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​Top 50 Golf Courses of New Zealand 2021

31 May, 2021

Top 50 Golf Courses of New Zealand 2021

It’s just over two years since we published our last Top 50 chart for New Zealand so it’s high time that we reappraised this biennial listing. Thanks largely to strict Kiwi government covid measures which made foreign travel virtually impossible last year, golf within the country is in rather rude health at the moment.

Of course, high-end facilities which rely heavily on overseas visitors for much of their business will have suffered hardship but, in general terms across the nation, there was more than a quarter the usual number of additional rounds played in the second half of last year, which can only be good for the golf industry as a whole.

Increased numbers playing the game brings a new vibrancy to the sport but it hasn’t done anything to shake up many of the chart placements at the top end of the table. There were eight Top 10 non-movers in the 2019 revision of our Kiwi rankings and there are nine this time around.

We don’t alter ranking positions for the sake of “freshening the charts up”. If the data dictates that things should stay largely as they were near the top of the standings then that’s just the way it goes – some might actually see it as a validation of us having the top courses ordered correctly.

And so, the Tom Doak-designed course at the Tara Iti Golf Club outside Mangawhai retains its No. 1 status in our new listings. Along with Cape Kidnappers at #2 and Paraparaumu Beach at #3, Tara Iti occupies a position in our World Top 100 chart, which sets the gold standard globally, giving an indication of just how good the golf product can be in this part of the world.

Tara Iti Golf Club

Review comments for Tara Iti from last year include: “the whole concept is to enjoy your golf, not be beaten up by it, as it should be… a combination of top accommodation and hospitality for guests and top golf with all you dream of… one of not only the best courses, but also best golfing experiences, in the world.”

The only movement inside the Top 10 is at #10 with the arrival of the new 27-hole layout at Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club which was planned by Chris Cochran of Nicklaus Design and built by Puddicombe Golf. After Royal Auckland and Grange merged in 2015, the stated aim of the new club was to create a golfing campus that was fit for comparison with the best in Australasia.

Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club Tamaki course

“Project Legacy” has delivered just that, essentially obliterating the two former 18-hole courses to make way for the current set-up, with the Grange and Tamaki nines now considered the 18-hole course of first choice. The greens on all three nines have been constructed with state-of-the art SubAir systems so nobody can accuse the club of skimping on the specification for its new golf complex.

The biggest upward move in the top half of the new chart is made by the course at Manawatu Golf Club in Hokowhitu (up four to #21) which is reckoned to be the oldest golf course in continuous use in the country. Established as a 9-hole track back in 1895, it was redesigned by C.H. Redhead in 1928 then further changes were made by H.G. Babbage in 1955. More than twenty national amateur and professional championships have been contested at Manawatu down the years, with the last of five NZ Opens staged here in 1973.

Manawatu Golf Club

In the bottom half of the table, three courses each climb nine spots in the New Zealand standings.

The coastal course at Mangawhai Golf Club (at #32) in the seaside town of Mangawhai Heads was the last design of Harry Dale, who laid out or redesigned more than sixty courses throughout the North Island during his career, including Miramar, Ohope and Waipu. Bob Charles attended the club’s 40th anniversary celebration dinner in 2019 as guest of honour, after playing a round on the course earlier in the day, naturally.

Mangawhai Golf Club

The 18-hole layout at the Lakes Resort in Pauanui (at #36) is a new millennium offering from the same Canadian firm that built the new Royal Auckland & Grange 27-hole layout. With a dozen New Zealand projects to its name, Puddicombe Golf has operated in the country during the North American winter season since 1989 and the Lakes layout is one of the company’s flagship enterprises.

The Omaha Beach Golf Club course (at #38) started out as a 9-hole affair in 1976 before John Darby added another nine nearly thirty years later. It’s a lovely links-like layout located on the west side of the sandspit that protrudes out from the Tawharanui Peninsula to separate Whangateau Harbour from Omaha Bay. Chris Pitman now consults at the club as it seeks to improve the course’s championship hosting credentials.

Omaha Beach Golf Club

The much-anticipated new 36-hole development at the southern end of the Te Arai property (where Tara Iti is situated) broke ground late last year. The South course is a Coore & Crenshaw production which is set to open in 2022, with the Tom Doak-designed North course following a year later.

Te Arai Links South course

This upcoming pay and play facility has been described as the New Zealand equivalent of “having a couple of public Pebble Beach layouts located alongside a private Cypress Point” so it’s hardly any wonder so many golfers are eagerly looking forward to the imminent unveiling of these two tracks.

We’re also aware of the rebuild work recently carried out on the Lochiel course at Riverside Golf Club in Hamilton by RBT Design and Phil Tataurangi Golf and it’ll be interesting to see if this new track features in the national listings when we next revise the chart two years from now.

Millbrook’s fourth nine (Mill Farm) opens for member play this coming October. The new nine will join up with the third (Coronet) loop to form a new 18-hole course named Coronet which will most likely become the premier layout at the facility.

To view the complete detailed list of our latest Top 50 Golf Courses of New Zealand click the link.


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