New Plymouth has become a well-known destination on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island for indulging in a number of modern sports like water skiing, snowboarding and surfing. What may not be so well known is that New Plymouth Golf Club was founded as far back as 1893 and golf’s royal and ancient game has been played on its current site since 1913.
Located between the dormant volcano of Mount Taranaki and the Tasman Sea, the tree-lined fairways and generously proportioned greens of the "Ngamotu" are laid out along the stunning coastline that stretches from Cape Egmont in the west to Waikato in the north east. Ngamotu is the name of the volcanic islands which lie offshore from New Plymouth, originally named "Ngâ Motu" by the Maoris.
It annually holds the Taranaki Open and regularly hosts national amateur competitions. In addition, the New Zealand Open has also been held at New Plymouth four times, 1936, 1947, 1961 and 1980.
After a solid start to the round with five straight par fours, the 176-yard, par three signature hole is then encountered. “Dell” plays from an elevated tee across a pond to a green that is further protected with black iron sand bunkers on both sides of the hole. A three on the card will be a very welcome score here.
Three par fives are faced over the next four holes before the final two short holes are played at first the 12th and then the 136-yard 14th, called “Moses.” From the tee – looking out to sea – the green seems suspended above the water. Out of bounds lurks behind the putting surface for those who over club whilst pot bunkers are positioned short to catch any under hit tee shots.
Turning inland for home now, the round concludes with three testing par fours and a par five. The holes grow progressively longer from the 15th to the last, culminating in the 460-yard 18th where big hitters may well be looking for a birdie to end the round if they can reach the two-tiered green with two mighty blows.
The recently opened, new clubhouse was commissioned to celebrate the club’s centenary year and is ably administered by its enthusiastic GM, Simon Rowe and his friendly staff. Virtually without exception, the Kiwi hospitality was outstanding and NPGC boasts one of the more homely 19th’s yet encountered during this Kiwi sojourn. A huge call, as some were exceptional.
After a warm welcome and comprehensive briefing on the club, course and environs, we teed it up in unseasonably benign conditions. The sea breeze but a zephyr and ‘for now’, no rain. What a pleasant change.
Above, the par 3, 6th,, ‘Dell’ A simply ‘quaint’ setting and justly deserved of the title as the NPGC signature hole. Certainly, one of the most picturesque settings for a par three I have yet encountered in my world-wide golfing forays.
Par at this brilliant parkland layout is a standard 72, stretching to 6080 metres from the back blocks and rated at 70.8, with a slope of 123. Four sets of tees are available and as such, players of all standards are adequately catered for at NPGC.
‘Egmont’, the strong par 4, 5th, shown above, is appropriately designated for the Mount in the background. Named by Captain James Cook in 1770 it is also known as Mt Taranaki. The hole epitomises this outstanding parkland layout. The Tree-lined fairways are delineated by an outstanding variety of local flora. The playing surfaces are consistently good through the green with ‘nary a bad lie to be had’. Notwithstanding this track is generally quite undulating, NPGC is not an overly arduous walk and carts are readily available for we vintage proponents of the game.
Greens are of extremely generous proportions, epitomised by the expanse of the windswept ‘Moses’ the spectacular seaside 14th above. The putting surfaces are subtly contoured, fast and true, and a great test of your prowess with the ‘flat stick’. Particularly at the whim of the prevailing blustery conditions which now prevailed.
“Diversely outstanding”, springs to mind when describing the clutch of par 3’s at Ngamotu. Ranging from 187 metres down to just 120 metres. None more so than the ‘wee’ 14th. with severe bunkers front, and, I speak with authority in saying that a trip to the briny awaits anything long. Again, the prevailing wind is a serious consideration on all four as each plays to an alternate quadrant of the compass.
No portrayal of NPGC would be complete without reference to the Pohutukawa tree. Mature specimens of this iconic NZ tree are prolific on the Ngamotu course. This characteristic NZ tree produces a brilliant crimson flower which provides a spectacular splash of colour across the entire course when in bloom.
Finally, I must abide the club’s claim that Ngamotu is as picturesque as any course in New Zealand and well deserved of my closing comments: “A most beautiful walk in the park, and a fine test of golf.”