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15 Best Golf Courses In New Zealand

September 2019

New Zealand features some of the world’s finest golf courses.

The stunning scenery of New Zealand threatens to outshine the courses at times, but the beautiful conditioning, layout and overall diversity of the courses on this list provide an unforgettable experience that will leave visitors wanting to come back time and time again.

Let’s jump in and take a look at the best golf courses in NZ!

Read Next: Best Golf Courses in New Zealand and Australia.

Please note: The list of courses in this article are based on 3rd party rankings from sites like Golf Digest, Top 100 Golf Courses, Planet Golf and Golf Advisor; as well as from consumer reviews from platforms like Google and Trip Advisor.

Best New Zealand Golf Courses

1. Tara Iti

Tara Iti golf course

Image source: Renaissance Golf

  • Location: Mangawhai
  • Date Established: 2015
  • Course Architect: Tom Doak
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: 35th golf course designed by Tom Doak

Located just over an hour north of Auckland, Tara Iti is an first exclusive club in New Zealand.

It is a private members club but for those really wanting to visit the course there is a one-off access option. Provided you have a letter of introduction from your home club and that you are willing to stay in one of the member’s cottages, you will be able to experience this terrific course.

Tara Iti has a real links feel and any golf purist will immediately appreciate the time and effort that has been invested into designing such a memorable course.

2. Cape Kidnappers

cape kidnappers golf course
  • Location: Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay
  • Date Established: 2004
  • Course Architect: Tom Doak
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: 44th in the world rankings

Cape Kidnappers is on pristine land, wedged between the towering cliffs of the Cape and a sheep and cattle station.

The owner and architect have deliberately retained a rugged feel to the course and its surrounds. If you can pull yourself away from the stunning cliff top views long enough to appreciate the course itself, the greens and bunkers are the stand out.

The course lacks trees and water hazards but more than makes up for it with strategically placed green-side bunkers and an undulating landscape. Although relatively pricey, Cape Kidnappers is a unique and compelling course that should be on any avid golfers list.

3. Paraparaumu Beach

Paraparaumu Beach golf new zealand

  • Location: Wellington
  • Date Established: 1949
  • Course Architect: Alex Russel
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Hosted 12 New Zealand Opens

Paraparaumu Beach is not flush to the shore, but it has all the features of a true links course.

It has no weak holes and when the breeze gets up, many challenges present themselves. It is in a league of its own in and around Wellington and is a truly outstanding course. The course is in immaculate condition and to make this feat even more outstanding, the greens staff is made up of only four people.

The impressive architecture and tiptop condition of the course makes it one of the best golf courses in New Zealand and the world.

4. Kinloch Club

Kinloch Club NZ

Image Source: Kinloch Club

  • Location: Kinloch, Taupo
  • Date Established: 2007
  • Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Rated as the hardest course in NZ

Kinloch Club is the first Jack Nicklaus Signature designed golf course in New Zealand. This is not a typical Jack Nicklaus course, but some trademarks do remain.

The greens are well guarded with an emphasis on an accurate approach shot. Measuring 6783 metres off the championship tees, Kinloch has built a reputation for being the toughest course in New Zealand.

Although it is nowhere near the ocean, this course pays homage to the great British and Irish links courses.

The course overlooks the majestic Lake Taupo and is flanked by craggy hills. Nicklaus has managed to craft this volcanic terrain into a rugged masterpiece that blends into age-old Kiwi sheep-farming territory.

5. Kauri Cliffs

kauri cliffs golf new zealand

  • Location: Matauri, Northland
  • Date Established: 2005
  • Course Architect: David Harman
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Located in the picturesque Bay of Islands

Much like its sister course, Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs is a cliff top golf course. It is a bit closer to the ocean and as such, the course has been laid out in a way to make the most of the sea views.

Touring golfers will certainly want to play both courses so naturally comparisons will be made. Playing from the championship tees at Kauri Cliffs is a formidable test with the course requiring many shots across gorges onto fairways guarded by long, thick rough.

The only thing detracting from the views is the tally of golf balls that are constantly being lost. Many visitors favorably compare Kauri Cliffs with the likes of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.

6. Jack’s Point

Jacks Point Golf Course NZ

  • Location: Jack’s Point, Queenstown
  • Date Established: 2008
  • Course Architect: John Darby
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Located in the Remarkables mountain range

Jack’s Point is John Darby’s newest creation and is arguably his best to date. The course lies in the Remarkables mountain range with the majestic Lake Wakatipu to the east.

The integral features have been maintained where possible and as a result, the final touches are natural and rustic with spectacular scenery surrounding the course.

Situated just 30 minutes out of beautiful Queenstown, Jack’s Point is a must play for any visiting golfer passing through the area.

7. Arrowtown

Arrowtown golf

Image Source: Arrowtown Golf Course

  • Location: Arrowton
  • Date Established: 1936
  • Course Architect: Reg Romans and B. V Wright
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Started out as a six-hole course in 1911

Arrowtown Golf Club started out as a six-hole course in 1911, which was later disbanded. Then, in 1935, new land was acquired on the Arrowton-Arrow Junction Road, and the front nine was opened in 1936. The club acquired new land on the opposite side of the road in 1971 to develop a further nine holes.

Arrowtown usually flies under the radar due to the more well-known courses, The Hills and Millbrook being situated nearby. However, one shouldn’t miss the opportunity to get a round here.

The course is surrounded by spectacular natural valleys and troughs and every hole has a breath-taking mountain backdrop. The course only measures 5409 metres, so it is by no means a long track but the dramatic land formations, fairways lying between tiny valleys and the spectacular scenery makes it one of the most memorable and unique courses in the country.

8. Titirangi

Titirangi golf course

  • Location: New Lynn, Auckland
  • Date Established: 1927
  • Course Architect: Alister Mackenzie and Chris Pitman
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Originally known as Maungakieie Golf Club

The design of Titirangi has received much praise due to the difficult terrain on which the course is laid. The land has been left alone as much as possible, so the holes have been built the way nature intended.

Nonetheless, the years of slow deterioration took its toll on the course, so in the mid 90’s a restoration of the course began with 15 of the 18 holes been restored using Alister Mackenzie’s surviving individual hole drawings and routing maps.

The improved Titirangi is a terrific test with many diverse holes that are laid out across the undulations and cut through the native New Zealand bush and rainforest. Titirangi is rated the best course in Auckland for a reason and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

9. The Hills

  • Location: Arrowtown
  • Date Established: 2007
  • Course Architect: John Darby
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Owned and operated by Michael Hill

Billed as New Zealand’s most exclusive golf club, The Hills is located in Arrowtown and is owned and operated by jeweller Michael Hill. John Darby was contracted to build “something grunty” for Michael Hill, a vision that has resulted in a breathtaking course.

Surrounded by the Southern Alps, the setting is stunning with beautiful scenery surrounding the course on all sides. The design of the course is also a triumph, with the closing stretch being particularly impressive.

The distinctive artwork of Mark Hill, the son of Michael Hill is a feature of the course. His works include the five-metre tall Weta sculpture on the first fairway, and the centrepiece of the club, the distinctive bunker-styled clubhouse.

If you can afford the green fees, this is a must play course that will leave you wanting to come back again and again.

10. Royal Wellington

Royal Wellington golf NZ

  • Location: Heretaunga
  • Date Established: 1895
  • Course Architect: Greg Turner and Scott MacPherson (2013)
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: World famous caddy, Steve Williams is a local

Wellington Golf Club was originally founded in 1895 and had to wait until 2004 to gain the “Royal” status.

The course was recently remodelled by Greg Turner and Scott McPherson and reopened in February 2014. There are four new holes, nine that use the original corridors and five that remain the same as their original design.

Royal Wellington is steeped in rich history having hosted multiple New Zealand Opens.

The remodelling of the course has brought it up to a level that is applicable to its “Royal” status and was a fitting venue to host the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur championship, the largest golf event to be staged in NZ.

11. Wairakei

Wairakei golf course

  • Location: Taupo
  • Date Established: 1970
  • Course Architect: John Harris
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Built as a tourist attraction for visitors to the region

Situated near Lake Taupo, Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary is set in 450 acres of rolling terrain that is teeming with geothermal activity.

Built with the sole objective to be New Zealand’s best course, the focus was to design a course that was capable of hosting national events. Many of the natural features have remained unchanged and it is a gorgeous place to play golf.

The Whole Wairakei property is a sanctuary for fauna and flora which adds to the already unique golfing experience.

Wairakei is so much more than just a golf course, but the golf course itself stands up against the best in the country.

12. Millbrook

Millbrook golf course

Image Source: Queenstown.com

  • Location: Arrowtown, Queenstown
  • Date Established: 1992
  • Course Architect: John Darby and Bob Charles ; Greg Turner and Scott MacPherson
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: The resort consists of 27 holes

The Millbrook resort consists of 27 holes, with the possibility of an additional nine holes in the planning stages.

The newest nine is believed to be the strongest of the three nines, but all 27 holes have something unique to offer.

The southern alps provide a stunning backdrop to the course and the views are nothing short of spectacular. The course has a resort feel to it, and as such, it is more accessible to the average player.

Although the pace of play may suffer, the players have a lot to take in with the beautiful surroundings. The resort has been the co-host of the New Zealand Open with The Hills since 2014, with the resort hosting the final two rounds for the first time in 2017.

13. Wainui

Wainui golf auckland NZ

Image Source: AucklandNZ.com

  • Location: Wainui
  • Date Established: 2016
  • Course Architect: Grant Puddicombe
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Wainui roughly translates to ‘big water’ in Maori

Wainui is a new course that was developed after the Peninsula Golf Club members decided to sell the piece of land the golf course was on. Wainui is situated on a piece of rolling farmland that is nestled in the hills and valleys 45 minutes from Auckland.

The course features some unique and quirky holes that are great fun to play.

Slightly on the more difficult side, accuracy is required as the course demands shots over and in between water hazards and over ditches. The course can be punishing if you are having an off day so be patient and take in all the unique aspects of the course.

14. Gulf Harbour

gulf harbour

Image Source: Gulf Harbour

  • Location: Whangaparaoa, Hibiscus Coast
  • Date Established: 1997
  • Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Hosted the 1998 World Cup of Golf

Gulf Harbour is the only golf course in New Zealand designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., and is situated 25km north of Auckland. The course is routed along a rolling hillside with constant elevation changes that make for a challenging golfing experience.

The front nine is played inland with the short par four seventh hole being the highlight for many.

However, it is on the back nine where this course truly shines. Most of the holes have a stunning panoramic ocean view with the Auckland city skyline in the distance.

Measuring 5907 metres off the members tees, this course isn’t short by any means. Along with the elevation changes and undulating nature of the course, it can be a challenging but rewarding experience.

15. Christchurch Golf Club

Christchurch Golf Club

Image Source: Christchurch Golf Club

  • Location: Shirley, Christchurch
  • Date Established: 1873
  • Course Architect: Sloan Morpeth, Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge
  • Highlight / Interesting Fact: Second oldest golf course in New Zealand

Christchurch Golf Club, like many old and established golf clubs has shifted locations from where it originally opened. The course was moved from Hagley Park to the suburb of Shirley in 1900 and was extended to 18 holes in 1910.

The course was refurbished in the 1990’s with many trees being removed that gives the current layout its strategic design.

Christchurch has played host to numerous championships, hosting the New Zealand Open on 11 occasions. Despite the lack of trees, the course has a parkland feel and will favour the thinking golfer as the greens and bunkers need to be navigated well to shoot a good score here.

Christchurch Golf Club is the finest course in Christchurch and is a must visit for any golf fan in the area.

About the author 

Paul Bradshaw

Paul hit his first golf shot at the age of 5, and from that point on was immediately hooked. He went on to become one of the leading amateurs in South Africa, securing a full golf scholarship with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Turning professional in 2004, Paul played extensively on the Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned European Tour events. Paul is our lead editor at Golf Assessor.

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