Arrowtown Golf Club is literally situated next door to the New Zealand Open venue, The Hills, and is just around the corner from Millbrook. Arrowtown is too short to host a modern-day professional pro tournament as it measures only 5,915 yards (5,409m) long, but the course is very enjoyable and is set in spectacular scenery. Perhaps the phrase ‘golfing gem’ was coined for this course?
Arrowtown originally began in 1911 as a 6-hole course, although this club was later disbanded. Then, in 1935, twelve people formed a new club and acquired 90 acres of land on the Arrowtown-Arrow Junction Road. This was developed the hard way with rakes, wheelbarrows and hand mowers, and once formed had to be maintained by members. This original 9-hole course opened for play in 1936 and was designed by Reg Romans – the first secretary of the Arrowtown Golf Club – and B.V. Wright. In 1971 the club acquired new land on the opposite side of the road and nine further holes were laid out, again under advice provided by B.V. Wright.
The end result is a little masterpiece with fairways threaded through tiny valleys, between boulders, or over gorges with greens nestling snugly into hillsides.In recent years the club has undertaken some major developments including new fairway and green irrigation systems which were completed in 2001. The clubhouse was also upgraded at the same time and now offers spectacular views over the front nine and the mountains beyond.
Arrowtown is described by Tom Doak as a hidden gem. It is very natural golf course with limited shaping of the golf course other than the greens. It is often referred by locals as "Narrow Town" due to the tight driving lines, more so on the front nine. There is only one bunker at Arrowtown which is located next to the practice green by the driving range. There are no bunkers on the golf course. It made me chuckle after I finished the round.
Arrowtown begins with a long downhill par three to a Punchbowl green. This is followed by a par five where you are not sure where to go, as it is a very narrow fairway and the fourth fairway seems to be the direction of the hole, or maybe it was the third fairway? That is Arrowtown in a nutshell. The course rises and falls throughout the front nine which is one of the most fun nine holes I have ever played. The doglegs are crisp and sharp. Strategy and thoughtfulness are required. But mostly, just relax and enjoy the golf course. It is surrounded by mountains and while the views are not quite as good as some other nearby golf courses in the Queenstown area of New Zealand, nevertheless they are outstanding.
The course loses a bit on the back nine. The land is not quite as special after you cross the road to get to the tenth tee. In addition, the fairways are wider and the doglegs not as sharp. The lower quality of the holes is countered on a couple of holes with tricky, slanted greens and run offs. One could see why Tom Doak likes this course as it is so natural. I suspect the only moving of earth was to create the greens.
For the green fee of less than $50, this is a very worthwhile course to play. If you are debating playing here or Millbrook, you should play here as it is that much fun. It is only 6000 yards long from the member's tees due to having only three par 5's and five par 3's. All of the par 3's are fun and present a challenge. Have lunch or dinner in one of the fine restaurants in the small town.
The holes I liked the most are 2, 4, 5, 7 and 16. With the exception of 16, they are short, quirky par 4's where I did not mind even getting a bad bounce and losing my ball on the fourth hole in the fescue. I am certain that ball would have been found later that day, perhaps by the next player to have his ball land onto that slope.
On my personal rating scale I gave it high marks in the area of playability and the terrain that it sits on. As mentioned, the views are spectacular, more so on the front nine where the fairways are a bit narrower and the greens more consistently interesting.
As a public option near Queenstown, this is the golf course to go play.
No question that one of the biggest surprises of my extensive New Zealand golf tour was Arrowtown. It’s also immediately the most underrated club in the country. It enjoys a wonderful natural routing on a site where little dirt must have been moved. They did a great job of making use of the natural valleys and troughs. The course is extremely firm and fast on top of everything else. To be fair I have to admit to being a huge fan of natural lay of the land routings and love it when they are combined with significant quirk. Arrowtown checks all these boxes. I would say the front 9 is slightly stronger than the back 9 and also has the more dynamic terrain.
In the area of Queenstown Arrowtown was hands down my favorite course and most certainly in my top 5 in NZ. Again just want to make sure people realize what you are getting yourself into with a visit. This is not a big, long, championship course with lush green fairways and crystal white sanded bunkers. If that’s what you love then there are several other choices in the area. If the main thing you like is spectacular views then you’ll love Jack’s Point for example. Arrowtown has breathtaking mountain backdrops on every hole given the valley it sits in is surrounded by high hills/mountains. It’s old school, quirky lay of the land golf that doesn’t really follow modern architecture templates or standard holes. In fact, to my recollection there isn’t a single bunker on the course. There are however, plenty of long native grasses, rock outcroppings and dramatic natural land formations.
If you go to the Queenstown area then you can’t miss a round at Arrowtown.
The jewel in the South Island’s crown from a golfing perspective is Arrowtown Golf Club. It’s a short bundle of fun that flies under the radar of its more famous neighbours: The Hills and Millbrook Resort. After Tara Iti and Paraparaumu Beach, I confidently hold Arrowtown in my top 3 favourite courses to play in New Zealand.
Despite its short length, the tight fairways and seemingly unbelievable landing areas, this mountainous terrain will get your heart racing. It’s the type of golf course where you’d love to learn the game and can’t wait to step back onto the 1st tee.
Great front nine but the back nine outside the 18th doesn't really rate compared so many courses I've played in the lower south Island that didn't even make the top25 ....like say "te anau" ...
Some of the fastest greens I've ever played on ... at times during the summer you can forget about going for green further out than a nine iron etc without seeing the ball roll to the other end ...esp the 2nd hole par 5
11th 12th ....very basic holes you could play on any country nine hole course ..
I would rate below the likes of Kelvin Heights ,,,but on par with the likes of cromwell locally ..
As one of the pros put it, this can be golf played from island to island. This type of golf can get a little tiresome usually, but at Arrowtown, it seems hugely fun. It’s hard to pin down exactly why to be honest. I think the green sites are the main reason – there’s pushed up plateaus, kickplates, tiny angled greens between mounds – so much variety. I think it also adds to the experience when you can be often wondering, ball mid-air, whether you’re going to get a crazy bounce off the schist outcrops that are dotted all over the course. I actually felt a little disappointed that I didn’t get one all day.
I’d also add a genuine question, i.e. absolutely not a criticism. A lot of the course was browned off and firm, after a couple of weeks of good weather, but the fairways and green surrounds were quite green and lush. I spent the first few holes thinking this was a mistake; that this was exactly the type of course that needed to be as firm as possible. But on reflection I am wondering if, given the narrow fairways and tiny greens, whether they could potentially overdo ‘fast and firm’, and it might start to feel like crazy golf. For example, I couldn’t see how the mound to the right of the short 14th could be used as a shoulder to play off if it were playing rock hard, and it would certainly be great fun to use it.
I think the main thrust I need to get across is that this course is utterly unique – you won’t find golf quite like this anywhere else in the world, especially the sublime front nine. If you’re coming to the Queenstown area, why not catch something different to compliment your itinerary? Is this the best course in New Zealand under 6000 yards? Has to be. Best course in the world under 6000 yards? Who knows? – I’ve never played a better one. Matt Richardson
The second nine left me feeling that it was kind of like the first nine, but less so. It’s still narrow, it still feels like an idiosyncratic little place, but there wasn’t the same interest or exhilaration as you’re continually seem to face on the front nine. But it’s no slouch either. Particularly, the 18th a great finishing hole with the fairway presenting a hell of a tricky target.
The obvious slur one could level at this course is the length, or lack of it. But that only assumes that you’d pull out the driver on every hole, which you’d do at your peril. Each hole is so tempting, there seems such benefits in that extra 30 yards – so often I found myself thinking “it widens out a bit at 250”. But it’ll find you out in the end if you constantly refuse to back down.
You get the feeling that with some serious investment, especially for bunkering and lengthening, this might rival its more illustrious neighbours. But somehow the thought of that happening leaves you with the sense that something would be lost. It should probably be left just the way it is. Matt Richardson
Use to live 10mins drive from this course is certainly a good course but found it step down from Kelvin heights... on all fronts from course lay-out ,condition , overall golfing enjoyment...
So ended up becoming a member at KH for over 130 games ....now after shifting to cromwell ..joined the local cromwell links course ....personal I would have arrowtown marginally in front of cromwell but behind KH, and wanaka ...I can't really fathom its position unless fast greens and many straight playing holes are your thing....