A weekend golf getaway in the middle of winter? Well played, New Zealand.

IT’S the middle of winter. I’m snuggled up in my PJs, Ugg boots on and the heater is fired up.

As I flip through my favourite golf destination in Australian Golf Digest, my mind drifts off to warm locations, sunny fairways, golf skirts and the essential chilled G&T on the 19th. A friend suggests sneaking away on a Friday, and it’s pretty hard to ignore a golf long weekend away.

“I’m in!” I scream. I thought she was planning ahead to summer, but she meant in the coming weeks. So instead I’m cramming the thermals, cashmere socks, winter golf apparel and checking my flight time to … wait for it … Auckland!

I’m not exactly sure what happened between imaginary poolside Mai Tais and boarding my flight across the ditch, but here we are heading off to the land of the long white cloud, winter coat in hand.

As it turns out, we both hold reciprocal rights to Royal Auckland Golf Club. With limited time on our hands, it was easy to concentrate on mastering its fairways rather than traversing the countryside in search of greener pastures.

The joy of golf is always the joint partnership of friends, fairways and good food, so we set Saturday aside for a long lunch excursion to Waiheke Island.

Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island

If you’ve never experienced the magic of Waiheke Island – only a 30-minute ferry from central Auckland – you’re missing out on a gem. This is simply ‘God’s Country’ – rolling green hills, blue water bays and stunning scenery in every direction, with views all the way to the Auckland skyline.

Having been to this local getaway from a previous holiday, I made a beeline for my favourite restaurant & winery – Mudbrick – about a 5-minute cab ride from the ferry port.

Arrive hungry, because the menu is sensational. We dined on braised pork cheeks and miso-crusted Ora salmon prepared by Michelin-trained chef Matthias Schmitt. It was, of course, washed down with a one of my favourite Marlborough pinot noirs, Greywacke.

This little weekender had everything – staying with some good friends, digging up a decent pinot (or two) and playing a few rounds at Auckland’s most charming course.

If you’re a single-figure player, you’ll eat this course up with some easy par 4s (that is, until you hit the greens) and only a couple of long par 5s.

The pro shop couldn’t have been more accommodating, while the clubhouse begs you inside after a chilly 18 holes – the mouth-watering house burger and hot fries by the crackling fire was too hard to ignore.

Golf in winter? Well played, New Zealand.

Winter golf in New Zealand... just magical.
Winter golf in New Zealand… just magical.