How the courses are ranked
Our panellists play and score New Zealand courses on seven criteria:
1. SHOT VALUE
How well do the holes pose a variety of risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse?
2. RESISTANCE TO SCORING
How difficult, while still being fair, is the course for a scratch player from the back tees?
3. DESIGN VARIETY
How varied are the holes in differing lengths, configurations, hazard placements, green shapes and green contours?
How well do the design features provide individuality to each hole yet a collective continuity to the entire 18?
How well do the scenic values of the course add to the pleasure of a round?
How firm, fast and rolling were the fairways, and how firm yet receptive were the greens on the day you played the course?
How well does the overall feel and atmosphere of the course reflect or uphold the traditional values of the game?
The Judging Panel
For their part, we thank the following judges for the 2016 rankings:
Phil Aicken, Leo Barber, Barry Brown, Susan Farron, Simon Forshaw, Michael Goldstein, Doug Holloway, Denise Langdon, Murray Macklin, Dave Mangan, Nigel Merrett, Grant Moorhead, Craig Palmer, Alan Rose, Dominic Sainsbury, John Sanders, Duncan Simpson, Geoff Smart, John Spraggs, Fraser Wilkin, Evin Priest, Brad Clifton.
40. GREENACRES GOLF CLUB
Located on the outskirts of Nelson, Greenacres Golf Club is actually on Best Island and sneaks into our inaugural Top 40 list. The course borders the tidal inlet with water coming into play on several holes. Built on a solid sand base, the inland holes are tree-lined where the coastal holes enjoy water views and a true links feel. The area is famous for its wineries, orchards, beaches, art galleries and beautiful river valleys so take the time to enjoy the local sites.
39. QUEENSTOWN GOLF CLUB
If you want to play golf in one of the most scenic places in the world then this golf course needs to be on your bucket list. Queenstown is a members’ course that is not long or that challenging but there’s something about playing it that takes your breath away. A parkland-style course where the local schist rock comes into play if you’re wayward, this is yet another course where you will use your camera more than your putter.
38. CROMWELL GOLF CLUB
New Zealand’s most inland golf course plays like a genuine links-style layout. Cromwell is carved out of sand dunes, marram grass and mature trees, with undulating greens that can be extremely testing. Being in the heart of some of the best wine country New Zealand has to offer, it can be a little dry so expect hard and fast fairways. This is a course suited to all levels of golfers with some nice views and it is worth playing, even if it’s an excuse to try out one of the many nearby wineries.
37. INVERCARGILL GOLF CLUB
Situated only a few minutes from the centre of Invercargill, the Otatara course is a picturesque 18-hole, tree-lined layout that annually hosts one of NZ Golf’s leading amateur events. Built on links land more than 100 years ago, the course has undulating, manicured fairways, brutal rough and well-bunkered, quality sand-based greens. Like a lot of courses in the lower half of this list, Invercargill is not long but it certainly demands accuracy off the tee.
36. CHISHOLM LINKS
Built from the sand dunes this course runs along a beach and naturally being so close to the sea you get a true links-golf experience. Despite the elements, Chisholm Park is not a particularly difficult golf course to play and all levels of golfers will find it both challenging and enjoyable to play with its amazing views. The par-4 ninth hole is rated as one of the best holes in New Zealand, while the cliff-top ocean views rival the best golf vistas anywhere in the world.
35. NELSON GOLF CLUB
Located near Nelson Airport, this links-style course is a great little test for golfers. Nelson enjoys sweeping views across the Tasman Bay so visitors are warned to expect stiff coastal breezes. While not a long course, Nelson’s strategically placed bunkers, mounding and rough makes the 18-hole experience quite challenging so managing your play is important, as it was when the club hosted the 2014 NZ Amateur Championship.
34. RUSSLEY GOLF CLUB
Sitting alongside Christchurch Airport, the Russley Golf Club is a flat, tree-lined layout that is not overly long in distance, however a strategic approach and clever club selection is crucial. Many top professionals have walked Russley’s fairways as it has hosted numerous top championships including multiple NZ Opens. Consistently well manicured, Russley’s large putting surfaces run fast and true.
33. FORMOSA GOLF RESORT
The Formosa Golf Resort’s course is surrounded by lush farmland and has stunning views over the Hauraki Gulf with panoramic views of Waiheke Island and Rangitoto from its clifftop and coastal fairways. Sixteen of the course’s holes have northerly views of the Hauraki Gulf and its many islands. The 11th through to the 16th hole run along a clifftop overlooking the shoreline. Designed by NZ golfing legend, Sir Bob Charles, the course hosted the 1998 New Zealand Open. You’ll find this gem located just over 30-minutes from both downtown Auckland and the airport.
32. WANGANUI GOLF CLUB
One of the top provincial courses in the country, Wanganui Golf Club has hosted many international and national events including seven NZ Opens. The course is a well-manicured, sand-based gem built over undulating terrain that tests every aspect of your game. The club recently removed its pine trees and as a result it now plays like more of a links-style course and can be extremely challenging depending on the wind.
Waipu Golf Club is an easy two-hour drive via SH1 on the east coast, north of Auckland. The course is an all-weather, sand-based links set on the edge of beautiful Bream Bay with spectacular ocean views from every hole. Its greens have been likened to the famed sandbelt surfaces around Melbourne.
30. GULF HARBOUR GOLF CLUB
The Robert Trent Jones Jr-designed Gulf Harbour is located on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula less than an hour’s drive from Auckland’s CBD or a short ferry ride across the harbour. The front nine plays inland around the houses with some nice views where upon reaching the 12th tee you are afforded spectacular views back towards the city skyline. Gulf Harbour boasts some spectacular finishing holes that will have you reaching for your camera. Ocean views and rolling terrain combine to make it one of the most exciting golfing experiences in Auckland.
29. HASTINGS GOLF CLUB
The Hastings Golf Club is one of New Zealand’s more established courses and widely regarded as the best-conditioned club course in Hawkes Bay. Featuring mature native trees that line its and gentle, the course is very walkable with a great mix of long and short holes.
28. NEW PLYMOUTH GOLF CLUB
Known by the locals as Ngamotu, New Plymouth was designed so that both nines sweep out from the clubhouse in two giant loops. Ngamotu’s four par-3 holes range widely in length, but they all point in different directions on the compass. The course is a regular favourite on the Charles Tour pro circuit and is a great test of golf where the better putters usually reap the rewards. With the course built over a coastal slope, there are expansive views from the iconic Mt Taranaki out across the Tasman Sea.
27. TERRACE DOWNS
This championship resort course is located approximately one hour from Christchurch and is nestled in the foothills of the Southern Alps and across the valley from the Mount Hutt Ski Field. The course has an enjoyable layout with breathtaking views, especially from the 10th tee and 16th green as you absorb the local Rakaia Gorge and mountain vistas. Most golfers will find it very playable with its mixture of parkland and links styles integrated into the natural environment.
26. OTAGO GOLF CLUB
The Otago Golf Club is New Zealand’s oldest club and sits on a great site overlooking the city and harbour. Built on a rolling hillside, the course is always well manicured and weaves nicely across the land with some great native foliage. As the Otago Golf Club is steeped in history, you will want to take your time to check out the golfing memorabilia around the clubhouse.
25. OMAHA BEACH GOLF CLUB
Less than an hour from Auckland, Omaha Beach is a links-style resort course crafted by its designers to make the most of its stunning seaside location. Bordered by the sea on one side and a natural estuary on the other, this layout offers some unique and pleasant surprises as you travel around it. The native trees, boardwalks and a flow of challenging holes make this an enjoyable day out for anyone.
24. HAREWOOD GOLF CLUB
Neighbouring Christchurch Airport, the Woodlands Course at Harewood Golf Club is unlike some of the other traditional courses around the region. Redesigned in 2012 by the design team of Turner MacPherson, the course has 18 new greens and tee boxes. Despite being a flat, medium-length parkland course, challenging greens are what it’s all about here and require a sharp short game if you are to play to your handicap.
23. MANGAWHAI GOLF CLUB
Located only five minutes from New Zealand’s new No.1 course Tara Iti and little more than a one-hour drive from Auckland, Mangawhai is an enjoyable golf course that will test every club in your bag. There is a great mix of holes here that will test both your long and short game and its sandy base ensures great all-weather playing conditions.
22. ORETI SANDS
The southernmost 18-hole course in New Zealand, this layout is a true links, full of humpy fairways, native grasses, greens tucked into tussock and shrub-covered dunes, with a myriad of playing options. It will challenge even the most experienced golfer if played from the championship tees. The course is known for its windy conditions with stunning views of Stewart Island towering over Foveaux Strait.
21. MOUNT MAUNGANUI GOLF CLUB
The Mount Maunganui Golf Club is a traditional tree-lined layout with one of the best beaches in New Zealand just “a seven iron away”. The championship course has a strong reputation for its great putting surfaces. Less than five minutes away from the Tauranga cruise ship port and Tauranga airport, “The Mount” is very popular with all levels of golfers.
20. WHITFORD PARK
Whitford Park is situated in rural country surrounds close to Auckland. A par-71 championship layout set amongst 254 acres of beautiful indigenous trees and streams, the greens here are consistently among the best on offer in New Zealand, while the Couch grass fairways provide a delightful playing surface throughout the year.
19. MANAWATU GOLF CLUB
The Manawatu Golf Club is situated in the Palmerston North suburb of Hokowhitu, bordering the banks of the Manawatu River and the city’s Centennial Lagoon.
The course is regarded as Manawatu’s premier 18-hole layout, and provides a challenging yet fair test for golfers of all abilities. Beautifully manicured, tree-lined fairways, fast rolling greens and more than 50 white-sand bunkers highlight a most enjoyable playing experience.
18. ROYAL AUCKLAND GOLF CLUB
The Royal Auckland Golf Club is a private club located just 10 minutes from the airport. A traditional tree-lined parkland layout, Royal Auckland is set for an extensive renovation as the course mergers with neighbouring The Grange in a bid to become one of the top club layouts in the country.
17 . CLEARWATER
This resort course is located approximately 10 minutes from the airport and has enjoyed great success hosting the NZPGA Championship and more recently the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open won by Lydia Ko. Combining elements of great Scottish links courses with parkland golf, more reminiscent of Florida, Clearwater is playable year-round and meanders around a succession of spring-fed lakes and trout-filled streams, with uninterrupted views of the spectacular Southern Alps.
Situated on New Zealand’s wild and wonderful West Coast around 40 minutes from Auckland, Muriwai Golf Links provides a great links golfing experience. The black-sand based layout allows all-weather golf and the championship layout provides a thrill and challenge for all golfers. The course is easy walking on tightly-mown Kikuyu fairways. It has lots of well-designed greens with smart bunkering and the challenging Bentcross/Poa greens roll beautifully despite the many testing contours.
15. CHRISTCHURCH GOLF CLUB
A golf course with more than 140 years of history, you will enjoy the classic feel this layout possesses. Remodelled in recent years by the great Peter Thomson, Christchurch has a focus on precise driving and challenging iron play. The fairways are excellent to play off, with strategically placed bunkers and waste areas. The course is well manicured with greens our judges enjoyed putting on. Christchurch is a championship layout that is enjoyed by the membership and has challenged the top professionals in the many events it has hosted over the years.
14. PEGASUS GOLF CLUB
The Pegasus Golf and Sports Club hosted the New Zealand Women’s Open in 2010, ‘11 and ‘12. The course itself boasts a majestic layout with varying degrees of difficulty aimed at providing an excellent golfing experience. The front nine is quite open while the back nine loops around the property with water coming into play on seven of the nine holes. Just 30 minutes north of Christchurch, put Pegasus on your to-do list.
13. ARROWTOWN GOLF CLUB
Arrowtown is one of the most popular club courses in the country. The front nine is very tight, weaving through the canyons and schist rock, making it a lot of fun for golfers of all abilities. Game management is a key and there can be some extremely challenging shots if you stray off line. The back nine is more open and built over rolling terrain where you can really take in the beautiful surrounding mountains. Playing the course in March or April is highly recommended as the autumn foliage is simply breathtaking.
12. TITIRANGI GOLF CLUB
Titirangi is the only golf course in New Zealand designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie and is just 30 minutes from Auckland’s Sky Tower. MacKenzie’s genius designs are renowned for their sensitivity to the nature of the original site and risk-reward holes and Titirangi is no different. The way the golf course weaves through neighbouring bush testifies to MacKenzie’s philosophy and from here he went on to design some of the world’s greatest courses including Augusta National, Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne. Titirangi’s par-70 course features elevated tees and greens, challenging bunkers and slick greens with pronounced undulations.
Five hours north of Auckland sits the Carrington Golf Resort. Although it boasts an ocean-side location, Carrington looks and plays like an inland golf course, complete with rolling hills, vales, and natural water hazards. The unique 100-acre seaside layout meanders around the central resort complex and its oversized layout allows for extensive natural conservation areas. At 6,417 metres, this par-72 championship course can be brutal at its worst, but its resort-style lends itself to all levels of golfers. The course is surrounded on two sides by Carrington Farm’s 300-head Black Angus Stud and also sits next to the 101-acre Karikari Estate Vineyard and Winery.
10. ROYAL WELLINGTON
A recent renovation has transformed Royal Wellington into New Zealand’s finest private members’ parkland course. Built on an ancient riverbed, it weaves its way over crumpled ground through cultivated parkland that’s home to thousands of mature native and exotic trees and birdlife. With the addition of several creeks, a large lake and undulating greens, the site of the 2017 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship blends a walk in the park with a seriously good golf course.
The Wairakei Golf Course is located only a couple of minutes from Taupo and is New Zealand’s “original” resort golf course. Built in 1970, more than 30,000 native and exotic trees have recently been planted, along with the introduction of 200 mixed-colour pheasants, Kiwis and a small herd of deer. Golfers love the feeling at Wairakei of “owning” the fairways; it is relaxing to play and very playable for all levels of golfers thanks to its large greens and very true roll.
Millbrook is an internationally acclaimed golf resort and this is reflected in the quality of the 27-hole course and facilities on offer. Located just outside of Arrowtown and a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, the resort is set in a natural alpine amphitheatre against the backdrop of The Remarkables mountain range. The Remarkable and Coronet nines make up the championship 18-hole layout while the Arrow nine is also an enjoyable test of golf. The course weaves around the resort, lakes and schist rock encompassing some magnificent views. Millbrook will again be on the world stage in 2017 after being announced as the home of the NZ Open.
7. PARAPARAUMU BEACH GOLF CLUB
One of the great – and often underrated – links courses of the Southern Hemisphere is the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course, which has hosted 12 New Zealand Opens. Located an hour’s drive north of Wellington on the Kapiti Coast, where the climate is golf-friendly, sits a challenging layout that threads its way through magnificent links land with a handful of holes that are regarded as some of the finest in the country.
Paraparaumu is undulating which makes bounce and roll a key character of its identity. Some of the biggest names in the sport have graced these fairways with five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson saying, “I loved it instantly. We had nothing like it in Australia.”
6. THE HILLS
Located in Arrowtown, only 20 minutes from Queenstown, The Hills has been the home of the past three New Zealand Opens for good reason. The course was laid out across a glacial valley and this is showcased by the dramatic elevation changes and rocky schist outcrops that are a feature of the area. Elevated tees make for exciting shots but also allow the golfer to take in the panoramic views around them – some of the most colourful anywhere in the world. Incorporating clever waste areas planted with native tussocks, the greens here are relatively accommodating to incoming shots. The Hills is a truly memorable experience with its state-of-the-art clubhouse even winning the Supreme Award for Architecture. If you’re lucky enough to get a game, keep an eye out for the many artistic sculptures that occupy the layout, including “The Wolves” on the 18th.
5 . KINLOCH
Jack Nicklaus’ much-anticipated signature Kinloch course opened in 2007 and has been a big hit with golfers ever since. Located just 20 minutes from Taupo, it is a very testing inland links course that flows over rolling countryside with fescue and heather grasses. To really enjoy this championship course you must select the right tees to play from and drive well. Having a good short game will help you navigate the sloping greens, too. The front nine offers a good mix of short and long holes but it’s standing on the par-4 10th where reality hits – you are presented with an amazing vista overlooking the back nine and Lake Taupo. The risk/reward nature of the golf course and the character of the land left a huge impression on our judges, a couple of whom rate it New Zealand’s best.
4 . KAURI CLIFFS
Everything about Kauri Cliffs – 30 minutes north of Kerikeri – is simply outstanding. The course is rated in the world’s Top 100 and deservedly so. With only a maximum of 24 golfers gracing its fairways on any given day it’s easy to believe you’re the only person enjoying the privilege. The opening three holes warm you up nicely before the real challenge begins. The back nine showcases four inland holes that wind through marsh, forest and farmland before you hit the homeward stretch across the top of the bay and back up to the clubhouse. The 17th, a par-4 dogleg-left, is regarded as one of the best holes in New Zealand. And the view from the clubhouse balcony is arguably the most majestic in world golf.
3. CAPE KIDNAPPERS
Cape Kidnappers is perched high above the cliffs at the southern tip of the Hawkes Bay, looking out across the Pacific Ocean. Like Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers is spread out over 6,000 acres of rolling farmland and native bush and has drawn international fanfare since it opened in 2004. Designed by Tom Doak, it also ranks in the world’s Top 100 golf courses and is an absolute showstopper to play. The layout itself is a stern challenge and flows nicely, leaving you in awe of the surroundings while offering two distinct nines. The closing nine is a big hit with visitors and plays along a ridge and valley out towards Cape Kidnappers. The par-5 15th is the hero, rated by Aussie star Adam Scott as his favourite hole anywhere in the world. In truth, it’s one of 18 holes that will have you coming back for more, too.
2. JACK’S POINT
Jack’s Point is located on the eastern side of Lake Wakitapu, a 20-minute drive from Queenstown and just five minutes from Queenstown airport. The golf course is located between the lake and The Remarkables mountain range, so everywhere you look you’ll see amazing scenery. The course, laid out on land that needed minimal modifications, boasts dramatic rocky outcrops, tussock areas, wetlands and native vegetation that blend effortlessly throughout all 18 holes. The heritage stone walls herald back to the last century when the land was a majestic high country farm. Breathtaking tee shots and challenging approaches are the norm here and the stretch of holes along the lake (5-8) provide stunning photo opportunities. Still a favourite with our judges and unlucky not to take top spot this year.
1. TARA ITI
Think of the great courses around the world and what makes them special. This course will tick all those boxes and more! Located just over an hour north of Auckland on the east coast, this ultra-private layout opened its full 18 holes in October 2015 and for most golfing purists it went straight to No.1 in New Zealand. Designed by Tom Doak, the visionary behind Cape Kidnappers, Tara Iti was built on what had been a pine-covered Sahara by the sea. After removing acres of trees Doak’s team spent more than two years gently contouring the sandy soil, forming hummocks, punchbowls and sand dunes that look like they were formed by wind and vegetated by nature. With fescue fairways, no rough but waste areas, and the fact that there are no formed bunkers on the entire course, it can be a challenge to play. With no golf carts or cart paths every golfer must take a caddie. Listen to everything they says and you’ll see why this could be the best new course to open on the planet this decade.
OTHER COURSES YOU MUST PLAY
POVERTY BAY GOLF CLUB
The links-style Poverty Bay Golf Golf Course, Gisborne, is highly regarded by golfers throughout New Zealand and has hosted many top amateur competitions over its 123 years. The course features undulating fairways and large, cleverly bunkered greens that are a pleasurable challenge for golfers of all levels. The course drains well through its sandy soils, making it very playable all year.
WANAKA GOLF COURSE
The most striking aspect of this course is the scenery. From its position high on the hill, the views across the town and lake to the majesty of the Mount Aspiring National Park are some of the best on any golf course anywhere in the world. But that’s not to downplay the course itself. The two nines are very different; the front is full of undulations with greens artfully perched and nestled amongst the rolling terrain. The back is flatter and considerably longer, falling under the shadow of Mount Iron.
THE LAKES RESORT
Located on the Coromandel Peninsula, the Lakes Resort Golf Course is nestled in a unique valley setting and meanders its way through picturesque natural native wetlands and lakes. This unique course blends wonderfully with the surrounding ecology providing a truly remarkable golfing experience. The resort design allows golfers of all abilities to enjoy it but there are some challenging water hazards.
WAITANGI GOLF CLUB
Located a short five-minute drive from Paihia in the Bay of Islands, Waitangi Golf Club provides an exciting, ever-changing challenge to the golfer, but also offers the most panoramic sea and island views. Incredible views are complemented by well-groomed greens and fairways surrounded by areas of flowering native trees, which provide sanctuary for many varieties of native birds.
RANGATIRA GOLF CLUB
A unique country course that is located just north of Hunterville on State Highway One, halfway between Wellington and Taupo. This course is on three levels with outstanding views of the Rangitikei River. Interestingly, there are no bunkers here but the course is still challenging, with the first six holes at road level, the second six on a plateau halfway down and the bottom six at river level. On completing your round you take the cable car ride back up to the clubhouse. Now that’s a truly memorable country golf experience.
ST CLAIR GOLF CLUB
St Clair Golf Club in Dunedin is a parkland golf course that sits 200 metres above sea level overlooking the ocean, beaches and South Dunedin. Large pine trees grace the lush, green fairways that give you defined golf holes. Back in the 1970s, St Clair hosted a series of golf tournaments that featured some of the game’s greats including Seve Ballesteros and Johnny Miller.
TAUPO GOLF CLUB (CENTENNIAL)
Most locals play at the Taupo Golf Club – located five minutes from town – and why not given its 36-hole set-up with the Centennial and Tauhara courses. Centennial is a parkland course featuring more than 40 bunkers but as it sits on volcano ground it plays hard and fast like an inland links course with fescue rough. It has some challenging holes but none better than the long par-3 18th over a gully to finish.
TE PUKE GOLF CLUB
The town of Te Puke is located just 15 minutes down the road from Mt Maunganui and is known as the kiwifruit capital of the world. The golf course itself is located five minutes outside of town just past Kiwi 360. Nearly all of the fruit is grown in this part of the country. The golf course is undulated but an easy walk and boasts a unique quirk in that the first, ninth, 10th and 18th holes are all par 5s.
ROTORUA GOLF CLUB
Rotorua is known for its boiling mud pools and thermal activity and just five minutes from the centre of town lays Rotorua Golf Club. This is not only a great members’ golf course but it also allows you to get close to some of the thermal activity while you enjoy your round. There are a number of bubbling mud pools and steam vents to the left of the ninth green and a strange sulphur mound to the right of the green. Look out for geothermal craters that make this one of the most unique courses you will ever play.
PLAY THE TOP 40 IN STYLE
Little things matter when it comes to travelling, and dealing with a ground-based tour agent means you get local information first hand. Somebody on the other end of the phone that you can trust to get things done when you’re trying to organise a party of people and ensure you get to see the best of what NZ has to offer, whether it’s golf courses, restaurants or sightseeing.
Remarkable Golf Tours was established in Queenstown in 2007 to provide a range of golf services for visitors to New Zealand and have arranged tours for thousands of golfers from all corners of the globe. Starting with one vehicle for running daily transfers between local hotels and golf courses, RGT have expanded their vehicle fleet to cater to a range of group sizes, from couples to large touring parties. Regardless of party size, the service remains focussed on the finer details of planning that ensure a seamless golf trip.
However large or small your group is, take the opportunity to contact Remarkable Golf Tours to see what they can offer you.
Phone (toll free): 1300 528 165