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Top Golf Courses of New Zealand – 2010

12 August, 2010

Top Golf Courses of New Zealand – 2010

12th August 2010 presents the most informed Top Golf Course rankings for New Zealand.

We have assembled for the first time New Zealand’s Top 30 golf courses based on detailed research, which included not only utilising our unique process but also by polling numerous Kiwi club professionals. The result, we think, has culminated in the most authoritative list of New Zealand’s greatest golf courses.

There are numerous magazine ranking lists, books have been published featuring top golf courses and many websites regularly create their own lists of great golf courses. Those who are brave, or perhaps foolish, claim to be “definitive” but ultimately, ranking golf courses is a rather subjective business. Perhaps the most accurate rankings are an individual golfer’s own. Rating golf courses is what the Top 100 website is all about. It’s a player’s website where individuals can rate and review each course and it’s these player reviews which truly cut to the chase.

New Zealand could easily win the “most beautiful country in the world” contest and golf is the No.1 participation sport with an incredible one in four Kiwi men playing golf regularly. New Zealand boasts almost 400 golf courses serving some 500,000 golfers across the North and South Islands. Until fairly recent times, New Zealand had only the household name of Paraparaumu Beach to write home about. “Paraparam” as it is called in New Zealand dates back to the 1930s and was the inaugural Antipodean links course. Some forty years later, near Lake Taupo, the Wairakei golf course appeared on the scene. Funded by government money and set in some 450 acres of rolling terrain, bubbling with geothermal activity, the Wairakei objective was for the course to become the country’s premier layout.

The links of Paraparaumu and golf among the geysers at Wairakei remained the top Kiwi golfing experiences for a further 25 years until 1997, when the American billionaire, Julian Robertson, bought 4,500 acres of land at Matauri Bay with the sole objective to create the best possible course from the enormous acreage… Kauri Cliffs was born. Tom Doak’s Cape Kidnappers followed hot on the heels of Kauri Cliffs and was fashioned from a thin slice of the Hawke’s Bay farm called Cape Kidnappers, which extended to a whopping 6,000 acres.

The New Zealand golf course quality bar was now raised to a stratospheric height and consequently visitors flocked to play the two new “Kiwi Pebble Beaches”.

It seemed rather unlikely that any new or existing Kiwi course could ever contend on the world stage with either Kauri Cliffs or Cape Kidnappers, but there are now three new courses that are taking Kauri and Kidnappers the full distance. The Kinloch Club pays homage to the great British and Irish links courses, although it is about as far from the ocean as you can get in New Zealand. It’s the first – and so far only – Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course to be built in the country and it’s an absolute cracker. Apparently, the Golden Bear himself, on playing the full 18 holes for the first time, he is reported to have quietly turned to the Kinloch Head Pro and commented that this is his favourite Nicklaus design. Matt, our resident Kiwi correspondent recently played Kinloch and was blown away. His detailed Kinloch course review is online on the Top 100 website and it’s a compelling read.

Not far behind Kinloch are two outstanding South Island courses, Jack’s Point and The Hills. The Hills is billed as New Zealand’s most exclusive golf club, but it’s possible to get a game at The Hills, unlike its Australian equivalent, Ellerston. In 2001, The Hills started out as a one-hole course for the jewellery magnate Michael Hill’s private use. Incredibly, six years later the club played host to the New Zealand Open. Not only is the setting awe-inspiring, located in Wakatipu Basin, surrounded by the Southern Alps on all sides, but also the Hills design is a triumph, particularly the closing stretch. From the switchback 14th, with its sheer rock face backstopping the green, to the vertigo-inducing tee shot of the driveable 15th and that controversial short 16th to a classic concluding two-shotter, with its cavernous greenside bunker. But it is the par five 17th that captures the attention the most. Christened ‘The Canyon’, it’s a 553-yard (506m) dogleg right, arching round a huge beach bunker that borders a lake. The second requires a perfectly struck fairway wood to thread between two imposing and precipitous schist outcrops.

Jack’s Point was first featured on the Top 100 website in January 2009, a couple of months after the course officially opened. Since then it has received many glowing reviews. Jack’s Point was designed by John Darby who has become one of the key figures in contemporary golf course architecture in New Zealand. Nestled between the saw-toothed, razorback Remarkables mountain range to the east, and the majestic Lake Wakatipu to the east, Darby was blessed with some wonderful golfing land and he followed a design principle of minimal excavation, using the integral features of the land as much as possible. The result is a modern throwback to classic, naturalistic architecture – seemingly influenced by courses such as Sand Hills and Ballyneal, but with a clear Central Otago flavour. The routing takes the golfer from wetlands to rock-infested hillside, from lakeside through native bush, skirting dry stone walls before plunging downhill towards the water-fringed closer. Play it and be prepared to have your socks blown off.

Our unique Kiwi ranking list involved gathering, analysing and processing data from a multitude of sources. So, until a definitive description as to what constitutes a great golf course has been defined, we believe that nobody does it better than Top 100 Golf Courses.

We genuinely welcome feedback; in fact we actively encourage it. So please let us know what you think about our latest list of Top New Zealand Golf Courses. We won’t ever claim to be “definitive” but we are the most “informed” golf course rankings in the business. If you’ve played any of our featured Kiwi courses, we’d be delighted to know what you think so why not contribute and post a course review or two?

Keith Baxter

Rank Course
1 Kauri Cliffs
2 Cape Kidnappers
3 Kinloch
4 Wairakei International
5 Jack's Point
6 Hills
7 Paraparaumu Beach
8 Titirangi
9 Millbrook
10 Gulf Harbour
11 Auckland
12 Clearwater
13 Christchurch
14 Terrace Downs
15 Royal Wellington
16 Carrington
17 Muriwai
18 New Plymouth
19 Hastings
20 Lakes
21 Southland
22 Hamilton
23 Remuera
24 Mount Maunganui
25 Russley
26 Arrowtown
27 St Clair
28 Otago
29 Chisholm Park
30 Mangawhai

Click here to see the detailed New Zealand list.


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