Wainui Golf Club is the phoenix that rose out of the ashes of the Peninsula Golf Club. In 2009, Peninsula members voted to take the option of selling their Red Beach golf course to developers, who in turn provided them with a new golf course and clubhouse three miles inland. A new identity was also chosen – the Maori word ‘wainui’ roughly translates as ‘big water’.
Grant Puddicombe and his team at Puddicombe Golf were brought in to design the course (their previous portfolio includes Terrace Downs, Lakes at Pauanui, and the gradual renovation at Remuera). They were given a piece of rolling farmland to work with, punctuated by two streams nestled within wide gullies.
The new course opened in 2016, overlooked by the impressive new clubhouse from its perch above the 9th and 18th greens. The adventurous layout works its way around the undulating property, before twice heading back to lakeside holes to complete each nine.
A nine-hole par three course called Orchard is due to open at Wainui in late 2017.
2016 was quite a year for New Zealand golf courses, with three impressive new layouts opening within twelve months of each other. Most of the attention has been garnered by Tom Doak’s new links at Tara Iti, and to a lesser extent by Windross Farm securing an LPGA event at such a fledgling stage in its life.
Wainui has not had quite the headline grabbing factors present with the other two, but it should definitely not be overlooked. Grant Puddicombe has put together his best piece of work in New Zealand, a clear stretch better than Terrace Downs, and for me, arguably sneaks into being one of the best ten courses in New Zealand.
To be honest, the course takes a little while to get going, with a gentle handshake to open, a very plain short 3rd hole, and not much to write home about up until the 6th tee. But it picks up from there, I enjoyed the original little par 4 7th, turning sharp left over a deep gulley to a green nestled high in the ramparts.
The back nine is a far better proposition, with the standout holes 14 and 15. 14 is a rangy arcing par 5, with the opportunity to rifle a draw through the chute formed by mature trues, and use the natural contours to get a turbo boost, leave an opportunity to reach in two. 15 is probably my favourite. Very little scope to do anything with this land, but Puddicombe has produced something unique - a split fairway made of two terraces for the sensible, with the possiblity of a death or glory tee shot for the talented or foolish (or both?). I've not seen another hole like it anywhere, which I always appreciate - with the feeling that something has been created out of nothing. Every other hole has something to recommend it on that back nine.
Be warned - it is tough, and plays considerably longer than the card suggests. If the wind is up, don't go longer than the 55 tees unless you are a low handicapper. Reports are that some of the members are struggling, but I bet the better players love it. I do think that there are a few flaws, in particular the fairway bunkering on 4 and 9 was a little baffling (OK, it was into the wind, but we played with Michael the pro, who's got decent length, and he was 10m or more from clearing either of them off the 55 tees, which are more for members). Far too huge, and difficult to understand how they added any strategic value given the overall shape of those holes. But I think decent routing decisions were made overall, so maybe there is scope for some changes without too much upheaval.
For me, not Auckland's number 1 - that honour has to remain with the master craftmanship on offer at Titirangi - but clearly the next best. A fantastic and worthy addition to New Zealand's ever expanding crop of great courses.