Located on the Miramar Peninsula to the southeast of Wellington, Miramar Golf Club has operated at the same location since 1908. The arrival of Wellington airport immediately to the west of the property in 1935 sounded alarm bells for the club’s survival but – so far – it’s managed to stave off threats of air transport expansion.
Unfortunately, in the Wellington Airport 2040 Masterplan (issued in October 2019) it was stated: “the airport is seeking to acquire the former Miramar South School site land and the southern portion of Miramar Golf Course to provide space for additional aircraft stands, taxiways and aprons” so it appears unlikely that the club will hold onto all of its land for much longer.
For now, the course extends to a modest 5,552 metres from the back markers, playing to a par of 70; 36 out and 34 in, with the considerably shorter inward half featuring three par threes and only one par five. Feature holes include the first of the short holes at the 149-metre 6th (“Coates Fancy”) and two short pars on the on the back nine at the 12th (“Moa Point) and 14th (“Summit”).
In 1926 and 1939, Miramar hosted the annual national golf tournament that used to determine the winners of the NZ Amateur, NZ Open and NZ PGA championships then the Amateur returned to the club in 1965. The NZ Women’s Amateur has also been staged here on four occasions, the first of which was held as far back as 1896.
Let’s start with the bad news – Miramar isn’t big on what certain golf magazines call “ambience”. If you dropped a ball at the front doors of Wellington Airport, you wouldn’t need to be a gorilla in order to hit the 18th green at Miramar with a gap wedge. Now, Wellington Airport has plenty of ambience compared to other airports, but that’s a pretty low bar as far as golf courses go. Me, I don’t care about that type of thing – it’s all about the golf, not the scenery.
The other black mark in the ambience column is that you look out over the golf course before your game, and the initial impression is that this clearly was a flat paddock (apart from the elevation at the southern borders of the course) that has been covered in fairly uniform mounds, mostly down the tramlines of each hole, with many fairways being ripple-free. In other words, it is clearly artificial, and the shapers did not seem to have had the artistry or resources to make it look really natural. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – some great golf courses look very artificial.
But for me, once you start playing, that mediocre first impression melts away. Firstly, once you’re in the midst of each hole, it feels much less like bog-standard containment mounding, and you realise that a lot of these bespoke undulations have decent strategic value. Straight away, the opening drive needs to be perfectly placed or you are faced with a tricky first iron shot into a semi-concealed, defly angled green – all created by mounding around the green. The par 5 5th , which I’m sure was pancake flat before Graham Marsh and his team came along, is a great strategic hole, and it’s all about the bunkering and mounding. There are many other moments like this, and the stretch from 12-15 makes really good use of the only semi-interesting landforms available.
Don’t be put off by the limited yardage (just over 6000yds / 5500m). There’s two quantifiable reasons why that’s not so much of an issue; a) it’s par 70, and b) Wellington is the windiest city on Earth (apparently). You don’t want 7000 yards of golf course here - it would be beyond brutal.
I’m not saying this is some sort of world-class course (most of the par 3s are “meh”), but I think it’s pretty incredible how they have taken such a tiny parcel of unpromising land, and created an 18 hole course that gives you plenty of interest and a number of genuinely thrilling shots. This is very much a case of “something out of nothing”, and it has my admiration for that.
Big post-script – Miramar might not last too much longer as an 18 hole course. According to Kiwi news sources, Wellington Airport has bought half of the land, but plans to develop the land have been put on hold due to the pandemic situation.