The Central Otago area of the South Island of New Zealand was originally best known as the scene for New Zealand’s very own gold rush in the 1860s, and Cromwell itself saw one of the major discoveries of gold in 1862. Nowadays, the whole area is much more focused on tourism, with Queenstown getting the lion’s share of the visitors. For golfers, most will also look to Queenstown, with Jack’s Point, The Hills, Millbrook and Arrowtown being the star attractions. But visiting golfers looking to find both an authentic and typically laid back Kiwi members club, coupled with a fascinating and ever-improving course, will strike it lucky 45 minutes down the road in Cromwell.
The club itself was founded in 1903, with 9 holes laid out on the land between the current clubhouse and Lake Dunstan. Later, the club moved a couple of miles around the lake to an 18-hole course at Lowburn. In the 1970s, the club moved back to its original home, to an 18-hole layout that is not dissimilar to today’s routing. That incarnation hosted a number of notable events, including the South Island Amateur Championships (twice, in the 80s), the NZ Seniors Championship (1998) and the Freyberg Masters in 2001.
In 2003, former European Tour player and South Island native Greg Turner was asked by the club to make some changes. Plans for a housing development meant that the par three by the clubhouse had to be replaced by another at the far end of the property (now the 14th), and Turner also implemented a program of tree removal.
More recently (in 2010/11) Turner returned, this time alongside partner Scott MacPherson. Ten new greens were built, alongside some changes to routing, a new par three (the 17th) and a reordering of some of the existing holes. The new greens in particular are substantially different; more undulating, with numerous tiers, swales, and tight run-off areas. The rolling sandy turf, coupled with the hot and dry microclimate found in the area (especially in summer), means that Cromwell often plays firm, and the low running option around the green will often be the percentage shot.
The course has now been lengthened to well over 7,000 yards, giving it the potential to provide a sharp test for tournament play in future. It’s an intriguing blend of rolling heathland territory with a certain whiff of links golf thrown in, and will aptly complement any tour of the region’s more famous courses.
Great course that does grow on you, having become a member recently I could be seen as bias but over the many years I've played here I do think the upgrades of many of the greens has helped add another edge to how you set-up your play for the green ...a great course for the big driver with some very nice longer par 4-5's and harder sand based fairways it's not hard to see 300m+ with some backing wind..
I recommend during spring / summer to tee off early as the wind can be annoying later on ..
A must play along with the other great courses on offer in one of the best Golfing locations in the world and best of all within 100kms radius !!!
I originally played this course a couple of years ago, just before Turner and MacPherson made the latest batch of changes, and I thought it was fairly decent then. It’s a couple of notches better now, sitting comfortably alongside Kelvin Heights and Wanaka as a solid supporting act to any Central Otago itinerary. For fans of firm and fast courses, it really needs to be the one to fill that spare day’s golfing.
In particular, the new 2nd, 3rd and 18th are streets ahead of their predecessors. But it’s the new greens that are the star of the show. It’s not just that the sculpted undulations transform the putting game, the best examples of which might be the double plateau 15th and the sunken 10th. More importantly, the run offs, shoulders and tiers should leave you needing your 7-iron bump and run a few times, if you’ve got that shot in your armoury, rather than just constantly grabbing your lob wedge.
It should be noted that some of the ‘old’ greens (i.e. the eight that were not recently upgraded) were also pretty good – the current 13th and 14th are two cases in point here. There is also not really a weak link – well, the 7th is pretty mediocre, but I would never describe it as a poor hole. And off the blacks or blues (the back two sets of tees), it is a stern challenge, make no mistake.
Cynics could say that adding some new highly interesting and skilfully crafted putting surfaces to a decent but unexceptional club course does not instantly make it an outstanding course. I could endorse a view like that – for me, this is not a top tier course (nationally speaking) for that very reason. But if I ran a place like this, and I had a modest amount of money for upgrading the course, I’d want to focus on the greens too. Excuse the run of assumptions here, but it seems to me to have been a smart move on behalf of the club to get Turner and MacPherson in. Judging by recent pictures of their comparable upgrades at Harewood and Royal Wellington (other recent renovations in T & M’s portfolio), it seems that Cromwell has consented to them ‘doing their thing’ within the available budget, and in doing so, the club has probably gained maximum bang for their buck. They’ve also got a course that makes me want to play it again. Matt Richardson