New Zealand has more than 400 golf courses; some in geothermal areas; some in farmers' fields; all of them fairly inexpensive.
New Zealand offers beauty, diversity and value for money for the golfing enthusiast.
The North and South Islands are both home to a number of internationally acclaimed golf courses and cater for beginners to experts. New Zealand has the highest number of golf courses per capita in the world. Courses range from top-of-the-line courses, such as Kauri Cliffs in Northland, to small golf clubs with green fees of $5, where sheep keep the fairways trim.
Of the 400-plus courses around New Zealand, there is one six-hole course; 183 nine-hole courses; 211 18-hole courses and five 18+-hole courses.
New Zealand’s reputation for hospitality extends to welcoming visitors at most clubs, though booking is recommended. It is generally an inexpensive country in which to play golf with green fees ranging from NZ$25 to $150 at the top courses (Kauri Cliffs excluded). Many golf courses hire clubs, trundlers and motorised or electric buggies/golf carts (NZ$20-50).
Clubhouse facilities vary from basic necessities to excellent, including restaurants, bars, showers, pro shop, driving range, golf instruction and accommodation.
In small rural centres, farmers make land available for play, the greens are fenced off and stock graze the fairways, eliminating the need for mowing. Waikohu Club at Te Karaka, 30kms from Gisborne, hosts the unusual hazard of a large Hereford bull!
Golfers wanting to get away from the mainstream clubs should taste the country courses, which often have a Farm Manager rather than a Greens Superintendent. It can be unnerving to face a shot to a fairway where a hundred or so sheep are having dinner but they seem to have an inborn radar system telling them when they are under fire.
The local rules at such courses reflect the uniqueness - the golfer must drop away from a newborn lamb and the player has an optional replay if the ball strikes the wire or the post of the electric fence (used to keep the sheep from the greens).
You could choose to start your golfing trip at the top of the North Island at Carrington, one of eight courses around the country which are part of the Best of Golf New Zealand brand. This initiative brings together some of the best golf courses, resorts, tour operators and accommodation providers. (For more information check out www.bestofgolfnewzealand.com)
On your drive back to Auckland you should try and stop for a game at Kauri Cliffs, a course that since it opened in 2000 has won worldwide acclaim for its dramatic location, luxurious lodge and challenging course.
Just outside Auckland, Gulf Harbour is another course you should make it your business to play, while the Lakes Resort in Pauanui in the Coromandel is another great addition to New Zealand’s ever increasing list of ‘must play’ courses.
In the heart of the North Island, an area famous for its rich Maori heritage, freshwater fishing and active volcanoes, is Wairakei International Golf Course. Consistently ranked as one of New Zealand’s best, this parkland course weaves its way through thousands of tall majestic trees which help to create a magical atmosphere.
At Rotorua Golf Club in the geothermal region of the North Island, golf is hot. Literally. There is a steaming lake by the 16th hole as well as bubbling mud pools. Taupo Golf Club in the central North Island also has fumaroles spitting steam in the air.
A couple of hours drive and you are on the east coast at Cape Kidnappers, a course which couldn’t be more different to Wairakei. This is extreme golf in a setting which has to be seen to be believed. The Pacific Ocean and the breath-taking cliffs are as much a part of the Cape Kidnappers experience as the wonderful golf course.
Terrace Downs is located in the foothills of the Southern Alps and the towering snow-capped mountains serve as the backdrop to a picture perfect golf course.
Clearwater lives up to its name with the man-made lakes dotted around the course bringing water into play on all but four of its 18 holes. It is one of a number of golf courses in New Zealand which have benefited from the design input of the country’s greatest golfer, Sir Bob Charles. As well as a golfer’s paradise it is also a treat for fishermen with some of the best trout fishing in the country.
Queenstown and the surrounding Southern Lakes area is fast developing a reputation as the premier golfing destination in New Zealand. Like Terrace Downs, Millbrook is set amongst the mountains of the Southern Alps and the clever design takes full advantage of stunning scenery.
Jack’s Point is one of the newest resort courses in New Zealand but although it only opened to the public in September 2008, already it is being talked about as one of the most special places in the country to play golf. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Jack’s Point is the ultimate in golfing luxury.
For more information on New Zealand Golf Courses visit www.golf.co.nz