New Zealanders are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to golf courses. With over 390 courses shared by the local population of around 4 million people, it’s not hard to find a tee time even in the busiest season. In fact only Scotland, the original home of golf, can boast having more courses per capita than New Zealand! With so many greens to choose from, it can be the work of a lifetime to try to play every golf course in New Zealand. Luckily for you, we’re giving that task a fair old crack. Most of the courses we’ve played have been highly enjoyable, and a lot of them lift their game to sublime levels (a pity we can’t always say the same about our own shot-making). Every now and again we find a course that has a particular magic of its own, and while they may not be the flashiest of links they’ve stuck with us as golfing experiences we’d love to share. So here’s our take on the 5 New Zealand golf courses that are absolute hidden gems.
The first course on our list is the Waitakere Golf Club. The manager there is also a ALL member, so any player producing their ALL Loyalty card will receive a $5 discount per player paying full green fees - and their maximum green fee is an incredibly low NZD $35 to start with!
Nestled in a magnificent bush valley in the mountainous Waitakere Ranges 30 minutes to the West of Auckland city, this feels like no other golf course on the planet. Our first thought as we drove down the road towards the club house was “who on earth would think to put a golf course here?”. The same thought occurred as we teed off on the opening hole, a blind shot down a hill so steep it feels like you could use a putter and still achieve a 200 yard drive.
But as the round unfolded, we were quickly won over by the way the holes so naturally wind through towering, untouched native forests. With plenty of birdsong, some of the tees play from their own little alcoves carved into the bush by the volunteers who established the course in the 1940’s. It feels like the most natural place you can imagine to play a round. Who thought to put a golf course here? A genius, that’s who.
Officially ranked within the top 50 courses in New Zealand, Waipu Golf Club also romps into our unofficial list of 5 hidden golf gems.
Waipu is about a 90 minute drive from Auckland city, but well worth the journey up State Highway 1. We arrived on a misty morning, and looking over the course from the carpark through the light fog, it was like we’d been transported to another place. The course is built on coastal sand dunes, and laid out like a classic English links course. As we played our round and the mist made way for the warm Northland sun, we were just as amazed at the views out over the beach to the wide Pacific Ocean. Walking the sand-based fairways you certainly know you’ve had some exercise by the end of the round, but for us it just made our cold drinks taste even better as we sat back and enjoyed the spectacular coastal views.
A gentle 20 minute drive from our hotels in Hamilton, Ngahinepouri is the quintessential New Zealand country golf course. What else would you expect when its website address is countrygolf.co.nz !
Ngahinepouri may not be the biggest course around – with 9 holes and a low-key entrance from road, it’s possible to drive right past. But it is without doubt the friendliest golf club we’ve ever visited, anywhere in the world. Many of the locals live within 5 minutes of the course, and they love nothing more than sharing their slice of paradise with visitors. And what a paradise it is, with the crisp green fairways bordered by fruit orchards, and a course always in excellent condition due to fairway watering courtesy of the artesian water supply.
Taking two turns around the course (with dedicated tee-boxes to form a separate front and back nine) is a good test of golf, but it’s the people you’ll really remember. We’ve returned a few times after our first visit, and been welcomed by the same smiling faces. Ngahinepouri is truly New Zealand rural golf at its very best.
It might be stretching the definition to call Miramar a hidden gem. It’s definitely a gem but it’s not exactly hidden, being set right beside Wellington’s international airport. You can step straight off a plane, across the carpark, and be in the clubhouse before other travellers have even picked up their luggage.
Despite its accessibility, Mirimar Links is sometimes overlooked as a golfing destination, as other more famous courses take priority. But we absolutely love the challenge of playing this course, especially on a windy day. It’s laid out in classic links style, not too long but when the breeze picks up it bares its teeth and becomes a right handful for any golfer. Even in mild conditions on those bright blue days that Wellington can really turn on, the strategic placement of bunkers and the unfamiliar lies which are produced so often by the groundskeepers really keeps you on your toes. And the beauty of that is that when you play there, you can’t be worried about anything else – it’s just you and your playing partners and 18 holes of gloriously uninterrupted golf.
If you plan your New Zealand golfing holiday in advance, then Queenstown will definitely be on your list. With some of New Zealand’s best hotels, great food and drink, and plenty to do on your non-golfing days, it’s easy to spend weeks here.
Queenstown Golf Club is one of many beautiful courses in the region, and while it’s one of the closest to town, it’s sometimes over-looked in favour of its better known local cousins. Names like the legendary Millbrook Resort, the relatively new but challenging Jacks Point, and exclusive and eye-poppingly beautiful ‘The Hills’ are often on golfers’ bucket lists.
But we think the Queenstown Golf Club is pretty hard to beat. We’ve played it in just about every season, with the highlight being autumn as the leaves on the deciduous trees turn every shade of amber, and the snow starts to gather on the aptly named Remarkables mountain range across the lake. Standing near a pebbly beach, watching your ball sink into the crystal clear water following a snap-hooked drive – but still smiling from the sheer beauty of the place you’re lucky enough to be right now… that makes this easily one of our top 5 New Zealand golf gems.
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