Sometimes it’s hard to figure out whether you liked a course because it’s good, or whether it’s just because it was better than you thought it would be. I’m asking myself this question slightly more about North Otago than usual, and I’m not sure I know the answer, but I do know that despite its modest charms, it certainly has something about it.
The course occupies two main areas, 14 holes slightly away from the coastline on a highly undulating section – no flat holes here – and 4 holes nearer the ocean. The routing is well considered enough to avoid traversing contours that are too obscene (although the uphill approach to the 3rd borders on the ridiculous), picking its way through the ridges and gullies and giving the course its soul and personality. I particularly liked the idiosyncratic 12th with its wild approach shot. There’s a token water hazard on 10, but it’s not particularly garish or clumsy, and if I remember rightly, a cheeky little double green on 10/17. Bunkering is not particularly inspired – the basic front left/front right template repeated 7 times in all, but it doesn’t seem to matter too much – it’s the undulations that make the course.
Over the road is the 13th to the 16th, a triangular, mostly flat paddock that abuts the beach with a beautiful headland overseeing the proceedings. Beautiful coastline properties usually attract great golfing accolades, but unfortunately the architecture does not match the setting here. The stark exception is the short 15th, tucked at the bottom of a hill by a coastal lagoon running down the right-hand side of the hole – great hole, great setting.
North Otago has character in abundance – it’s certainly not dull or repetitive. With so many bland tree-lined parkland courses across the country, it stands head and shoulders above the mire of mediocrity, and arguably is one of probably 20-30 more humble club courses nationwide that has a case for sneaking into a national Top 50. However, I think we have it rated correctly here as being just outside the 50, it’s not up quite up there with the likes of St Clair and Kelvin Heights.
Date: November 14, 2021