Fergal visits New Zealand
Fergal closes in on completing the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World – his latest stop was New Zealand
As I came within arm’s reach of completing the Top 100 Golf Courses in the World, my travels took me to New Zealand where I experienced the most down to earth hospitality and one of the friendliest nations on earth. With images of Lord of the Rings all around me, I was keen to become Lord of the Greens and not get fooled by too many hobbits…
The back nine takes you away from the water with the 10th through 13th holes located down in the valley all playing in the same direction away from the clubhouse. The anticipation to see the water again is handsomely rewarded when you climb up onto the par three 14th tee box which is the start of a very strong finishing stretch. The 16th hole is a very exciting cape style hole called ‘Temptation’ whereby you can bite off as much as your ego thinks you can chew. The remarkable green-site is on the ocean edge and requires a very precise approach shot. The 17th is the best hole on the property by far and plays as the index 1. The narrow fairway is at a diagonal angle to the tee box and is an impressive sight from the back tee. The hole runs along the ocean and will challenge the best players in the world to hit the green in regulation. The scenery of the Bay of Islands is unquestionably spectacular and will take your breath away at an astounding rate.
After having the fortune of playing the course a few times, it is my humble opinion that the inland holes are significantly more impressive than those finger fairways that grab all the spotlights. In fact, when you play 13-16, you’re probably feeling a bit let down (if that's even possible) because the holes don’t look like anything you expected them to look like. I do recommend allowing a moment for photographs on the back nine, especially from the 15th green and 16th tee box.
Doak’s routing across the farm is glorious whereby he created dramatic par threes over deep ravines, stunning par fours with spines running through fairways and blind drives to get your heart racing. The 7th hole was by far my favourite hole, as it presents a plateau fairway followed by a huge dip before swooping back up to the protected raised green. You really don’t want to hit your drive over the plateau, as it will leave you with a tough approach shot up to an unforgiving putting surface. Hitting this green in regulation is a wonderful achievement and the topology will have you taking photographs from almost every angle. Further highlights include the infinity green on number 12 where you naturally feel like you’re hitting into the end of the earth, which further echoes the sentiment of the excellent routing. Doak offers plenty of width throughout the fairways which is very fair given the demands of the approach shots. An exciting element to this course is the shaping around the greens. I encourage visitors to take note of the humps and bumps around the greens which kick the ball mostly in your favour (par three 6th hole is a great example of this as well as the punchbowl 18th green). This course really has the wow factor and I only wish that more people would come to play it as it’s sincerely memorable and appealing to golfers of all levels.
The course is not tremendously long, but it will ask a lot from you, and is golf at its purest. “How did I bogey that hole!?” is a frequently asked question at Param. I enjoyed hitting irons off the tee for strategic placement; I enjoyed the challenge of the design variety in the green complexes and the absolute thrill of playing the legendary 13th hole which ripples its way up to the jaw-dropping raised green. A testament to the design variety is that everybody I chatted with had a different favourite hole. The club has recently co-developed ‘The Russell Society’ made up of representatives from the four Russell courses in the Oceania region, which is a superb way to continue the traditions and share the knowledge of his particular style of architecture. I can honestly say that an afternoon at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club will be a highlight of your trip. The highest compliment to any golf course is that you’ll walk off the 18th green wanting to go straight back to the 1st tee.Article and photos (except one image, courtesy of Larry Lambrecht) by our US Consultant, Fergal O'Leary, who continues his mission to become the youngest person to play the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World.
08 January 2015 Respond to this article