Course Review : Russley Golf Club

Russley Golf Course is conveniently located right beside the Christchurch International Airport and just 15 minutes from the middle of Christchurch. For those unfamiliar with Christchurch, a series of large earthquakes destroyed much of the city in 2011 but fortunately for Russley, the area of land around the course was relatively untouched.

Originally opened in 1928, the golf course was always a tree-lined and very tight challenge for any golfer. Due to local roading requirements in 2012-14, a portion of the back nine was taken for development. This resulted in a re-design of the back nine by former New Zealand professional golfer Greg Turner.

Home of the 1985 NZ Open, won by Corey Pavin, Russley has hosted many of NZ’s top golfers and tournaments and is generally regarded as being one of the top 50 golf courses in New Zealand.

Cost & Availability

Russley is a typical New Zealand golf course in that there is a membership program, and certain blocks of the week will normally be reserved for members, but there is generally plenty of availability for non-members. Rates vary between $55 and $100

First impressions.

A premium Christchurch course, you do feel like you are heading somewhere towards the high end as you come through the gates. The entrance you walk through gives you a look at the 18th green and the course sprawling out beyond – a nice little teaser for the first-time player.

The course

Like the majority of Christchurch courses, Russley is extremely flat. The course can play hard and fast in long hot Christchurch summers. Some of the more notable holes include;

#1 – Driveable Par 4 that can get your round to a fast start. Trouble if you hit a large fade as out of bounds but the kind of hole you like to start with and get round rolling ( hopefully)

#5 –  Par 5 that the long hitters can get to in 2. You must, however, clear the bunkers that guard the edge of the driving area and then take a deep breath and strike your 2nd perfectly to avoid a lake that covers the front of the green. For the majority of us, it’s a layup and a wedge in, but that lake is right in your vision and plays with the mind. 3 might be in play if it is your day, but so is double, triple, and beyond on a bad one.

#8– A tough, long par 4 with bunkers in driving range both right and left. A treacherous green guarded by a tricky deep bunker awaits any wayward approaches. A 4 on the scorecard here, and you are making ground up on the field.

#14 – Technically, a driveable par 4 ( my playing partner last time I played did so), but you must hit a high fading bomb to get there. For a long hitter, I could debate the only play as the layup otherwise is tough with bunkers eagerly waiting for the slightest error in distance control. Elevated green that you must carry to the correct part of, or your ball will roll all the way back off the green. A lot of 3 putts here

#17 – Par 3 – Long, seems to always be into the wind and a small gap to hit through if looking to the run-up. Otherwise, put your big boy pants on and hit the green – easier said than done. Again a 2 putt often a great result

Everything else ….

Excellent golf shop with helpful staff. The recently built golf simulator room really adds to the overall experience. Russley also offers a putting green, driving range, and coaching options.

Hacker Moments

On one particular visit to Russley for an ambrose tournament, I witnessed a member of my team hit from just in front of the lake on the Par 5 5th hole. After missing the ball completely, he lost control of the club only to yank it into the depths of the lake. Considering he was using a borrowed set of clubs from the sponsor of the tournament, we were in stitches.

Lasting thoughts

I really enjoy playing here. Not always successfully, but that is ok, and that is golf! The front 9 is absolutely wonderful – really tight driving holes with huge Pine trees looking to capture any stray shot. You have to have the big sticks working well to get yourself a score here.

The back 9, due to redevelopment, feels very much the opposite – fairly wide open, large rolling greens, and it’s the flat stick and the wedges you need to have in order to succeed on the back. For the average golfer, that is what makes this course a challenge – the change is nines pushes your skillset.

Rating

7.2 out of 10

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