Perched on sand dunes overlooking the famous black-sand Muriwai Beach, the course features crumpled fairways built on an impeccable sand-base, tricky bunkers and demanding greens. It’s a fierce test of skill but equally a great fun course to play for all handicappers.
Just a 40-minute drive from downtown Auckland, you’re delivered from the motorway to the course via rolling farmland that helps set the tone for the day ahead.
Something of a local secret for many Aucklanders, the course is now getting due recognition from around the world.
The undulating terrain, the mix of sand dunes, wind-whipped bush and the visual splendour of the tumbling waves in the background are matched by superb playability. The course is not adorned with the definition of “true links” turf – fescue simply won’t grow in Auckland’s climate and kikuyu is almost impossible to eradicate – but the course is so well maintained it plays as a true links course with firm, fast fairways and lickety-split greens.
The wind also has its say – every day. It’s most revealed on the par-5s – all four of them all run in much the same direction so if you happen to strike the right conditions and a breeze from the southern quarter, they all become reachable in two shots for the good player. Get the wind in the opposite direction and your work is ahead of you.
The other highlights include a couple of cunning par 3s. The stunning eighth hole – you’re starting from an elevated tee staring straight out to the ocean – can be reached with as little as pitching wedge or – if you get a straight easterly or off-shore breeze – it can be a 4-iron or hybrid. A tricky-to-read green well-protected in front with minimal bail-out options completes the assignment. The 17th is a tiny hole, just 100 metres at best, but with the fear factor dialled up to 11. It’s slightly uphill to a deceptively contoured green and as a result offers what seems like an impossibly small target even though it’s only a wedge away. The green is actually huge but again the wind can mess with your club selection and confidence. A barely hit gap wedge or a full-blooded 8-iron can be the extremes and there’s no margin for error front, back, left or right.
The closing hole is one of the toughest on the course. The 327-metre par-4 features an uphill drive to a narrow pinch of fairway. If you lay back it’s a long way home – blindly over the crest of a hill. If you go at it too hard and miss the fairway, you’re dead to the left and potentially blocked out by Norfolk pines on the right. And once you are in a position to go for the green you have to choose your club carefully as a dramatic three-tiered green cut into the side of a hill awaits you. Get on the wrong tier – especially above the hole – and two putts are far from guaranteed.
Also take time to enjoy the delicious vista on the second tee, the glory of the Norfolk pines on the ninth hole, the plateau green on the 13th hole and the small but demanding 16th with its benched, tiered green.
The off-course highlights are as good as the on-course ones because the over-riding beauty of Muriwai is in its location – and there’s nothing better than an afternoon round, followed by a beer in the elevated clubhouse as you watch the sun fall towards the horizon like a good putt diving into the hole. – MD
Photography by Nick Wall