New Zealanders are often reminded of their larger, northwest neighbor of Australia. When it comes to golf, however, New Zealand has no need to feel insecure, as it's a sporting nation that loves the game and has numerous world-class golf courses to choose from, as well as great lodging and resorts.
All it takes is just one visit, and most travelers will quickly see all that this remarkable island nation has to offer that makes it not only stand out from its neighbor Australia, but other countries as well. Because make no mistake, New Zealand can stand on its own as a world-class golf destination.
Golf is the most popular sport in New Zealand among men and second for women, and the country has the highest number of courses per capita in the world. We're not talking lousy munis baked to a nice golden brown under the scorching southern hemisphere sun. New Zealand boasts three tracks in Golf Digest's list of the "100 Best Courses Outside The United States," including the revered Kauri Cliffs Golf Club & Lodge.
Combined with some of the most beautiful landscape in the world, New Zealand is a golf destination second to none. Here's a quick look at some of its best golf courses:
Cape Kidnappers Golf Course: Located in Hawke's Bay, this course made No. 10 on Golf Digest's list. Tom Doak was given a stunning piece of seaside property to work with, and he made the most of it. Cape Kidnappers is seaside golf at its finest. The course plays fast, and golfers will have to negotiate stiff ocean breezes coming off Hawke's Bay, several deep ravines and penal bunkers guarding many of the greens.
Kauri Cliffs Golf Club & Lodge: No. 30 on Golf Digest's ranking, Kauri Cliffs is a David Harman design. The par 72 championship course measures 7,119 yards from the tips with five sets of tees to accommodate a range of skill levels. Fifteen holes boast views of the Pacific Ocean, and six are built on cliffs that fall straight into the sea. The inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland.
The facility includes a practice range and a full pro shop. Women's and men's golf clubs are available for rent. Greens fees run around $160 (U.S.) in high season.
Carrington Golf Course: North on the Karikari Peninsula, you'll find the Carrington Resort, an enchanting an exclusive accommodation that doesn't skimp when it comes to golf. Designed by American golf course architect Matt Dye, Carrington Golf Course opened in 2003.
While it takes advantage of its seaside location, Carrington plays more like an inland course, as rolling hills and valleys take advantage of the natural contours of the land. After a scenic and challenging 18 holes, head to the elevated clubhouse to enjoy cocktails while overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Paraparaumu Golf Club: This is known as one of the country's premier links courses, hosting the New Zealand Open 12 times.
Australian Open Champion Alex Russell designed it in 1949 with revered golf course architect Alistair McKenzie. With undulating fairways, thick rough and large, intimidating bunkers, Paraparauma Golf Club will test even the scratch golfer.
Wairakei International Golf Course: Located in the heart of the gorgeous Lake Taupo region between Auckland and Wellington, Wairakei sprawls along 450 acres of rolling countryside. The public course measures 6,444 yards from the tips, making it accessible to a range of skill levels.
The facility includes a driving range, fully stocked pro shop and clubhouse with a full bar. For golfers not registered with an international club, a round costs $200.
Gulf Harbour Country Club: Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., this nearly 7,000-yard golf course is located on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, just north of Auckland. The front nine has a hilly, spacious feeling, while the last holes wander toward the ocean, culminating with finishing holes that have been compared to Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The par 4 No. 7 is one of the most interesting holes. It's a short dogleg flanked by a lake on the right that tempts long hitters to go for the green. But don't get greedy, or you'll pay with a plunk in the drink.
Clearwater Golf Course: The highlight of the Clearwater resort in Christchurch, this par-72 championship run has more than earned its competitive stripes, playing host to the HSBC NZ PGA Championship. Designed by John Darby along with New Zealand golf legend Bob Charles, this is a run destined to give players a unique look at New Zealand golf.
Combining the best of Scottish links along with parkland golf, Clearwater will take a player on a scenic journey through steams and lakes, and give breathtaking views of the views of the spectacular Southern Alps.
Lakes Resort, Pauanui: Opened in late 2006, the Lakes Resort course has quickly become a favorite with golfers, as it's a course that is accessible to all levels of golfer. Designed by the Canadian firm of Sid Puddicombe Associates, the Laes Resort course gives players a relaxing day where the natural landscape adds to the game, and ambiance of the area.
Terrace Downs: At the foot of the Southern Alps, less than an hour from Christchurch, you'll find yourself at Terrace Downs High Country Resort. This beautiful location is home to a spectacular par-72 run that will have 70 bunkers and 11 lakes challenging golfers on a course that's designed to please both the eye and the game, and does so brilliantly in a near-divine setting.
St. Clair Golf Club: Overlooking the South Pacific, St. Clair proves its worth by a quick look at its record book - Seve Ballesteros himself holds the course record for 72 holes, set in 1977. Opened in 1905, St. Clair has evolved into one of New Zealand's most legendary homes of golf.
Kinloch Club: Located on the northern shores of Lake Taupo is a great find for any golfer, as Kinloch offers a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design for demanding golfers that expect the most from their New Zealand golf adventure. Located in a residential community but open to daily fee play, you will be shocked to see the competitive green fees that will allow you to play one of the Golden Bear's top courses for less than you imagine.
Millbrook Resort Course: Designed by the great Bob Charles, Millbrook is a sought-after golf resort that gives players peace of mind, brilliant scenery and world-class golf. With the Remarkables mountain range playing behind you, the course meanders through intricate terrain, creating a golf experience that will stay with a player for a lifetime.
Arrowtown Course: Just five minutes from the Millbrook Resort Course you'll find yourself at Arrowtown, a historic run that takes advantage of the scenic rock croppings notable in this mining area.
Kelvin Heights Golf Club: Overlooking Lake Wakatipu, Kelvin Heights gives players a scenic 18 holes at the Queenstown Golf Club, where golfers will find a PGA Pro to help their game, as well as ample practice facilities.
September 17, 2007
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.