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Top 50 Golf Courses of New Zealand 2019

11 March, 2019
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Top 50 Golf Courses of New Zealand 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of our ranking chart for New Zealand, where we now present what we consider to be the Top 50 golf courses in the country. It’s interesting to look back at the first Kiwi listings that we published, a Top 30 that appeared in August of 2010, with the “Big Two” of Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers firmly installed at the top of the table.

How things have changed on the New Zealand golf scene since then.

In fairness, Tom Doak’s remarkable Cape Kidnappers course at Hawke’s Bay remains in the number 2 slot but it’s separated from the former number 1 track at Kauri Cliffs in Matauri Bay (now at #5) by Alex Russell’s 1940s links layout at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club on the Kapiti Coast and the Jack Nicklaus-designed new millennium offering at The Kinloch Club on Lake Taupo.

All of these courses have been usurped in very recent times by another stellar Tom Doak design at the Tara Iti Club on the 3,000-acre Te Arai estate, which crashed into our chart at the number 1 spot two years ago. Named after the rare Fairy Tern bird that inhabits the northern end of this property, the course also now features very prominently in our World Top 100.

Our US consultant Fergal O’Leary played the course before our last Kiwi revision. He thought “the ‘ground-game’ is paramount at Tara Iti as you continually use the rolling, tumbling topography to navigate your ball towards the flagstick” and our International Correspondent David Davis has since visited, terming it “one of the best courses on the planet” and “worth a trip to the other side of the world to experience”.

Elsewhere within the Top 10, seven other courses remain in exactly the same position as last time around.

The only significant move within this upper bracket is the four-place climb to number 7 that’s made by the course at Arrowtown Golf Club, which David Davis said was “one of the biggest surprises of my extensive New Zealand golf tour” when he played there, describing it as “old school, lay of the land golf that doesn’t really follow modern architectural templates… there are, however, plenty of long native grasses, rock outcroppings and dramatic natural land formations.”

Arrowtown featured as a “Gourmet’s Choice” in Volume 5 of The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses , with co-author Darius Oliver introducing it thus: “To fully immerse yourself in Kiwi golf culture and appreciate the game in this beautiful land you need to include a stop at one of its many unpretentious old country courses. There are many such courses across both the North and South islands, though none as charming, or quite as quirky, as Arrowtown – and certainly none that are as much fun to play.”

A little further down the chart, two courses make an impressive leap up the listings.

Waverley Golf Club (up fifteen places to number 16) in the Taranaki region of the North Island was one of five new entries in our last Top 50 re-evaluation and it now soars into the top half of our table. We said it was “the ultimate hidden gem” for which a google search doesn’t throw up many results but a reviewer last year certainly managed to find it, posting a 6-ball review for this rough diamond to say: “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.”

Eight hundred kilometres to the north of Waverley, the 1960s design at Kaitaia Golf Club in Northland’s Ahapira Bay also makes a double digit advance from number 36 to number 23. Tom Doak thinks “the real architectural interest is all on the front nine” of this layout but he reckons “it’s worth the drive from Kauri Cliffs if you’re up that way”. Just a few weeks ago, a reviewer was of the opinion that “it had all the qualities of a proper links course” and “were it not for the palm trees located in the tree line, you could easily believe you were at Littlestone, Hayling Island or another links of that quality.”

There are five newcomers in this chart iteration and the highest placed layout arrives at number 36. Marton Golf Club near Santoft in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of the North Island celebrated its centenary in 2014 but the club has only been playing on its current site since the late 1950s. It’s the home club of the iconic New Zealand sportswoman Bessie Fullerton-Smith, one of the nation’s first female championship golfers from the 1930s and the members are really pleased to sing her praises. Awarded the MBE in 1972 for her services to equestrian sport, Bessie passed away in 2008 at the ripe old age of 101.

Sad to relate, one of the courses dropping out of the reckoning is the former number 14, Oreti Sands at Southland Golf Club in Invercargill, which closed last year. Club members are now playing out of nearby Invercargill Golf Club (where the course rises eight positions to number 33) but it seems a shame that such a highly regarded coastal layout is now reverting back to nature under the auspices of the local authority in ownership of the property.

Two of the other courses to fall out of the new Top 50 (Royal Auckland and The Grange) are set for a happier ending, though only one of them will return following a merger of the two clubs. The intention is for Nicklaus Design to create a 27-hole facility across both locations in two phases and, because of the extensive nature of this remodel, we won't see the new Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club reappear in the rankings until the next chart update at the earliest.

We hear that another two public access courses are under consideration for development at the southern end of the Te Arai property where Tara Iti is situated and if they get the go ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where either might feature in future Kiwi listings.

To view further details of our latest New Zealand Top 50 rankings click the link.

If you’d like to pass comment on these revised national standings then please use the “Respond to this article” link at the top or bottom of this page to get in touch with us. We’re always happy to receive feedback when we re-rank our charts so by all means let us know what you’re thinking if you have something to say about our latest New Zealand rankings.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses

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