Established in 1903, Hamilton Golf Club moved around a couple of times during its first decade in existence before its members finally found the ideal site for their golf course. H T Gillies, a local lawyer, and Arthur Duncan, a national Amateur Champion from Wellington, laid out the fairways which were unveiled to an expectant membership in April of 1913.
Named St Andrews, the course at Hamilton Golf Club remains largely unaltered after almost a century of use – a fine example of a solid parkland layout that has stood the golfing test of time in a very peaceful setting that borders the Waikato River.
A feature hole on the front nine is the 495-yard 4th which doglegs from tee to green with the river awaiting shots that stray too far from the fairway. Unusually, the round ends with a 165-yard par three, one of only three short holes on the scorecard. Played uphill with out of bounds to the right and an enormous bunker in front of the green. It’s a more testing finish than many first time visitors realise.
The club hosted six national Amateur championships between 1920 and 1994 whilst the New Zealand Open has also been held over the course on five occasions. A look at the statistics for the Open champions at Hamilton reveals an improvement in total score every time the event took place here, starting with 304 for Joe Kirkwood Snr in 1920 and ending with 272 for Bill Dunk in 1975.
Locally probably the best course around. It does nothing dramatic but also it never lets you down. Neat and tidy and very affordable.
The course is laid out on a reasonably rolling tract of land adjacent to the mighty Waikato River. Mildly undulating, it is quite a comfortable walk through a beaut parkland setting and players of all standards are well provided for as four sets of tees are available.
Par at St Andrews is 72, 37 out and 35 home, concluding with a great par three, a little out of the ordinary, but definitely not to its detriment. The layout comprises just three par 3’s and three par 5’s. The course is rated at 72.3 and slope of 124 measuring 6179 metres from the tips.
The round commences quite comfortably with the 350 metre 1st and builds steadily to the 450 metre, par 5, 4th. This hole carries the Waikato on the right and a watery grave awaits anything pushed or sliced as the lie of the land promotes everything toward the river.
The 7th and 8th, at 292 and 270 metres respectively, are a couple of short but very effective par 4’s where leaving the driver in the bag is highly recommended as placement of the tee shot is integral to a good score. They epitomise the age old adage; ‘A hole need not be overly long to adequately test a player’s proficiency’.
The 11th, Index one on the card is the great dogleg right, 420 metre, par 4 culminating with a huge, two-tiered green. Hit the wrong level at your peril as a lengthy, severely breaking putt awaits you.
The feisty closing hole is one of only a trio of par 3’s at St Andrews, the 150 metre, 18th is a great conclusion to the round. Rated 13 on the card, this is a real sleeper. The putting surface is huge and dependent on the prevailing wind and pin placement, I conservatively estimate that your choice of weapon may vary up to four or five clubs. Front left of the target is protected by a most intimidating bunker, extricating oneself from which will require a hot of some 2 ½ to 3 metres just to clear the lip and find the short stuff.
The course condition could only be described as excellent. Tee boxes a treat. Level and due to obvious regular relocations, decidedly less ‘battle-scared’ than most. Through the green the playing surfaces were great and anything less than a good lie the exception. The most significant factor in recording a good score at St Andrews will be conquering the greens. On the day of my visit I found them fast and true and a real test of your ability to read the subtle breaks encountered.
I completed a most enjoyable round here in the most convivial company of President, Simon Brandon and club stalwart, Ian Schultz in perfect conditions. Sunny and the wind but a zephyr. What a welcome change..... St Andrews – a most pleasant and testing parkland experience.