Formed in 1912, Pukekohe Golf Club enjoyed something of a nomadic existence during its formative years, laying down roots at several locations before finally finding a permanent home within an old Karaka dairy farm.
Irishman and former engineer Charles Redhead – who would eventually design or redesign other top Kiwi courses such as New Plymouth, Rotorua and Manawatu – was engaged to lay out the fairways on the new course and it duly opened for play on 29th April 1939.
Commander John Harris made several changes in the mid-1960s, resulting in major modifications to holes 6, 13 and 14, all of which had been subject to flooding from time to time.
Grant Puddicombe’s Canadian design company was called in to implement further improvements in 2003 and this work entailed expanding lakes (on holes 4, 6 and 14) and removing a significant number of trees around the course.A favourite hole of many is “Lookout,” the 439-yard par four 12th, where the S-shaped fairway suits a slightly faded tee shot, allowing the best approach to a long, offset green that’s protected by a small bunker to the left and a steep bank to the right.
An excellent parkland style course, a few too many blind tee shots for my liking. Hole 2 and 3 are disappointing doglegs that require a slice or an iron off the tee but the course picks up from there with 4, 5 and 6 excellent testing holes. 7 and 9 are again iron off the tee dogleg par 4s. 11, 12, 13, 14 is another patch of good holes with a testing short par 3 in 11 and a long par 3 in 14. 15 and 16 are good holes although the slope on 16 in summer is akin to putting down a flight of stairs and stopping it halfway down. 17 and 18 are both par 5s and a disappointing finish, although your approach into 18 is extremely testing if trying to get there in two. All in all some truly excellent sections of holes but sadly some not so good ones as well.
I had a spare afternoon in the Auckland area, and I wanted to pick somewhere off the beaten track. Tossing up between South Head and Pukekohe, my interest was piqued by the drone video on Pukekohe’s website, although viewing Google Earth made me wonder if I was going to get some standard Kiwi tree-lined parkland tedium.
But no … pleasantly surprised. Yes, there’s a lot of trees about, but they are far enough back from fairway edges so that they rarely suffocate, only seriously dictating the playing line on 4-5 holes, which feels more like variety than tedium. What was really satisfying to discover was the movement of the ground, with rolling undulations and gulleys well suited for golf – couldn’t pick that from the aerial photography – making holes like 2, 7, 8, 12 and 16 a cut above your average Kiwi fare, and making one’s round more of a journey.
Also pleasing to see that the water holes didn’t necessarily rely on the hazard to make or break the hole. The 4th in particular had contouring round the green that gave the hole far more value than the lake – reminded me of the 3rd at Remuera, also designed by Grant Puddicombe’s firm. In fact, I’m noting that it was Puddicombe who also cleared some trees back in 2003, so without seeing the previous incarnation, it feels as if his renovation work may have been well conceived.
As far as Auckland courses go, I would pick it as being a shade better than The Grange, but not quite on a par with North Shore – it lives in that type of company. Probably just about worthy of sneaking into a national Top 50. Matt Richardson