Muriwai Golf Club is located around 15 miles to the north west of downtown Auckland and it’s the region’s only authentic links course. Muriwai Beach is one of Auckland's most popular west coast beaches and the course is routed close to the windswept shoreline on linksland that adjoins the Muriwai Regional Park, which also includes the protected gannet colony perched on the cliff top at Otakamiro Point.
The Muriwai Golf Club was formed in 1956 and the course – originally designed by Harold Babbage – opened for play in 1960. Designers John Bourke and Alex Glasgow were commissioned to renovate the links between 1996 and 2003.
Routed among dunes, heather and pines, with breathtaking views of the Tasman Sea from every hole, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re playing a traditional British links course. Muriwai stretches out to 6,765 yards (6,186m) from the tips and when the wind whips across these naturally undulating fairways, playing to handicap can be an uncomfortable challenge.
The club is proud to state that the course never closes, as the links turf drains freely, but nature has forced some changes over the past decade due to coastal erosion. Several new holes have been created and these have become some of the toughest on the card, especially when the wind is blowing.
The Muriwai Open is a recent (2010), additional venue on the Charles Tour, which was created by former Kiwi tour professional Greg Turner to provide authentic, preparatory competition for golfers wanting an overseas career. “Part of Greg Turner's aims was to play this tour on traditional and testing New Zealand golf courses. The addition of this marvellous links course at Muriwai is very much in keeping with those goals to really test our best players.” Said New Zealand Golf’s acting CEO, Dean Murphy.
The Muriwai clubhouse stands on the highest point of the course, overlooking the finishing hole. It boasts some of the most spectacular views of any clubhouse in New Zealand and is the perfect place for post-round refreshments.
A true coastal links course in a small seaside town 45min north-west of Auckland. Undulations are the most prevalent feature of this quality course, as you'd expect, but there's also pot bunkers, pure greens and plenty of testing long par 4's. Also, the turf felt 'just so' when hitting long irons and I could've been convinced I was in northern England or Scotland.
It's quite surprising to find such a course in a small town, but I guess it's close enough to Auckland to get traffic from there. An absolute bargain for the green fee paid too.
This exact experience was repeated two or three more times over the last seven holes. Muriwai is not the world’s greatest links course (more a Saunton West or a St Andrews Jubilee), but it does display some beautiful work around the greens. The bunkering in particular is sublime – there’s not so much of the steep riveted faces of a Scottish links, but plenty of well-sculpted little pits with fast-running catchment areas that swallow up the errant approach. Check out the little swine front left of the par-5 12th – the green slopes sharply back at you, daring you to play it cute to any near sided pin. Oh, and it’s the only course I’ve played where the sand in the bunkers, like the neighbouring beach, is black. Which might be particularly interesting geologically; I don’t know - I just thought it was kind of cool to splash out of black sand.
I found the back 9 (which apparently is what remains of the ‘old’ Muriwai) to be a far more interesting set of holes – not just because of the better bunkering, but because it traverses the remaining usable land amongst the dunes. The club were forced to build more holes further inland due to the encroaching sea, and whilst being totally acceptable golf holes, skirt the borders where the true linksland merges into the surrounding hillside, and just doesn’t quite have the same flattering qualities as the ‘old’ holes.
The back 9 also contains much more range, in terms of land, layout, shot-making, and difficulty. I particularly liked the green sites on 10 and 13, both sitting pretty atop dunes. And the short par-4 16th is a thing of intrigue – there seem to be 3 or 4 distinct ways to play it, and pin positions will also drastically influence decisions of thrust vs. parry (although I’ve been told it’s a little unplayable into a stiff wind).
And don’t you just hate when you play 17 holes in the rain, soaked through to the bone, only to feel the warmth on your back, and see your shadow loom up ahead of you as you putt out on the 18th? I swear whoever controls the weather was mocking me. Matt Richardson