Windross Farm came into being when the members of Manukau Golf Club (who played over a course good enough to sneak into the lower reaches of our New Zealand Top 50) decided to sell their land to property developers, and relocate to a potato farm in Ardmore, 6 kilometres inland from their original home.
They drafted in Brett Thomson as architect, to lead the transformation. Thomson had built a pedigree helping John Darby design Jack’s Point and The Hills (both located in Queenstown and both NZ Top 10 layouts) and was now working under his own banner, RBT Design. Former PGA Tour player Phil Tataurangi joined Thomson in a consultant role.
The property at Windross Farm required plenty of work to protect against a high water table, and we understand the site was sandcapped throughout to ensure firm playing surfaces. The result is a links-style layout that is very different from anything else in the Auckland area.
Within weeks of opening its tees for play in September 2016, Windross Farm secured New Zealand’s first LPGA Tour event, the 2017 McKayson New Zealand Women's Open.
I'll be honest, I literally don't know what I think of Windross Farm, I found it to be a rather strange creation. I had kept tabs on everything posted online about it, and saw the plans for it many years ago - the huge amount of width off the tee, the promise of firm and fast conditioning, and the links stylings. It looked like it was going to be a lot of fun. So what did I find?
Well, there is width, that's for sure. I quite like the idea of width, where you're not going to spend precious leisure time searching around in long grass (who likes that?), but surely it only really works well when you can't just spray it anywhere, there needs to be advantage to being on one side of the fairway or the other. Making the golfer think - now that I really like, that's fun to me, anywhere where astute course management is more valuable. I had that in mind when I went round, playing close attention to the entrances to the greens, and there seemed to be only 3 or 4 holes where it really mattered where you were on the fairway. I wanted more strategy.
I also found it strange that there was some really fantastic shaping on and around the greens, and they also managed to sculpt 'dunes' in between fairways without it looking like blatantly artificial containment mounding, but to then have the fairways dead flat ... I don't know. You could literally put 5 or 6 small 11-a-side football pitches on the golf course, and I've certainly played plenty of matches in my time on more undulating surfaces. I assumed they had some sort of budgetary or constructional limitations? I don't know enough about what it takes to build a golf course to speculate further.
But there's no mistaking that there were 4-5 great golf holes (5 and 15 would be my top picks), and almost every other hole had something worthy about it (aside from perhaps 1 and 17). And I must add that the greens were sensational, both in terms of conditioning and contouring. I just found the experience a bit repetitive and underwhelming to be considered a really top golf course, and I was left wondering if the canvas they started with was just too darn plain to really make anything better. Ultimately the acid test is whether I find myself wishing to go back again, and the answer is 'yes', but I'm not completely sure why.