The 10 Best Golf Courses in New Zealand

Views of the MacKenzie Basin as you play golf
Views of the MacKenzie Basin as you play golf | © Bernard Spragg. NZ / Flickr
Joe Coates

It’s said that golf is good for the soul and that all a golfer needs is more daylight. This might never be truer than when you’re walking down the fairway of one of New Zealand’s cracking golf courses. Here is our guide to the 10 best courses in the country.

1. Cape Kidnappers

Golf Hotel

The Cape
© Kristina D.C. Hoeppner / Flickr

The 15th hole, the Pirate’s Plank, is the most photographed hole on this golf course, which is basically made up of Instagram-worthy golfing photo opportunities. It’s very reminiscent of Pebble Beach in a way, being so close to the sea here. If you’re looking for the golfing equivalent of walking on egg shells then just wait until you have a nudge at the Pirate’s Plank for the first time. There is nothing quite like a 100-metre drop on one side to sharpen your focus when approaching a green.

2. The Kinloch Club

Golf Hotel

© Dave Young / Flickr

This ripper of a course is situated in the heart of the North Island, not too far away from Taupo. It’s a stunning course to look at from the starting point of each hole. As you stand waiting to tee off, the beautifully manicured fairways look like a giant, rumpled green blanket that has been shaken over the landscape. Many players have mentioned that this course is, perhaps, a little overzealous when it comes to the distribution of bunkers, but saying that, it might depend on the skill of the individual and how cool they can keep under pressure. All in all it’s a good course – definitely one of the more aggressive when it comes to hazards – and well worth pitting yourself against.

3. Kauri Cliffs

Lodge, Golf Hotel

Kauri Cliffs
© Ralph Bestic / Flickr / Derivative from original
Making use of 6,000 gorgeous acres of the New Zealand countryside in Northland, north of Auckland, is the beautiful Kauri Cliffs. This world class golf course and lodge is the definition of elegance, with brilliant suites and rooms, as well as a fantastic 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. When not enjoying a round on the scintillating course you can go fishing, or, if you’ve overdone it a bit whilst teeing off, even enjoy an indulgent, therapeutic full-service luxury spa treatment. Kauri Cliffs has everything you need to experience the ultimate stylish and relaxing luxury golf vacation.

4. Paraparaumu Beach

Golf Hotel

Paraparaumu Beach
© Rosino / Flickr

This beautiful course has kept its present shape since 1946, and you can see why nobody has thought to change it in all that time. It’s still one of the best courses in the country. The par 4 holes here are the real standouts, although the most famous hole is a par 3 – hole number 16. This fearsome number will have your scorecard in tatters before you know what’s hit you. Many golfers duff the tee shot and then before they can say: “By George, is that a bunker?” they’re up to their ankles in sand. There are a couple of weak holes early on the back nine but otherwise it’s a top-class course which is enormously fun to play.

5. Tara Iti

Golf Hotel

To the pin
© Sherwood CC / Flickr

When it comes to aesthetics you won’t hear many people argue when Tara Iti is named as the best looking course in the entire country. This is a truly beautiful spot by Mangawhai Heads, but the quality of the golf outdoes even the views. The par 3s are nothing short of perfect on this course, but the real genius is it just gets better and better as you play. Even the tricky holes leave you shaking your head in rueful fashion and you almost want to march back to the tee and start again. The 16th in particular, is a puzzle. This course will have you coming back again and again.

6. Jack's Point

Golf Hotel

That View
© Scott Brenner / Flickr

The designer of Jack’s Point, John Darby, has said he likes his courses to look hard and play easy. Well, he nailed that one right out of the bag as you’ll discover when you play the opening hole. However, that may’ve been a way in which to lure you into a false sense of security because the second hole looks tricky, and is tricky. It’s a real risk and rewards course this one. You can take the safe route and that is all well and good, but then again you can roll the dice when it comes to some of the water hazards and your scorecard will reflect the results of your efforts.

7. Titirangi

Golf Hotel

Lush Green
© Uri Tours / Flickr

This is the only course in New Zealand designed by the greatest course architect, Alister MacKenzie, and has stood the test of time where it squats in the city of Auckland. There’s a gully that is utilized brilliantly for much of the back nine, and it is here you will find one of the best par 5s in the country. It plays longer than the listed 7,200 yards suggests, thanks to MacKenzie’s clever mix of short and long par fours. That mix means a lot of birdie looks on holes like the first, second, eighth, 15th and 18th. However, on the third, ninth, 12th and 17th, a par can feel like a birdie depending on the wind direction.

8. Arrowtown Golf Course

Golf Hotel

© Bernard Spragg. NZ / Flickr

Arrowtown Golf Club throws you into the thick of the action right from the starter’s gun. It’s one rippingly good hole after another on the front nine. All very exciting stuff with tee shots that require you to pick thin gaps between valley walls on a couple of occasions. This sounds a little dicey perhaps, but because the fairway runs through a valley, it is usually pretty free from wind and plays a little wider. The back nine isn’t quite so strong but a lot of players like this as the first nine holes are pretty demanding. If you’re after a quick game then Arrowtown is the place to go if you’re in this part of the country, due to its shorter length.

9. Royal Wellington Golf Course

Golf Hotel

Open Fairway
© Simon Turkas / Flickr

The Royal Wellington Golf Course has recently been redesigned by talented architects Greg Turner and Scott Macpherson. The result is that this course now has some of the most interesting greens in the whole country – and the holes themselves aren’t too shabby either. There are a great set of par 3s, beginning with the third, that has a tremendous green made up of two distinct bowls, with lots of scope for banking shots into difficult pins. This is another course that rewards (or ruins) the daring of heart.

10. The Hills

Golf Hotel

© bedrck / Pixabay
The Hills is quite simply another of those courses on which you find yourself taking a moment before you hit most of your tee shots. This isn’t to get focused, but more to take in the incredible views, and the beauty of the course itself. It might be the only course on our list where the holes themselves are eclipsed by their surroundings. What with the sculptures dotted about and the contrasting colours of the different grasses, it’s the walking about that is a real pleasure here. The golf is still tremendous, but even if you had the worst round of your life you’d still go home feeling happy as a clam.

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