New Zealand is about as far-flung a location as you can imagine for much of the world’s population. Stuck down at the end of the world, you may be surprised to learn that, as well as being an amazing tourist destination full stop, New Zealand offers an amazing range of golf experiences rivaling anywhere in the world.
Whilst it may seem like a big job to get to New Zealand, rest assured, there is no better time to start planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Regardless of what sort of golf experience you are looking for, New Zealand has you sorted.
From a handful of truly world-class courses that easily sit in the world’s top 100 tracks through to hundreds of amazing public courses where you may find yourself the only players on any given day, you are spoilt for choice. We will break down the specifics of an NZ golf holiday in future blogs, but here are some tips for where to get started and the locations you may want to research more.
- Take your time and stay a while – If you have taken the plunge to get to New Zealand make sure you don’t rush way too soon. It’s a long way to travel and jet lag could be a real challenge. Plus while NZ may look small on a map it’s actually quite a spread out country and a week won’t actually allow you to cover much ground. I would personally suggest at least a fortnight if you make it down under.
- Mix it up – Whilst you can stay busy playing world class courses for the duration of your stay, getting a feel for NZ golf requires you to step outside the normal golf vacation you may have had before. NZ is full of amazing country golf courses that may see you paying your green fees in an honesty box before you share the fairways with sheep and other wildlife. Even in the bigger cities the vast majority of NZ courses offer public access with green frees often being $30-$50 for courses that would cost hundreds anywhere else in the world.
- Ask a local – Whilst there is plenty online to help you plan your trip there is nothing like asking a local for what they suggest you tick off. Plenty of New Zealand’s best golf experiences may not have wonderful websites for you to explore. But that does not mean you should not be excited about wherever you end up.
There really are courses for every skill set and budget in New Zealand, but if you only have limited time, these suggestions may help you get started with your planning.
Tara Iti Golf course, located 90 minutes north of Auckland by car (most guests choose a helicopter which may tell you something about the course), may very well be the best course you have never heard of in the world. If you have heard about it, you undoubtedly are already trying to work out how to sneak in a visit. Designed by Tom Doak and opened in 2016, Tara Iti is technically an uber private course. But they offer an extraordinary and unique ‘once in a lifetime’ guest pass if you contact the pro shop and get a letter from your home club. As the old saying goes, ‘ if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ sums up the cost you could be up for if you stay and play (accommodation is a compulsory requirement), but if you can afford it, you will not regret your decision.
For slightly more mere mortals, the developers behind Tara Iti are also opening up two more public tracks in 2021 and 2022, which will undoubtedly create one of the leading golf resorts in the world.
If you make your way to Northland, you may also want to continue another few hours up the road to the world-famous Kauri Cliffs golf course. Sea views that will make Pebble Beach seem ordinary are just part of the package at Kauri Cliffs. 5 stars plus lodging will treat those lucky enough to stay on-site. Like a lot of NZ’s famous golf resorts, you may struggle to see any other golfers on course when you do venture out for around.
If you only have time for one location…. Or have non-golfers along for the ride: Queenstown.
Queenstown is New Zealand’s leading tourist destination. Well known as the adventure tourism capital of the world, Queenstown truly has something for everyone… including an amazing range of golf courses.
Jack’s Point golf course sits on top of Lake Wakatipu and may be one of the hidden secrets of the golf world. Millbrook offers 36 holes of resort-style golf unparalleled in New Zealand, and right across the road is the iconic The Hills golf course. The Hills may truly be one of the more unusual golf experiences you find worldwide in that it is part art display, part golf course, and all-around luxury experience.
If you want to save a dollar, Queenstown also is home to some truly splendid club tracks that might be worthy of being a resort of bucket list courses if they were anywhere else in the world. So make sure you check out Arrowtown and Queenstown golf club to complete your Queenstown experience.
If you want world-class golf and a slice or rural NZ: Kinloch Golf Club, Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary, and Cape Kidnappers.
Whilst not a rural course in any regard, these three iconic destination tracks will see you venture through Taupo and Hawkes Bay and a good slice of rural NZ… which, if you plan your adventure well, will give you a chance to throw in some rural NZ golf gems also.
Kinloch Golf Course is a Jack Nicklaus signature course and is often described as the best pure golf course in NZ before Tara Iti popped up. And if you are in Taupo, you are only a hop skip and a jump away from Wairakei, NZ’s answer to Augusta. A golf course masquerading as a wildlife sanctuary is truly something splendid to behold.
Cape Kidnappers may be the most photographed golf course in NZ, and whilst a couple of hours drive from Taupo, it is a must-stop if you are in this part of the world. Another Tom Doak track, you are literally located 100’s of meters up on cliffs hoping not to see your ball sail over the cliffs faces you need to navigate.
If you prefer the city: Auckland.
Truth be told, all of NZ’s major cities offer golf experiences that would satisfy any purest or beginner. Wellington and Christchurch, in particular, could easily take this award themselves, but based on the sheer size along Auckland offer at least a handful of impressive courses that mean you never have to leave the city if you don’t want to.
Gulf Harbour, Windross Farm, Muriwai, and Titirangi are all splendid club courses that you can pay for very reasonable rates. Titirangi, in particular, is an Alistair McKenzie-designed course that blends in some of what you would see in the sandbelt in Melbourne.
Wherever you end up in NZ, you will be spoilt by the options in front of you. So get planning, and don’t be put off by the long flights ahead.