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¾ of a mile SE of Queenstown as the crow flies, but 8 miles by road round Lake Wakatipu
Welcome, contact in advance
John Grant, Hilton Hensman and Commander John Harris
The most photographed view of Queenstown is the one from the top of the gondola (reputed to be the steepest lift in the Southern Hemisphere), looking down on the town and Lake Wakatipu, with the saw-tooth Remarkables Mountains providing the abrupt horizon. If you simply put ‘Queenstown’ in Google Images, you’ll see that half the search results show this same view. Well, the triangular peninsula in centre shot is Queenstown Golf Club, and that should tell you all you need to know about the splendour of its location.
Queenstown Golf Club was first formed in 1927, with the original layout located a few miles away in Frankton, where there's currently a 9-hole course (called Frankton) and a covered driving range. It was not until 1973 that the club moved to its current home, the Kelvin Heights golf course, situated on the peninsula next to the rather affluent neighbourhood of the same name. The Hensman and Grant families designed the new course, with advice from Commander John Harris (who had just completed work on Wairakei International at that time).
At 6,674yds (6,103m) off the back tees, Kelvin Heights is not long by modern-day standards, and considering how it is surrounded on all sides by water, it is perhaps surprising that the lake only really comes into play on one hole – but what a hole it is. The 5th curves majestically round to the left, with Lake Wakatipu looming, waiting to swallow any hook or pull off the tee. Photos of this hole often make it look rather flat, but up close and in person, the visitor will find it is actually contoured rather beautifully.
The course currently hosts an event on the Australian PGA Legends Tour, the Club Car Queenstown Legends Pro-Am.
This was my favorite course in Queenstown and easily one of the most scenic I have ever played. The course itself is very good with some very good holes and with a very affordable green fee it represents excellent value for money. The 5th is a standout with its proximity to the lake, be sure to get a photo looking back down the fairway from this green. A parklands course but not a lot of trees so a nice mix of narrow and wide fairways.
I played stunning Kelvin Heights on a driving/golf trip to NZ (highly recommended !) several years ago, so can't comment on current condition. However it lives the longest in my memory. I played on a lovely sunny day, The Remarkables looking close enough to touch, and had a tremendously fun game of golf. The course was quiet, so I was free to take plenty of photos and enjoy the clear air and sporting golf. There was plenty of variety, but for me the picturesque lake front holes with risk reward lines of play are the most memorable. There aren't many places where you can paraglide in the morning to check out the course from above, then play in the afternoon as I did! Friendly KH would be the first course I return to when I make it back to New Zealand.
When I first played golf in queenstown this was far and away the best course around. It has been eclipsed by so many big budget foreign owners building new modern resorts. That said it still is a great course with superb iconic views. It remains in great condition and plays different every day due to wind. Well worth a visit if you're in the area.
Was a member for many years playing over 130 games ...and for this mid HC Golf nut I really enjoyed my time playing at KH and find the rating lower than the much more basic nearby Arrowtown course a bit of a joke in all honesty ,,,(and I know many that would agree)
For one sometimes would play KH three times in a week ...and enjoyed every game ...where I would bore with AT pretty quickly ...
I guess it comes down to personal preference for many like the straight line layouts ...alway see your flag courses ...where players like myself love the dogleg , huge elevation changes ,blind spot fairways
I think I was wrong about a couple of things in 2011. My second round again made me suspect that the routing wasn’t optimal, especially when having hit straight and solid drives on all four par-5’s, I could actually only see the flag on one of them for the second shot. You’d have to have a different wind, or be quite a gorilla, for it to be otherwise, me thinks. Trying to hit par 5’s in two is, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of any round, and the three blind shots killed the fun somewhat.
On the other hand, I think I was also totally wrong when I talked about narrow tree lined fairways. It’s funny how poorly our memories serve us sometimes. Whilst there’s not exactly an abundance of playing options around, there’s actually plenty of space, and plenty of scope for heroic recoveries. I think in my mind, I’d actually focused on the 6th as a particularly suffocating tee shot, and indeed, there wasn’t a huge gap. But this time round, I realised that the trees actually create choice on this hole (not something that encroaching trees are renowned for). You can take 3-wood or hybrid, and simply hit straight down the middle, but there is a much more bold option available. Hit driver with the right amount of fade, and you could catch a turbo boost off the highly cambered fairway, and possibly even get close to the green. Without the tight tee shot, I’m certain people would pull driver every time, and the exhilaration of pulling off the risky option just wouldn’t be there.
I think anyone taking a week’s golfing holiday in Queenstown should definitely take in at least one round here. Whilst I think our rankings correctly put Kelvin Heights behind the other four courses, it brings something different to the table to the others. Even if it is in some ways a conventional Kiwi club course, it also has a certain X-Factor, and I don’t think it’s entirely due to the scenery. Matt Richardson
Before I played here, the opinions I’d heard were pretty much of one voice – great scenery, but the course is flawed; “too many blind shots”, they’d all say. I actually thought the majority of the blind tee shots were perfectly acceptable, with no nasty surprises over the brow of the hill. The ones I think I (and most other people would) struggle with are the blind second shots into par 5’s, of which there’s two here. And if you’re going to get into a game of architectural quibbling, there are other things to set your sights on, like the proliferation of tightly tree-lined tee shots (making the holes too prescriptive), the gimmicky short 10th, the steeply uphill 167 metre 7th (i.e. I needed a 4-iron to a seriously elevated green), and all the pines blocking the stupendous view of the lake. Without having thought about it too deeply, I’d have to wonder whether a lot of these issues are related to decisions made about routing.
But there’s a reason why I prefaced these quibbles in the way I did – it’s a club course from the 70’s, not designed by ‘experts’, what more can one expect? If you asked me whether I enjoyed the course, I’d not hesitate in saying “absolutely” (even though I played it in the midst of a 5-club wind). There are five or six very strong holes, in particular the show stopping 5th. The contours of the land are very conducive to good golfing terrain, and of course, the views (when you get them) are incredible. It’s a wonderful corner of the world to be playing golf in, full stop.
This is ‘great’ golfing land that has yielded a ‘good’ golf course, and whilst that might be a little frustrating for the informed pundit, it’s a highly enjoyable round for anyone just out for a hit. It may not trump any of its neighbours (Frankton aside, of course), but it’s perfectly worthy of a place on a Queenstown golfing itinerary. Matt Richardson