Waitangi itself is probably the most significant place in New Zealand in terms of the history of this young country. It is the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, an “agreement” between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs about governance, land ownership and rights in the new nation state. The Treaty had both an English and Maori version, which differ somewhat, and this has been the subject of great controversy ever since.
Waitangi Golf Club is literally over the hedge from the Treaty grounds, situated on land purchased in 1932 by the Governor General of New Zealand and his wife, Lord and Lady Bledisloe. They donated it to the people of New Zealand as a ‘place of historic interest and recreational enjoyment for their benefit and use in perpetuity’.
The course enjoys some stunning panoramas, in one direction overlooking the renowned Bay of Islands, with other outlooks over a river estuary, forest and rolling bushland. The layout is one of narrow fairways and small greens, the front nine weaving through bush and lines of trees, with the back nine finding more open country on the cliff tops.In 2011, the 11th hole was converted from a par four into a long arcing par five, with the green pushed back right to the coastline, nestled against the rocks. Kristine Kerr, who also designed the recently opened Pegasus in Christchurch, oversaw this work.
After a relatively ho-hum front nine that really seemed a pretty standard rural parkland course, something happened at the turn as you cross the road toward the Waitangi peninsula. Suddenly the views are of the water and the sweeping piece of land that holes run into and out along. 11 through 18 are great golf holes and if I was playing here again I'd just play the back nine twice.
Greens fine, but conditioning through the green was a little less so, probably because the area seemed quite dry. Good value golf.
A leisurely four hour drive north of Auckland’s hustle bustle you may be soaking up some of NZ’s most tranquil environments. Again, the spectacularly scenic aspects of our sojourn through the Shaky Isles emerge here. The Waitangi GC boasts some of the finest panoramic views of any course in the country.
Notwithstanding being located a smidgin outside the top 30, WGC is a worthy inclusion in this narrative. Top 100 Golf Courses of the World rate it as 31st in the North Island and 50th nationally.
This club exudes a convivial ambience of relaxed hospitality, epitomised by the warm welcome from Alex [Bonno] Bonnington, resident head professional for almost a quarter of a century. To quote Bonno; “A round here is like having a therapeutic stress-relieving massage”. As’pro – Josh Allen, set us up and we hit off early, hopefully to finish prior to his predicted 3.00 pm arrival of the forecast heavy rain.
Par at Waitangi is 70 hits and the course plays every bit of its 6000 odd metres. The front nine wends its way through native bushland in a classic parkland setting. Highlights on the front are the par five 3rd and the wonderful setting of the par three 6th.
48 hours earlier, we battled around Kauri Cliffs, in a 40 kph gale. Today, in conditions much more conducive to a reasonable round, I was only a couple over after nine and still playing my original ball. What a difference a day makes.......
The sea breeze in your face heralds arrival at the 10th. The back nine is very much a contrast. Quite undulating, and open to the vagaries of the elements. It meanders out and back along the cliff tops in spectacular fashion and is by far the most challenging and picturesque portion of the course. 10 through 14 are rightly considered by locals to be their ‘amen corner’. Complete this series of holes around par you are set to submit a good card. The recently remodelled 11th is a downhill cracker, which terminates literally above the water’s edge.
The run home then wends its way back along the cliffs and concludes with a testing par four below the clubhouse.
Waitangi is a special place to play and I commend it to all seeking round on a spectacular, good track. Green fees are very reasonable. WGC offers excellent value for money, a most pleasant contrast as many of the top courses are quite ‘xey’. AND – definitely don’t miss a convivial après round coldie or two with the locals. “A most cordial crew....” PS – Josh’s prediction of a 3.00 o’clock downpour was spot on. We were unloading our gear in the car park at a couple of minutes to three when it bucketed down. PPS – Nett 70 and finished with the ball I started with. A good round is always a bonus.....