Sandwiched between the bright lights of Auckland to the north, the water and lake charms of Taupo to the south and the tourist mecca of Rotorua off to the side, it’s easy to overlook the Waikato region as a genuine golf destination. But from idyllic Raglan on the west coast to the paradise-found of Coromandel on the east and encompassing the rural heartland of the North Island, the Waikato region is a golf-dense area with great variety and easy access.

There’s plenty of country air, trees and sheep, but the region is also sophisticated and with a raft of other travel and outdoors options available. It’s also home to more nine-hole golf courses than many other regions – ideal for a quick hit or if you feel like 27 holes in a day instead of 18.

Raglan is notable for its golf as well as surf.

West is Best

Starting on the wild west coast, Raglan is the ideal place for an extended golf-surf break. The surf at Raglan is world famous, with Manu Bay and its long left-hand break featuring in the classic 1996 movie “Endless Summer”. Even if you don’t surf, it’s easy to sit and watch the board riders until the sun goes down over the horizon. Ocean Beach is a great place to swim, or to just walk and hang out.

The town itself is lively and full of great cafés, art and craft shops and, of course, surf shops. But we’re here for the golf and Raglan Golf Club’s dinky 18-holer doesn’t disappoint. Sure there’s the sheep that munch on the fairway grass, but just take a free drop from any droppings. It’s on a hillside so there are lots of elevation changes and it can feel longer than the listed 4,874 metres. By the time you get to the 18th, which plays uphill towards the clubhouse, you’ll have earned a beer.

Further down the coast, Kawhia Golf Club is a cute-as-a-button nine-holer with spectacular views across the harbour. Kawhia doesn’t have the amenities of Raglan but the scenery is just as spectacular.

Stewart Alexander Golf Club has an intriguing name and story.

Secrets of Waitomo

Within a half-hour drive of the famed Waitomo Caves (, you can set your bag down at four top-notch golf courses.

The closest is Waitomo Golf Club, one of the best-kept secrets in the region. This is a real test of golf. Playing 5,743 metres from the white tees and with a lot of elevation changes, your fitness and skills will be examined closely. It’s a beautifully tree-lined and well cared for layout. And you’ll get a friendly welcome in the clubhouse afterwards. Local legend Phil Tataurangi learned to play on this course and lauds its challenging nature.

Te Awamutu, Stewart Alexander and Pirongia golf clubs are a little further up the road and are jammed together in a tight pocket. All are doing well thanks to a growing population in the area. The best of them, though, is Te Awamutu – it’s what you might call upmarket country and features an impressive driving range if you need to shake out some stiffness after a trip to the caves. It’s also jokingly referred to as ‘Tree’ Awamutu thanks to the impressively mature trees that define the fairways. You’ll need to be on your A-game to thread the ball around here; the second hole in particular will fertilise any seeds of doubt in your mind. One look and you’ll be thinking, How the heck do I get it down there?

Countering the tightness is that it’s a not a long course (you couldn’t have long and tight – that’d be too much to ask). It plays just shade longer than 5,000 metres off the blue tees for a Slope rating of 110. And the reward is a great playing experience on some top-notch greens.

Some of the best golfers in New Zealand honed
their skills at Hamilton.

Nearby, Stewart Alexander Golf Club was originally known as Pokuru Golf Club when formed in March 1935. In 1971, the course moved to its present location and was renamed in honour of the original land-owner. It was intended as an 18-hole championship course of about 7,100 metres, which would have made it the longest course in the Waikato, but it was, as they say, ahead of its time, so in 1980 it was altered and shortened to 5,100 metres. But it’s got great bones, lovely rolling contours and pleasing views. To enhance the charm, sheep graze on parts of the course but that’s part of the beauty of playing country courses in New Zealand.

Pirongia Golf Club is a relatively open course, as you’d expect from a place that doubles as a racetrack. Yes, a racetrack. Every Boxing Day the famed Alexandra Racing Club (the oldest racing club in New Zealand, founded in 1866) holds its annual equalisator meeting where the front nine holes are transformed into a racetrack for the day for a combination of galloping and trotting races. It’s only $10 to play on Mondays and there’s a twilight comp in summer when $7 gets you nine holes. And if you thought that was good value, the club allows motorhomes to stay in their carpark overnight with free access to power and ablutions – though they hope you’ll make a donation when you leave in the morning.

Te Awamutu is often called ‘Tree’ Awamutu.

Traversing The River

The city of Hamilton is home to the famed St Andrews course, a.k.a. Hamilton Golf Club. While it is named after the suburb in which it’s located, St Andrews was originally designed as an inland links when it opened in 1913, and like its Scottish namesake has more bunkers than a battlefield.

Bordering the Waikato River, it retains those links-like qualities in the landscape and turf, with rolling, rumpled fairways, but there are now more mature trees. Four holes run right alongside the river, with the best views coming on the 14th tee where the vista is uninterrupted. While the river is a major feature, the personality of this course is in the bunkers – big, deep and plentiful, they define the landscape. Even though some have been shallowed out over the years, there’s still plenty of intimidation facing you from the tee and on your approach to the green. Bad shots will be penalised.

The biggest, baddest bunker defines the signature 18th hole – a huge par-3 green sitting right in front of the clubhouse that is framed from the tee by a giant trap that dominates the visual aspect.

The home of some of New Zealand’s best professionals of the modern era, including David Smail and Steve Alker, St Andrews is a classic course and is a gimme as the best golf course between Auckland and Hamilton. It’s pretty much world class. The clubhouse has fantastic food thanks to local caterer Matteblack – you can get a great coffee before your round and excellent fare afterwards. The pro shop is managed by ProDrive, which also runs a nearby driving range and mini-putt should you feel the need to hone your game or have a more relaxing putt-putt experience.

A little further downriver is the new Riverside Golf Club, a merger between Lochiel and Narrows. There’s an extensive renovation underway on the Lochiel course so it’s out of play. It will eventually be a premier course under the watchful eye of Brett Thomson and Phil Tataurangi. In the meantime, you can play Narrows, which will eventually give way to a planned highway. As the name suggests, it’s narrow, but has great views all along the river.

North of Hamilton, but again right beside the river, is Horsham Downs Golf Club, a gem of a nine-holer that’s both idyllic and well maintained.

If you’re staying in Hamilton, make sure you visit two of the great breweries in the area. Good George, a brewery built inside an old church, has venues all over the city – but the original dining hall in Frankton is the place to visit for a top-notch brewery tour between rounds. There are other Good George venues across the city and the region, including two in central Hamilton ( And if you’ve had enough of golf, the cycle trail alongside the Waikato River is one of the best in the country – and it’s largely flat (

The Hauraki layout is high on country charm.

Short and Sweet

The Waikato region is perfect for nine-hole fans with – wait for it – nine of the region’s 42 courses playing at the half-length.

Purangi Golf & Country Club in the Coromandel is a great example of a place ripe for holiday half-rounds. Situated close to the great beaches – Hahei, Cooks and Hot Water – it’s a full-length nine-hole course in an idyllic rural setting with undulating fairways and natural hazards. Twice around, it plays to 5,200 metres with a Slope rating of 115. The course has no permanent staff, apart from during the Christmas/New Year period, with an honesty box system in place. Green fees are $20, which entitles you to as much golf as you can handle.

Also in the region is the delightful Coromandel Golf Club, set on two adjoining, undulating country valleys that provide picturesque settings. The course used to graze stock but they’ve now been restricted to surrounding land owned by the club.

When we talk of nine-hole golf in the region, Pauanui Golf Club (not to be confused the with Lakes Resort at Pauanui) is worth a visit. It has not one, but two nine-hole layouts, one of which is confusingly called The Lakes, the other being The Pines. Both courses are superbly maintained and the club features a bar and restaurant plus a host of non-golf activities, including tennis and bowls. Plus they have eight powered motorhome sites.

Te Akau Golf Club, north of Raglan and slightly inland, is a surprisingly testing layout. Elevated tees atop the rocky outcrops, rolling fairways (and their resident sheep), lakes and trees all combine to test your skill on a course that defies the old saying and remains a beautiful walk. Ngahinepouri Golf Club, south-west of Hamilton, is a well-maintained nine-hole venue that’s renowned for its relaxed atmosphere and friendly welcome, while Waiterimu Golf Club is another super-rural track replete with sheep.

There is room to move on the fairways of Ngaruawahia.

Good habits in Hobbiton

Hobbiton in Matamata ( is always worth a visit if you’re a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Hobbit”. And the area is surrounded by some great golf courses. The pick of them has to be Walton Golf Club, just north of Hobbiton and sitting equidistant between Hamilton and Tauranga.

The “hidden gem” tags gets bandied about a lot when it comes to golf, but this one deserves the tag – so much so they’ve put it on their website, which features a fantastic video flyover of the holes that looks like it was shot from a helicopter. The quirk of the Walton course is that the greens are totally dirt-based and they’re in great condition year-round, a tribute to the hard-working greenkeeper Terry Harris. Dirt greens can be difficult to keep firm and true, but Walton does an excellent job. The tree-lined fairways present beautifully and there are some lovely designs, many featuring gently curving fairways that, combined with the trees, make the course look much tighter than it is. Even the par-3 15th looks tight thanks to a pair of trees guarding the green’s entrance like sentries.

Matamata Golf Club is one of the best-maintained courses in the area. With the spectacular Kaimai Ranges as a backdrop, this picturesque 18-hole course is worth putting on the map whether you check out Hobbiton or not.

The closing hole at Walton Golf Club.

A little further north-west, you should try Te Aroha Golf Club’s fun yet demanding layout. Built on the slopes of Mt Te Aroha, some of the fairways have a decided camber to them. The club has parking and stay-over facilities for motor-home visitors and there’s the added bonus of a post-round soak in the nearby hot springs.

Speaking of hot springs, the golf course at Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel is not (repeat: not) a resort-style course – they admit on their website the hire clubs are a bit rough, too – but for great accommodation with hot springs and a rustic, idyllic nine-hole course on your doorstep, it’s definitely worth a look ( Also in the area is the quaint Tirau Golf Club, which sits in the elbow formed by the junction of state highways 1 and 27.

Putaruru Golf Club is one of the more naturally pleasing layouts in the area, with the course fitting perfectly into the rolling terrain with natural mounds, valleys and depressions creating a picturesque setting. The course is pretty but not to be underestimated, playing at the decent 5,641 metres from the men’s tees with plenty of hazards, trees and out-of-bounds.

Whangamata has 27 holes spanning two separate locations.

On The Road

If you’re heading to the Waikato region by road there are a handful of good places to stop on the way to and from your destination. For instance, if you’re coming down from Auckland and points north, you’ll pass the booming town of Te Kauwhata. Plenty of Aucklanders are taking up residence in Te Kauwhata because they get bang for their buck in the real estate game. Despite the growth, there is still a rural feel here but with all the amenities of the big city – and the local golf course is no different. Waikare Golf Club plays 5,180 metres against a pretty backdrop with narrow, tree-lined fairways. It offers a fair challenge for all levels of player. Underfoot conditions are always good and the greens in mint condition. It’s worth a stop and, who knows, you might end up buying a property at Waikare Estate!

The new expressway from Auckland bypasses Ngaruawahia Golf Club, which is a shame – so if you’re on the road to Raglan do yourself a favour and pay a visit. It’s a great way to break up the trip, stretch your legs on some wide-open fairways and well-maintained greens in a lovely country setting.

Elsewhere, nestled between picturesque rolling hills and the Hauraki Plains, Hauraki Golf Club is an easy 40-minute drive from Auckland or Hamilton. The challenging, 5,642-metre course oozes country charm and is ideal for experienced and occasional golfers.

Coming up from the south, it’s well worth stopping at Taumarunui Golf Club in the heart of neighbouring King Country. The nearly 100-year-old course cleverly complements – rather than fights – the undulating landscape. Set amid rolling hills, there are many natural valleys and plateaus along with elevation changes, blind shots and doglegs.

Paradise On The Peninsula

Golf in Paradise? Well, it’s reality when you make your way to the east coast holiday spot known as the Paradise Coast, recently acclaimed by the New Zealand Herald as New Zealand’s favourite beach resort.

On the spectacular and charming Coromandel Peninsula, three clubs have aligned under the Paradise Coast umbrella to entice golfers to experience one of New Zealand’s great secrets. Tairua Country Club is just 90 minutes from Auckland. From there it’s less than 30 minutes’ drive south to Whangamata Golf Club and a similar distance north to find Mercury Bay Golf Club. All three clubs offer challenging and stunning coastal 18-hole courses, each emphasising the bush-clad native surroundings with water features and terrain perfectly threaded into the layout.

Whangamata is unique in that it offers its 18-hole Titoki course, located on the town’s southern boundary, and the nine-hole Williamson course at the town’s heart. Titoki is a 5,586-metre par-70 featuring three par 5s on the back nine. It meanders along the Wentworth River, which plays an integral role in shot selection for many holes. The Williamson course is perfect for learners, holidaymakers and kids.

At the northern end of the Paradise Coast, located on the outskirts of Whitianga, the Mercury Bay course rewards carefully thought-out shot-making and course management. At 5,361 metres, the par-71 layout has three par 5s on its front nine, including the enticing fifth. It seems to be a birdie or eagle chance when you look at the 375-metre distance, but a double dogleg woven between native trees makes it much harder than it looks on paper. For men, a tee shot of about 170 metres that has a big right-to-left shape might leave you at the corner of the second dogleg with an easy shot to the green to set up an eagle chance. But there’s out-of-bounds and it is easy to hit through the fairway. The advice is to hit three short irons of 125 metres, and one-putt for a birdie.

Tairua is an absolute gem, there’s no other word for it. Set on a harbour estuary with the imposing Mt Paku volcanic cone dominating the horizon, it is a spectacular piece of land. At 5,200 metres from the white tees, it’s not overwhelmingly long but many fairways are lined by dense native bush that will gobble up any loosely struck ball. Mt Paku is on show from many holes and the course doesn’t leave anything to the imagination as everything sits in front of you on each tee. Instead, the imagination comes from the shot selection required, particularly on some par 3s.

Making a trip to the Paradise Coast is certainly worth it. Besides the golf there are world-class beaches – from Whangamata and its famed surf break to Hot Water Beach where you can literally make your own hot spa, plus the majesty of Cathedral Cove and the simplicity of Cook’s Beach – ensuring there’s plenty of relaxation to be had away from the course. From surf to rural turf, the Waikato region has it all.

Where To Play

Coromandel Golf Club

Hauraki Rd, Coromandel
+64 7 866 8539

Hamilton Golf Club

St Andrews Terrace, St Andrews, Hamilton [above]
+64 7 849 2069

Hauraki Golf Club

Corner SH2 & SH7, Mangatarata
+64 7 867 3197

Horsham Downs Golf Club

River Rd, Flagstaff, Hamilton
+64 7 829 4709

Hukanui Golf Club

Gordonton Rd, Taupiri
+64 7 824 3784

Kawhia Golf Club

Pearl Ave, Kawhia
029 278 5220

Matamata Golf Club

Silk Rd, Okauia
+64 7 888 6109

Mercury Bay Golf Club

Golf Rd, Whitianga
+64 7 866 5479

Ngahinepouri Golf Club

Reid Rd, Ngahinepouri
+64 7 825 2760

Ngaruawahia Golf Club

Great South Rd, Ngaruawahia
+64 7 824 8006

Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel

Somerville Rd, Okoroire
+64 7 883 4876

Pauanui Golf Club

Sheppard Ave, Pauanui
+64 7 864 8695

Pirongia Golf Club

Kakaramea Rd, Pirongia
+64 7 871 9640

Purangi Golf & Country Club

Hepburn Rd, Whenuakite
+64 7 866 3844

Putaruru Golf Club

Lichfield Rd, Putaruru
+64 7 883 8231

Raglan Golf Club

Te Hutewai Rd, Raglan
+64 7 825 8483

Riverside Golf Club

Lochiel Rd, Tamahere, Hamilton
+64 7 843 6287

Stewart Alexander Golf Club

Budden Rd, Pokuru
+64 7 871 7907

Tairua Country Club

Main Rd, Tairua
+64 7 864 8416

Taumarunui Golf Club

Golf Rd, Taumarunui
+64 7 896 7257

Te Akau Golf Club

Te Akau Rd, Te Akau
+64 7 825 4820

Te Aroha Golf Club

SH 26, Te Aroha
+64 7 884 9656

Te Awamutu Golf Club

Kihikihi Rd, Te Awamutu
+64 7 871 5661

Tirau Golf Club

State Highway 27, Tirau
+64 7 883 1423

Waikare Golf Club

Waerenga Rd, Te Kauwhata
+64 7 826 3574

Waiterimu Golf Club

Storey Rd, Waiterimu
+64 7 828 5805

Waitomo Golf Club

68 Golf Rd, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti
+64 7 873 7978

Walton Golf Club

Morrinsville-Walton Rd, Walton, Richmond Downs
+64 7 888 3731

Whangamata Golf Club

Waihi Rd, Whangamata
+64 7 865 8479