Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is set on the Kapiti Coast, which is approximately 40 miles to the north of Wellington as the crow flies. Former Australian Open champion Alex Russell designed the course in 1949 and, for many years, Paraparaumu Beach has quite rightly enjoyed the title of the “best links course in New Zealand”.
Host to twelve New Zealand Opens, the first in 1959, Paraparaumu Beach is a New Zealand household name. “But Paraparaumu Beach Links is now also known for being the de facto home course of New Zealand’s wealthiest sportsman, Steve Williams.” Writes James Spence in his book, The Finest Golf Courses of Asia & Australasia. “Tiger Wood’s caddy grew up just along the road at Pukerua Bay and, before he could make a living out of golf, worked in the butcher’s shop in Paraparaumu.”
“Although Paraparaumu Beach is not flush to the shore, it has all the foils of a links course. There are no weak holes and in a fresh breeze, all manner of difficulties present themselves. The staff and members are a very friendly bunch and will want to engage you in conversation about the course as you fortify yourself with a deserving pie and a strong cup of tea.”
The book 500 world’s greatest golf holes by author George Peper and the editors of GOLF magazine features the 442-yard par four 17th at Paraparaumu Beach: “The 17th is a par four of notable length. which, when played into the wind, presents difficulties of distance and, when played downwind, presents difficulties of accuracy. Its demands are made more diabolical by a split fairway. The lower tier is easier to find from the tee and provides a shorter route to the green. However, two bunkers short and right of the green guard its entrance and demand that the approach be put up into the wind and dropped precisely on the putting surface. The upper fairway is more difficult to hit and hold from the tee. In addition to its narrowness, a steep slope falls off the left side and is generally shaved to exaggerate the punishment for inaccuracy.”
The course first came to the attention of many worldwide golfers in 1962 during one of the earliest “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” challenge matches when Bob Charles played Bob Goalby.
I will admit to having a slight bias favoring links golf courses. They are both more natural from tee to green and you are often more at the mercy of an odd bounce or the weather conditions.
Paraparamauru Beach is a classic links golf course. It is a joy to play and it's only limitation is its length when there are calmer days, which we had. The member tees are less than 6000 yards, and even if it can play slightly longer, it meant a relatively easy golf course for the three of us as we played from those tees. The fairways are relatively wide and when the rough is also cut down, it is too easy from these member tees. There are areas of tall grass on the course, but even an errant shot can find a relatively good approach to the green given the width of the light rough.
Because of the lack of wind and playing the member tees, we played too many par fours that were less than 400 yards. Due to the firmness of the ground, I felt like the approach shots were too easy with short irons often in one's hands. Certainly we should have played the next set of tees which are only 6300 yards and likely should have played the 6600 yards. However, as our caddie was the club President and had been a member there over 55 years, and was acting as our host, we did not want to offend him. In fact, we had a great time with him.
Tiger Woods played here once because Stevie Williams grew up here. Tiger barely made the cut and finished well back. I remember watching some of it and the weather was quite difficult for him. But it was fine for Michael Campbell, then at the peak of his game. I also think Tiger struggles on short courses.
So, yes, it was too short for us and I shot 79, making a three foot putt on the par five finishing hole. I actually think I would have scored the same that day from the next tees. My caddie, due to his course knowledge particularly on the greens, saved me at least five strokes with his putting advice. In addition, we were able to get a lot of knowledge about the golf course from him, particularly how he pointed us to use a red shed as the driving line on five different holes.
As mentioned, it is a classic links course and could fit right into any of the best links courses in the UK or Ireland. It has dunes, it has the same bunkering style and seemingly the same placement of green side bunkers as you would find in the UK/Ireland. However, there are not many fairway bunkers. Most of the bunkers are used either around the green or nearer to it. It is a gem to play and would always be fun. It has greens with bunkers cut right into the edges as well as sharp run-offs from greens if you miss slightly or putt too boldly. It has a few hidden/tucked greens and a few greens situated right at the top of steep and long hills. It has very good par three's, a mixture of short and long holes (from the back tees), some with wide greens and some with skinny greens.
We were on a group golf trip but the three of us made a detour of our own to play this course. I am so glad we did. It is worth it for the extra cost.
The best holes are 2, 5, 8, 9 13 and 16. 13 is likely one of the best golf holes in the world, a long par 4 with a steep cliff just in front of the elevated green. There are bunkers right and left of this green and fall-off areas to either side as well. It is magnificently designed by Alex Russell. 16 is a medium length par 3 with the skinny green with a lumpy rise of mounds to the left and a steep fall-off to the right. You must hit the green to give yourself a chance, or chip relatively close as I did and make an eight foot putt to save par.
The first is a fairly simple par 4 with a fall off to the right of the green. The second is a par 3 that is indicative of the par 3's to follow - very good. The third is another par 4 with very good pot bunkers along the green. The fourth is another strong par 4 well defended by green side bunkers. Next comes the best par 3 on the golf course to this raised green with trouble seemingly everywhere. The sixth is a rolling, bumpy par 4 where one is at the whims of the lie on the fairway. The seventh is the first par 5 and offers a similar fairway to the sixth. It is at this point that you realize it is a joy to play this golf course.
The eighth is a lovely short dogleg right to a tucked green and bunkers fronting it while the ninth is another par 4 with a tee shot that needs to thread the hills on either side. These are the two best back-to-back par 4's on the golf course.
The tenth I thought was one of the weaker holes although I was told this par four generally plays into the wind, which we did not have. It did have a narrow and interesting green.
The eleventh is a stronger par four dogleg right and has a good green. You could potentially hit your tee shot out of bounds to the left. The twelfth is a short par five but has one of the weaker green complexes on the golf course.
As previously stated, the thirteenth is one of the finest par 4's I have ever played due to the narrowness of the raised green and the severe, deep fall-off in front and to the left of the green. The back of the green sits inside mounds. It is a beautiful golf hole.
The fourteenth is a beautiful short par 3 to the farthest corner of the property and is well defended with a bunker in front. This hole has a good undulating green on it as well.
The fifteenth is a longer par 4 which one has to hit the correct side of the fairway to have a better line into the green. It is a good hole but not quite as strong as the sixteenth which is the last of the par 3's hitting a tee shot into a raised green that sits on a narrow shelf. Although most might think it impossible to get up and down to save par if you hit the tee shot left atop the mound to the left, I managed to do it. But I don't think I could do it again. It is a gem of a par 3, but for me not quite as good as the fifth.
The final two holes are good with the seventeenth a nice par 4 with a raised green on one side. The eighteenth is a medium length par 5 with a large, but disappointingly semi-flat green on it. It sits right in front of the clubhouse so you will likely have spectators watching you play in as well as putting.
As for this golf course being in the top 100 in the World, I cant make the case for it as it does not have adequate bunkering on the fairways and it now lacks length. Merion East is also a short golf course but has bunkers and deep rough everywhere. Paraparaumu Beach would need both to be in the top 100. But it certainly fits into the top 200. I currently have it as the 177th best course I have played out of 705.
I imagine in any wind that this course would play 5-6 shots more difficult. As mentioned, we had perfect weather and so as a threesome with our excellent caddie we played in just under three hours. It is a course that brings joy to you because it is a relatively easy walk in the most natural and serene settings. The golf course has a wonderful routing, moving one in different directions, and the bumpiness of the fairways are really neat as well as the aiming points from the tee. It has very good green complexes, both in the size and placement of the bunkers as well as the size and slants of the greens.
You should go out of your way to play it if you are in New Zealand. It is not a difficult drive from Wellington and there is a lovely Italian restaurant almost across the street from the entrance.
Pure fun. Go play here.
Paraparaumu is in a league of its own in and around Wellington. This is a truly outstanding golf course that in my humble opinion deserves its place in the World Top 100.
Firstly this is one of the friendliest places I have played golf. I played in their Wednesday competition and from the happy faces in the pro-shop to the warm greeting from the group I played with, this place just radiated warmth and hospitality.
The course is the winner here, this is truly a place where local knowledge will improve your score. Every part of this course is immaculate and it is even more impressive when you find out this course is maintained by a small team of 4 greens staff.
Standing on the first tee you realise you are somewhere special, with the wind blowing off the coast and the pin hidden it is a great par four to kick off with. It is hard to sum on this course as you run out of superlatives. The par four 9th is an enjoyable hole. Time and time again the narrow and small greens challenge you to stay on, anything long or short is punished and will quickly add to your shot tally.
For me the final run of four holes shows off everything there is to offer on this course. The short par four 15th has a blind over hill tee shot, anything to the left will be lost and a fade will leave longer than you want in. This is followed by a short par three, played into the wind, the green is narrow and accuracy is essential to make a score.
The par four 17th has a split fairway and a well protected green and finally the par 5 18th, which can bring you into Eagle territory with two good shots, but anything wayward will be punished.
With intelligent use of the landscape, impressive architecture and a course in tiptop condition (there isn't a blade of grass out of place) you truly have one of the best golf courses in the world.
Home to 12 New Zealand Opens, Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is located 45 minutes’ drive north of Wellington. This links course is regarded by many as one of the southern hemisphere’s best links courses with its undulating dunes, pot bunkers and unforgiving grass tussocks.
The backdrop of the majestic mountains makes many of the holes very pretty and when snow-capped in winter would be special. The par 3 sixteenth hole is said to resemble the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, although they are perhaps not close relatives! The split fairway par 4, 404 metre seventeenth demands a decision: whether to play the shorter route and hit the second 'cross green' and over bunkers - or to take the high road for the safer second shot?
Paraparaumu has a course length of 6,014 metres off the black tees and 5,916 metres off the blue tees. Both black and blue have a par of 71 and a slope rating of 125, indicating that the course is not too difficult. The white, yellow and red tees have pars of 71, 73, 71 and distances (and slopes) of 5,485m (120), 5,188m (116) and 4,714m (112).
Although Paraparaumu Beach is a championship course, the social golfer should not be intimidated! With sensible play and nice iron shots you will get just reward. It is a tough but fair examination of your golf game. Paraparaumu Beach should feature on the bucket list of courses to play for all true travelling golfers!
Review by Ian Greenwood for Peter Wood, the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read the full review.
I've been lucky enough to play here 4 times in the last 12 months. Each time I enjoy it more and can't wait to come back. I didn't have that feeling after Cape Kidnappers (where I actually played better than my first round at Paraparaumu) and Tara Iti won't let you back for a 2nd visit, so for my money PBGC is NZs best course and definitely deserves its spot in the world top 100.
The finishing 3 holes are what most people talk about (great par 3 16th, split fairway at 17, risk and reward par 5 18th) but the par 4 13th is probably my "favourite". Need good length off the tee and even then it can be a good long iron to hit the elevated green. Don't miss it short...
I can’t help feeling that Paraparaumu Beach remains one of the world’s most underrated golf courses. At one point it broke its way miraculously into the World Top 100. I’m amazed it had received enough visits from panelists to give it its due credit. I strongly believe that is indeed where it belongs, in the World Top 100.
This wonderful traditional links gem could have been stolen from the shores of Scotland, dug up and moved by ship over to Paraparaumu Beach. The course is situated in wonderful linksland close to the coast even though there are houses surrounding it now. It’s characterized by an excellent and unique routing with fast and firm playing conditions and wonderful natural green sites that in my mind demand a mastery of the ground game to score well.
“Pram” as the some of the locals call it, obviously because none of the tourists can pronounce the real name, has been gifted with some of the wildest land movements that fortunately were not ploughed flat when the course was built. This of course means that you can end up with some unexpected bounces but that’s links golf at its best. It’s no surprise that my favorite hole was the short par 4 10th hole. The fairway looks like something you might see at Aspen ski resort after a week of no snow when the moguls become the size of VW bugs. Standing on the tee you wonder how to play this gem, but the thought of having some crazy uneven lie in the fairway was enough for me to simply go for the green and bank on a short chip if I missed it.
The set of par 3’s are also world class requiring exacting shots to hold the greens. The 16th which is only playing 126 meters has a green that drops steeply off pretty much all around making it – hit a good shot or bring double or worse into play.
I’ll admit to expecting “Pram” to be a great course given all the good things I’d heard about it, after all that’s why I put it on the agenda, however, it definitely exceeded my expectations and even with the fact that I played in hard rain the entire round.
While I can’t comment on any other courses in the Wellington area, this one is for sure worthy of the trip. Not to mention the fact that Wellington seems to be a great little laid back city too.
Alex Russell, the designer of the golf course left the rumpled fairways as he found them and exercised restraint in his design choices. The result is a quirky links course with a dearth of bunkers and an abundance of table top greens.
A true links course, Paraparaumu has the feel of a course in the British Isles, although the weather is decidedly better here. Similar to Royal Lytham & St. Annes, you never actually see the water while playing. In addition to sharing the topography of Lytham, the course also has an element of the quirkiness of Scotland's Cruden Bay thrown in. There are a half dozen blind or semi-blind shots, including the 1st tee shot, and holes with some interesting greens, including the 11th, which is a punchbowl.
A collection of short par 4s, the 6th, 8th and 10th take full advantage of the dramatic natural land forms. They make up for their lack of length and bunkering by using the natural contours of the true links land, placing a premium on shot accuracy. Paraparaumu offers plenty of opportunity to be creative and bump and run the ball: a key consideration when playing in "windy Wellington."
One of the defining characteristics of the course is its appropriate sense of scale, with a continual change in hole direction. The dunes are perfectly proportioned, and Russell routed the course among them with skill. The front nine is routed further from the sea, which is about 500 yards away at its closest point. The front nine is nearer the water, with all but two holes on the course designed to play in a cross-wind.
In the same way that Whistling Straits is defined by its generous use of bunkers, Paraparaumu is defined by the absence of them. There are less than a dozen fairway bunkers on the entire course; and the 1st and 5th holes have none of any kind. The scarcity of bunkering is most pronounced on the par 3s. The two best, the 5th and 16th, have tabletop greens that fall off sharply on three sides. Anything less than the perfect shot will not hold them. As my host said in typical straightforward Kiwi fashion of the 155-yard 5th, "you are either on it, or you're not," meaning correctly, that there is a harsh penalty for missing. New Zealand native and Open Champion Bob Charles calls the 5th "equal to any short hole in the world."
It is a brilliant place to play golf.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
The original designers were fortunate to have had such classic coastal terrain to work with and golf was first played over these dunes during the 1920’s. Their task, not so much designing the holes, rather, identifying them and laying them out on the existing topography.
Circa 1948, the club secured the services of Alex Russell, winner of the 1924 Australian Open, one time associate of the revered master, Dr Alister MacKenzie, and in company with one Douglas Whyte of R & A fame, identified and utilised the full potential of the available land to create the links we see today. The revamped Para’m, opened for play to accolades, in 1949.
Today, at PBGC, golfers are provided with a well balanced traditional links layout. The fairways are relatively narrow offering sometimes rather small targets at their conclusion. The prevailing wind seems to quarter from all points of the compass as rarely do two holes play in similar direction.
Paraparaumu Beach GC has hosted no less than twelve New Zealand Open Championships. And for good reason. I have been fortunate to have played the adjoining layouts of Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports at Sandwich and state with confidence that ‘Para’m’ would slot most comfortably betwixt these two classic links.
On arrival, I received a warm welcome from mine host, GM, Leo Barber, and was provided with a most enthusiastic and comprehensive overview of the course and its antecedents.
This is a delightfully undulating tract of land, running adjacent to the coastline. I liken it to the great links at Rye, in England. There are five sets of tees on offer at PBGC and this course provides a tough but fair test of your game. From the tips, it measures 6014 metres, par of 71, 35 out and 36 home. Relatively short by modern standards and conservatively rated at 72.4 with a slope of 125.
Fairways; Every conceivable lie may be expected on these undulating, rolling fairways. The aerial route not often the optimal choice and the exponents of the ‘Pommie’ bump and run are invariably the more successful.
Greens; This is an extremely strategic course comprising sensational green complexes. Simply great putting surfaces, fast, true and receptive with all manner of interesting undulation. Get it wrong at your peril and big numbers appear, seemingly from nowhere.
Bunkers: Just great. In the classic Russell/MacKenzie style, most evident with the pot bunkers adjacent to the 3rd green – a real test of your skill with the most lofted bat in your bag. To ratify this fact, a quick triple jumped in on the par three second after an extended visit to the front left greenside pot which sports the ‘stepped’ face indigent to the old links courses of the south of England. Aesthetically delightful.
And, at last, a round in NZ where the climatic conditions were “only” characteristic of the accepted norm. Overcast, a blustery northerly, slipping along at a nominal 25 miles per hour, sporting a chill factor of 7 out of 10 but thankfully, no rain. Without playing PBGC under these ‘average’ conditions, one would never experience the full potential of this great course.
Didn’t get within a ‘bull’s roar’ of playing to my handicap – however – possibly due to my obvious predilection for links golf, by ‘a street’, the most enjoyable round, on, in my opinion, the best course encountered on this sojourn to ‘The land of the long white cloud’.
A brief aside – Alex Russell only designed four original layouts whilst tinkering and offering advice on several more. In 2014 these four clubs, Royal Melbourne, Lake Karrinyup, Yarra Yarra and Paraparaumu Beach met and formed the Alex Russell Society with the objective to “examine and foster the golf architecture” of the Society’s namesake. The first meeting was hosted in Western Australia, at Lake Karrinyup, a course that had recently undergone a restoration of the original Russell design. It’s Kiwi cousin Paraparaumu Beach will play host to the second meeting of the Society later in 2015.