Golf Course
Kauri Cliffs World class
Matauri Bay, Far North
For top of the line golf luxury there’s Kauri Cliffs, with emerald greens set against a vista of sea and islands. Golf writers Leonard Finkel & Josh Kerns raved about “…the world’s most spectacularly scenic driving range, perched high above the rolling landscape and ocean cliff views.” The par 72 championship golf course measures 6,510 metres. Fifteen holes view the ocean, the inland holes offer views of marsh, forest and farmland.
Kauri Cliffs Golf Course, hole #16.
Kauri Cliffs, hole #17, | Photos: Kauri Cliffs
Kaitaia Golf Club
For a more local, holiday option on the west coast, try Kaitaia Golf Club’s 90 Mile Beach Links course. It’s situated at Ahipara, 15 minutes west of Kaitaia. The course runs alongside 90 Mile Beach, with amazing views out over the wild Tasman Sea and the great dunes to the south.
Waitangi Golf Club
If you’re up north, consider a round at the Waitangi Golf course. From the back nine there are superb views towards Russell and across the Bay of Islands, with yachts and the occasional cruise ship passing by. There are also native trees and birds, and views over river and estuary and forested hills. In some places you’ll be playing down at the water’s edge, so enjoy the sea-breeze and remember your camera. Surrounded by the beautiful beaches and historic attractions of the Bay of Islands, Waitangi is a great “holiday” course, but offers something to more serious golfers too. 5650 m from the back
Waitangi Golf Course
Hole #11. Photos: Waitangi Golf Club.
Waipu Golf Club
More of a local course, set on 52 hectares of coastal land between Waipu and Ruakaka, this 18 hole links course runs down to the dunes of Uretiti Beach with stunning views of Bream Bay and the offshore islands. It offers fast and true greens, with a testing layout and welcomes visitors. Men back: 6050 metres, par 72.
Photo: Waipu Golf Club
Gulf Harbour World class
Ranked number 10 amongst NZ’s golf courses by http://www.top100golfcourses.co.uk, Gulf Harbour Country Club is 50 minutes’ drive from Auckland, set on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, with the Hauraki Gulf providing a spectacular backdrop. There’s a lot of modern real estate development about on the opening holes but excellent design, challenging changes of elevation and views of islands, gulf and distant city make the back nine truly memorable.
Titirangi World class
Founded in 1909, Titirangi is the only course in the country designed by renowned course architect, Dr Alister MacKenzie, and it lives up to his desire to retain the natural environment and minimize artificiality. It’s set on the slopes between the Waitakere Ranges and the Manukau Harbour in west Auckland. It’s rated 7th in NZ by top100golfcourses.co.uk. While you’re out west you should hike amongst native forest in the Waitakeres or explore one of the wild west coast beaches.
Photo: Titirangi Golf Club
A par 72 championship golf course in the beachside development of Matarangi, The Dunes boasts stunning views from the back nine over the Whangapoua Harbour and Pacific Ocean. The Coromandel Ranges make a dramatic backdrop. Set on the tip of the sandspit, the dune base makes for good play year-round. The course measures 6176 metres off the back tees. Make sure you leave time to exlore some of the Coromandel Peninsula’s beautiful beaches and bush trails too.
Photo: Matarangi - The Dunes Golf Club
The Kinloch Club World class
Designed by Jack Nicklaus, and opened for public play in 2008, the course at Kinloch overlooks Lake Taupo, with the Kinloch Hills to the east. The course won a fan in Sir Bob Charles who enthused “Having just played Kinloch for the first time I can honestly say this is the Number 1 golf course in New Zealand. For those unable to play the great links courses of Scotland, Kinloch compares with the best of them. A true Links experience with Jack Nicklaus at his best.” The course is par 72 and measures 6734 metres (7363 yards) from the Tournament tees. 5 sets of tees offer something to all levels of golfer. The volcanic landscape is dramatic and provides a pumice sand base. With fine drainage the course has great conditions for year-round play, with winter specials. The Kinloch Club is open for public play from Wednesday to Sunday, and also on Mondays and Tuesdays by special request.
Wairakei World class
Voted NZ’s number 1 golf course by NZ Golf Magazine in 2010, Wairakei is a bit special – set in 450 acres in the Wairakei Geothermal Park and wildlife sanctuary, 10 kilometres north of Lake Taupo. Established in 1970 and designed by British golf course architect Commander John Harris it’s a championship golf course that works around the edge of the volcanic landscape. Well-maintained and attractive, there are tree-lined fairways, lakes and streams and ponga-walled bunkering. Keep an eye out for native plants and birdlife, and glimpses of thermal activity. 6444metres off the blue tees.
Cape Kidnappers World class
Golf Magazine ranked Cape Kidnappers 4th Greatest Golf Course in the World in its 50th Anniversary issue. Course designer, Tom Doak, said of the site “If it were any bigger or any more dramatic, it would probably be cordoned off as a national park. It’s an overwhelming experience to stand up on the cliffs, 140 meters above sea level, and look out across the waves far below in Hawke’s Bay. Cape Kidnappers is not true links terrain, with the wrinkles of sand dunes; instead the land tilts toward the sea as a series of ridges jutting out toward the edge of the cliffs. Yet, the play is seaside golf at its finest.” The golf course is par 71, measures 6,510 meters and will challenge golfers of all skill levels.
Photo: Cape Kidnappers Golf Course
Name checked by Tom Doak, whose crew played here and loved it – Wairunga is the perfect place if you’d like sheep, jaw-dropping sea-views and golf all in the one photo. The golf course is set on a working farm and is open from November to March. We picture Wairunga as the straight-talking local beauty : their website says of the course “It is a nine hole par 35 golf course over rolling terrain, through native trees and reserves. It is a country course and sheep do their part in maintaining the fairways”…
Te Puia Hot Springs Golf Club
In the hidden gem category, 5kms north of Te Puia township, this is a par 66, picturesque, parkland golf course with elevated tees and greens. The course has 16 holes (2 double up to make the 18 hole total). As in most places around the East Cape, you’ll be far from the madding crowd. Afterwards you can enjoy the hot springs nearby, or get even further off the beaten track for a swim at perfectly lovely Waipiro Bay.
Mahia Golf Club
It’s only 9 holes, but Mahia’s golf course, set on the isthmus and sand-dunes of Mahia Beach, gets the thumbs up from locals and some intrigued international visitors as well. Michael Donaldson says it’s “laid out in a rumpled splendour of clever mounds, hillocks and doglegs.” Rumour has it the course is maintained by volunteers, and the final green is set between two round dunes – they call it cleavage.
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course World class
Set on the undulating dunes of the Kapiti Coast, Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course has hosted the New Zealand Open 12 times. Considered by many to be one of the finest links courses in the Southern Hemisphere, the course was designed in 1949 by former Australian Open champion Alex Russell. Tiger Woods played here in the 2002 New Zealand Open. Like Wellington, 45 minutes’ drive away, this coastal course if pretty windy, which adds to the challenge of fairways that pitch and roll, and deep, grassy rough. With five tees, the course is par 71 and 6014 metres from the black tee.
Photo: Paraparaumu - Golf at its purest.
Clearwater World class
Set amidst 465 acres, this resort-style, championship course is currently home to the BMW New Zealand Golf Open and the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open. The 6526 metres, 72 par course is playable year-round, with five tee positions to suit players of all abilities. The course combines elements of Scottish-inspired links golf with a more American parkland feel. There’s water, water all around, with spring-fed lakes, ponds and trout-filled streams, and views of farmland and the Southern Alps.
Millbrook World class
Voted the Best Golf Resort in Australasia and New Zealand at the 2010, 2011 and 2012 World Travel Awards, Millbrook is surrounded by spectacular mountains and forested hills. The course offers 27 holes, with three 9-hole courses named after local landmarks: The Remarkables, The Arrow and The Coronet Nine. A mixture of parklands and links style, there are natural hazards including tussocks, streams, buildings and trees. Originally designed by Sir Bob Charles, with renovations and the addition of the Coronet Nine by Greg Turner in 2010, the course is par 72, and 6412 metres long. Five different tee positions offer something for all abilities.
Jack’s Point World class
With a backdrop of the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu, Jack’s point is all alpine panorama. Where2golf praises the out-and-back layout designed by John Darby, with infinity greens back-dropped by the lake, and dry stone walls to drive over. The 6388 metre course works with its natural surrounds, wending past tussock, steep bluffs and native bush, to the edge of Lake Wakatipu, for a dramatic experience of high country landscape.
Photo: Jack’s Point - 8 fairway
Photo: Jack’s Point, fairway on hole #10.
The Hills World class
The Hills (as in Michael Hill’s…) is scenic, immaculate and exclusive. The course is beautifully designed, by Darby Partners, and opened in 2007 to host the NZ Open. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak provide a glorious mountain backdrop, and there are sculptures by NZ artists to gaze upon as well.
Head to scenic Arrowtown Golf Club for ever-present views of the Remarkables, along with a sense of the area’s gold-mining past, and a quirky, challenging course – Where2golf dubs Arrowtown “a true nugget”.
Chisholm Park Golf Club
Go Scottish-style on a true sea-side links course in Dunedin, “the Edinburgh of the South”. Chisholm Park is set in the dunes behind St Kilda Beach, stretching up to a dramatic headland. The course has beautiful ocean views and is 5 minutes from the Octagon. The course plays to a par 71, and measures 5700 metres.
Southland Golf Club - Oreti Sands Links
Hidden gem alert! Oreti Sands is the world’s southern-most 18 hole golf course, set 10kms from Invercargill and a few dunes away from Oreti Beach and Foveaux Strait. Golfers rave about the layout and perfect links foundations, the sense of remoteness and feel of the elements. The Johnnie Walker Iconic Course Review said ” It’s an intensely rich golfing experience - one that will linger in your thoughts for decades to come.” Oreti Beach is also famous as the place where Burt Munro, motorcycle legend, set records on his modified Indian.