The 18-hole layout at Marton Golf Club lies to the west of the small town of Marton in the Rangitikei district of Manawatu-Wanganui, less than ten kilometres from the sandy shoreline of South Taranaki Bight.
The club is more than a hundred years old, having been founded in 1914, but it’s moved location a couple of times since then, finally settling in its current position in 1957.
Tom Doak visited Marton during preparations for Volume 5 of his co-authored book The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses and he had this to say about the course:
“Routed through a series of low dune ridges about three miles from the sea, Marton is one of the few country courses that does have fairway irrigation, so it’s always in good shape.
There are a bunch of good tee shots played diagonally over the dune ridges, especially the par-4 5th and 8th, and there is good movement in the fairways elsewhere so you seldom have a level lie.
Large pines planted in between the holes are a forestry project to help support the course: they make some holes much too narrow, but as the club thins out the trees and takes their profit, the golf should continue to improve.”
About the only thing I knew about Marton, apart from the fact that it made this website’s top 50 courses in NZ, was that Tom Doak liked it. That’s usually as good a recommendation as one can get, although looking at the club website’s photos, and the Google Earth satellite imagery, I was starting to wonder if he’d mixed it up with somewhere else, because it just looked like your ordinary NZ tree-lined parkland course. Still, I trusted the tip, and decided that I would squeeze it into my itinerary of 5 courses in 3 days across Manawatu/Wanganui and Taranaki, although fully expected it to be the 5th of 5 once I had finished.
On showing up, it looked tidy enough, in great condition for a somewhat remote member’s course, but I still couldn’t quite see what was worthy of the praise. Hole 1 pretty ordinary, still wondering why the endorsement. But then it slowly unfolded, a cute 2nd green raised up above the fairway, which it then emerges is one end of a dune-like ridge, which cuts a swathe through the middle of the course, and houses the rest of the front nine. And it’s these next 7 holes that make the course, weaving up and back across this ridge, making good use of the links-like undulations. I particularly liked the tee shot at 5, but the stand-out was 8. Your tee ball will have to fly some sizeable mounds to a rollercoaster of a fairway, veering marginally left to a well situated green cut into a right to left camber.
If the rest of the course was as good as those 8 holes, we’d be looking at one of THE hidden gems of New Zealand, something worth travelling for in its own right. Unfortunately, almost all of the high quality golfing land has already been used by the time you get to the 10th tee, and there’s little in the way of undulation, drama or personality to be found. It’s largely just a flat clockwise circuit around that dune ridge, but rarely through it. This is where it does resemble your standard NZ club course too much, with only 15 and 18 rising above the mediocrity. I was straight away wondering about the possibility of swapping the 9s – I imagined being a member here, getting to 9 and knowing that it was going to be a bit boring from here on in. Surely better to get those holes done whilst still having something to look forward to?
There’s definitely a few trees that need to go. The large one short and left of 5 seems way too intrusive, especially seeing as it plays into the prevailing wind – if you don’t get line and distance on your drive just right, and don’t make it to the right hand side of the ridge in the fairway, you can easily get blocked out. The branches from the line of trees on the left of the 7th tee shot (back tees) overhang so much that a draw is pretty much required. I just don’t think that it’s fair to expect amateurs over about a 10 or 15 handicap to be able to shape the ball on command (especially a draw), and that’s the majority of club golfers.
Doak was right. It’s not world-class or anything, but the front 9 is proper golfing on sand-based, rumpled land, which you don’t find everywhere, and is worth a visit. If I lived in the area, I’d be a member here rather than joining Manawatu, I wouldn’t even think twice.
I wouldn't go out of my way to play here, but that's not to say it's a bad course. Many of the holes aren't that unique and could be found on any country course in NZ. In fact, many bare resemblance to Rangitikei which is an equally good NZ country course just down the road. But Marton does have a handful of great holes which makes it worth playing if you're nearby.
There are a few holes where I agree that the pine trees encroach too far. There also a couple of flat straight holes that could be on any country course in NZ. However, there are also some cracking holes that make full use of the natural sand dune topography. Sand based turf means it was in amazing condition (played late September) and greens were surprisingly quick and true.