New Zealand golf: one of a kind courses

New Zealand's world-class courses and dramatic landscapes make it a golfer's paradise. Here we celebrate a few uniquely Kiwi courses.

For many cruising Doubtful Sound, a heli-hike on Fox Glacier or accomplishing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing are the highlights of a trip to New Zealand. 

Not so Pam and Bob McKeon, who when asked the almost impossible question of "what was the best bit of your holiday" gave the unexpected answer of “playing golf on Stewart Island”.

Now it is no surprise that New Zealand has some of the best and most beautiful golf courses in the world.  There are more than 400 courses dotted across the country, each diverse and unique in their own right.  But Ringa Ringa Heights is tiny, it has just six holes, and is hardly in competition with the likes of the big boys at Kauri Cliffs or at the Kinloch Club…and therein lies its charm.

Despite its lack of ostentation, Ringa Ringa Heights does have a few claims to fame. Firstly, it’s New Zealand’s most southern golf course, and the second southernmost golf course in the world (the first being Ushuaia Golf Course in Argentina).  Secondly, it’s New Zealand’s smallest golf course and at NZ$5 for 18 holes (play the course three times round), probably the cheapest. Thirdly, it has singularly spectacular views over Ringaringa Bay and Paterson Inlet.

With Ringa Ringa in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite golf courses that truly are one of a kind:

1.  Ringa Ringa Heights, Stewart Island

Hire your golf clubs from the local post office and enjoy the course, for all the aforementioned reasons.  Don’t be put off by the 25 minute walk by bush or track to the main entrance.

Stay at: Stewart Island Lodge

2.  Wairakei Golf Course,  Lake Taupo

Find sanctuary playing golf in this world class championship course and actual wildlife sanctuary.  A 5km predator proof fence has been installed around the entire course perimeter, designed to keep out stoats, possums and the like. Endangered species like kiwi and brown teal have been released onto the property, and a re-planting programme of around 25,000 native trees has taken place.  Course staff keep a check on insect life, tree seedlings and native birds.

Stay at: Huka Lodge

3.  Rotorua Golf Club Arikikapakapa

A great course for those wanting to combine geothermal activity with golf.   Arikikapakapa means “the gentle sound of plopping mud”, which really says all you need to know.   Its unique features include bubbling mud pools, steam vents, sulphur mounds, warm water creeks and a huge thermal crater.

Stay at: Treetops Lodge

4.   Over The Top Golf, Queenstown

In a town renowned for extreme sports it’s perhaps unsurprising golf reaches new heights at Over The Top Golf in Queenstown.  This par 3 golf experience is nestled at 4500 feet and can only be reached by helicopter.   It’s not a course in its own right but it can be included in a package incorporating The Hills, Jacks Point and Millbrook.

Stay at: Queenstown Country Lodge

5.   Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay

Designed by world renowned architect Tom Doak and one of the best golf courses in the world.  Cape Kidnappers was built on a 5-thousand-acre sheep station along a series of ridges that jut out and plunge over cliff edges.  Forget manicured greens and sand dunes, the landscape is harsh and dramatic, with fearsome ravines and contoured fairways.

Stay at: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

6.   Kauri Cliffs, Bay of Islands

A sister course to Cape Kidnappers, but set in New Zealand’s sub-tropical Bay of Islands.  Kauri Cliffs is a 72 championship golf course, challenging every skill level.  It has superb views out to the Pacific Ocean and the offshore Cavalli Islands.  What sets it apart for us is its inland holes, which wind through Kauri forest, marsh and farmland.

Stay at: Kauri Cliffs Lodge

If you are thinking of taking a golfing holiday in New Zealand, or adding a round to your trip, you won’t be disappointed.  Get in touch with New Zealand In Depth to discuss New Zealand’s most unique, and unmissable courses.

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