New Zealand is getting more and more respect from the world golfing press as writers increasingly pay a visit to the country and sample the courses. Many return home to rave about the layouts and spectacular scenery, which shouldn’t have surprised them, given New Zealand’s reputation of having some of the finest topography on the planet. The press has also come around in understanding the game’s popularity with Kiwis—New Zealand has more courses per capita than any country in the world. And with the large number of affordable car rental companies in the country (such as Omega Car Hire New Zealand), touring around from course to course has never been easier.
Here are the highest rated golf courses in the country, as judged by several independent authorities, including Golf Digest and worldgolf.com:
- Cape Kidnappers Golf Course. In Hawke’s Bay, this is the highest-rated Kiwi course on the Golf Digest list. One look at the layout and you will understand why! It is a true art to take a seaside property and maximize it for a course; Cape Kidnappers succeeds in this endeavor. As some reviewers note, the Pacific Ocean might be as big a draw for this course as the golf. The holes play fast and stiff ocean breezes add even more challenge. Deep ravines and numerous bunkers guard many of the greens.
- Kauri Cliffs Golf Club & Lodge. This layout routinely makes the top 25 in the Golf Digest rankings as well. It is a par-72 championship course that runs 7,119 yards with five sets of tees for different skill levels. An astounding 15 holes have views of the Pacific Ocean; six of them are built on cliffs that fall straight into the water, so watch your ball and your step! Inland holes traverse marsh, forest and farmland. There is also a practice range, full pro shop and club rental.
- Carrington Golf Course. This course is on the Karikari Peninsula has a seaside location, although it plays more like an inland layout with a links feel over rolling hills and valleys. The natural lay of the land gives this course much of its character. No matter how your round goes, you will enjoy the elevated clubhouse that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Few 19th holes can match it.
- Paraparaumu Golf Club. If you love links golf, this is the place to go. It has hosted the New Zealand Open 12 times. Australian Open champ Alex Russell designed it in 1949 for links lovers, and its undulating fairways, thick rough and huge bunkers provide the best of links action. Whether you are an experienced links golfer or always wanted to give it a try, Paraparaumu will put you to a supreme test.
- Wairakei International Golf Course. This layout is in the heart of the Lake Taupo region between Auckland and Wellington. Many visitors rate that area the most scenic in New Zealand due to the many volcanoes that have shaped the landscape in a unique way. This public course stretches over 450 acres of rolling countryside and has a driving range, pro shop and nice clubhouse.
- Gulf Harbour Country Club. This club is just north of Auckland on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and starts with a hilly, spacious feel then veers toward the ocean, with finishing holes that many compare to Pebble Beach. Because many visitors to New Zealand stay in Auckland, this course has been a popular choice for tourists.
- Clearwater Golf Course. Near Christchurch, this par-72 layout has played host to the HSBC NZ PGA Championship. It combines a Scottish links feel with parkland golf, taking players on a journey through streams and lakes, with amazing views of the Southern Alps thrown in. If you are on South Island, this course is worth a look.
For those looking for the perfect golfing holiday destination, you can’t go past New Zealand!
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