Google Waverley Golf Club and you’ll be surprised by a distinct lack of information returned by the search results. You will easily find its namesake in Victoria, Australia, but little else. This unassuming club flies well under the radar – even local Taranaki golfers seem to overlook this rugged gem.
The Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island is dominated by Mount Taranaki, one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. There’s more than enough information available online about this active volcano but as far as Waverley Golf Club is concerned, you’ll be hard pressed to even find a scorecard.
In a similar vein to England’s Kington and Royal North Devon, sheep cut the fairways at Waverley and consequently you’ll find less than perfect manicuring. If you don’t fancy dirty golf shoes then give this undulating 5,537-metre track a wide berth, but if you want to play some extraordinary golf holes, stop the car, put a few bucks in the honesty box, and prepare for a thrilling round.
Waverley was first brought to our attention in late 2016 when one of our most respected Kiwi contributors submitted a return for our 2017 New Zealand Top 50 re-rankings, which placed Waverley in the top 2.5% of all New Zealand’s golf courses. Since then we’ve been following in the footsteps of Tom Doak.
When Doak’s team was working on Tara Iti, some of his intrepid crew travelled around the North Island playing undiscovered courses. In an interview for Stuff Magazine, the Renaissance architect commented as follows:
“The little country course that my associates fell in love with was Waverley, it's just $10 or $15 and it's quite a place.
It's in rough shape but I could see what excited them. It's a really rugged piece of land and there's some really cool holes, four of five of them, and I've never seen anything like them before.
When we showed up to play there was no-one on duty and there was an honesty box to pay. Next to it was a sign about not wearing shoes in the clubhouse which I thought was a bit frou-frou for a place like that.
Then we got out on the course and saw all the sheep dung about and thought 'I get it now'.”
Tom Doak awarded Waverley a six rating (a very good course, definitely worth a game if you're in town) on his “Doak Scale” in Volume 5 of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses ... "the terrain for golf is superb and holes like the par-5 opener running along the edge of high ground, the short par-4 12th with its tiny green in a valley, the wild back-to-back par-5's at 14 and 15, and the short 16th over a dip to a green tucked in between sharp dunes, are among the best golf to be found in New Zealand."
We hope many adventurous golfers will tee it up here among the sheep. If you’ve played Waverley, why not share your thoughts?
Thank God for Tom Doak and his team, pointing out the marvel that is Waverley. Since playing Waverley, I've played many other similar courses in the Taranaki region to see if any of them captures the spectacular feeling that Waverley does, but sadly not. It stands alone as an incredible layout, and there's never been more than a couple other cars in the "parking lot" (grass field) when I've gone to play.
Every hole is unique and special, but especially 14 and 15 which I truly feel would be iconic at any other golf course. The design of 14 is just magnificent from tee to green (and I'm glad they removed the power poles now!). Every tee box is intelligently placed and it's a truly captivating layout from start to finish. Throw your expectations of a $15 country course out the window and come play Waverley. It's seriously worth the trip.
Holes 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 18 are all outstanding designs, and naming those 11 holes is genuinely me trying to narrow down the best of the best. It's simply that good, and every hole is special. I would love to play a version of this course that had fast and true greens, but that might remove some of the charm. Don't judge a book by its cover!
New Zealand's Black Sheep. Waverley Golf Club is one of the most unique golfing experiences in the world. The clubs financial restrictions come as a blessing in disguise. For it is one of the most naturally stunning sites I've seen, with its raw and organic beauty on full display. There were several holes that blew me away, 2, 5, 14 and 16 were highlights. The course has left me with an indelible impression and I'm champing at the bit to return to play this fun course.
I had the great pleasure of playing this course in December during a very dry summer. $15 in the honesty box we played and did not see another soul. No water, no bunkers, no rough, no fairways and a few trees. Sounds boring, not a bit of it. This course is absolutely fantastic. If it was on the coast of Scotland it would be an iconic course. Dry undulating land with eighteen verdant greens here and there. If I could have taken it home with me to the UK I would have.
Waverley Golf Club is a challenging course, interesting approaches, tricky greens, some great holes, watch out for the sheep...really worth the walk