Windross Farm came into being when the members of Manukau Golf Club (who played over a Charles Redhead course good enough to sneak into the lower reaches of our New Zealand Top 50) decided to sell their land to property developers, and relocate to a potato farm in Ardmore, 6 kilometres inland from their original home.
They drafted in Brett Thomson as architect, to lead the transformation. Thomson had built a pedigree helping John Darby design Jack’s Point and The Hills (both located in Queenstown and both NZ Top 10 layouts) and was now working under his own banner, RBT Design. Former PGA Tour player Phil Tataurangi joined Thomson in a consultant role.
The property at Windross Farm required plenty of work to protect against a high water table, and we understand the site was sandcapped throughout to ensure firm playing surfaces. The result is a links-style layout that is very different from anything else in the Auckland area.
Within weeks of opening its tees for play in September 2016, Windross Farm secured New Zealand’s first LPGA Tour event, the 2017 McKayson New Zealand Women's Open.
When the members of Manukua Golf Club decided to sell their modest course to developers they acquired farming land in Ardmore, half an hour south of Auckland for the purpose of building a replacement course.
Brett Thomson from RBT Design was appointed as golf architect, and with help from former tour pro Phil Taturangi, Thomson took six years to develop what was essentially flat farming land into a championship links style course. Previously Thomson had assisted John Darby Design in the building of The Hills and Jack's Point near Queenstown- so he had an impressive pedigree.
The course opened in September 2016, and hit the ground running- hosting an LPGA event in 2017- the 2017 McKayson NZ Women's Open.
Nestled around valleys and hills set on farmland, it was noticble on entry that the land must of been dead flat before the course was built (potentially in flood plains!). But, arriving as we did after 80mm of rain in a month, the course showed no signs of flooding. It reminded me of the flat farmlards in the Yarra Valley surrounded by the hills.
The designer Brett Thomson has done an impressive job to make the course interesting by importing soil to create ragged dunes between each hole, therefore separating them a bit. His green complexes are also a highlight, and his use of ponds, wetlands and burns to augment what is essentially a links style course. Although there are some holes which run parallel, the designer has done well to mask this by variation in the hole design: no hole is alike.
However the lack of movement in the terrain means the dunes can sometimes look a little out of place compared to the surroundings- as there is virtually no movement in the fairways.
Suffice to say that no golfing trip to Auckland would be complete with a game at Windross Farm.
Review by Peter Wood’s son, Rory. Peter is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read the full review.
An excellent all weather course, an inland links course and home to the only LPGA event in NZ. The course is very enjoyable to play with wide fairways, excellent conditioning and some memorable world class holes such as 2,5,6,7,10,15 and 18. This course does need more length as too many drive and wedge par fours if a big hitter, there seems to be the room and in some cases even the tee boxes but for some reason they keep the tees forward. A definite must play if in Auckland, could well be a top ten contender if stretched out to a 6000m plus length
Windross Farm - Par 72 new course. Pro's - very forgiving fairways from all tees, dry, well drained, excellent greens and fairway surfaces, good course for most abilities, 4 hour playing time, available tee times. Cons - Small average tee boxes, shortness of course, lack of any trees, similarity of holes, too easy for low handicappers. Visiting this course is a pleasure, going back again is fun. Definitely worth challenging yourself here to shoot a good number on a relatively easy course. Large greens provide the biggest challenge and your score will be reflected by your short game. I too am like the last reviewer, I score the course highly as a visitor but not sure it can be rated as great as 50 rounds in and you might get bored. Further longer larger tee boxes are needed for the course to test the better players. Too many par 4's playing driver wedge at under 340 metres and in summer 2-3 potentially drivable at 280-300m. Excellent par 3's with a premium on accuracy, a couple of blind tee shots and some thinking to be done, easier playing second time. Par 5's fair. Lots of red laterals and some burns to beware. Facilities very good. Just missing the wow factor and the tee boxes let down the excellent fairways and greens. A very solid course worth a visit when in Auckland.
I'll be honest, I literally don't know what I think of Windross Farm, I found it to be a rather strange creation. I had kept tabs on everything posted online about it, and saw the plans for it many years ago - the huge amount of width off the tee, the promise of firm and fast conditioning, and the links stylings. It looked like it was going to be a lot of fun. So what did I find?
Well, there is width, that's for sure. I quite like the idea of width, where you're not going to spend precious leisure time searching around in long grass (who likes that?), but surely it only really works well when you can't just spray it anywhere, there needs to be advantage to being on one side of the fairway or the other. Making the golfer think - now that I really like, that's fun to me, anywhere where astute course management is more valuable. I had that in mind when I went round, playing close attention to the entrances to the greens, and there seemed to be only 3 or 4 holes where it really mattered where you were on the fairway. I wanted more strategy.
I also found it strange that there was some really fantastic shaping on and around the greens, and they also managed to sculpt 'dunes' in between fairways without it looking like blatantly artificial containment mounding, but to then have the fairways dead flat ... I don't know. You could literally put 5 or 6 small 11-a-side football pitches on the golf course, and I've certainly played plenty of matches in my time on more undulating surfaces. I assumed they had some sort of budgetary or constructional limitations? I don't know enough about what it takes to build a golf course to speculate further.
But there's no mistaking that there were 4-5 great golf holes (5 and 15 would be my top picks), and almost every other hole had something worthy about it (aside from perhaps 1 and 17). And I must add that the greens were sensational, both in terms of conditioning and contouring. I just found the experience a bit repetitive and underwhelming to be considered a really top golf course, and I was left wondering if the canvas they started with was just too darn plain to really make anything better. Ultimately the acid test is whether I find myself wishing to go back again, and the answer is 'yes', but I'm not completely sure why.