Auckland is a golfer’s dream destination.
The city boasts a mixture of coastal and inland courses, ranging from the best New Zealand has to offer to the discovery courses that possess unique charm.New Zealand Golf Digest selected 16 Things To Do on Auckland’s Golf Trail that would appeal to every type of golfer.
1. Conquer the 17th at Howick Golf Club at Musick Point
Breathtaking scenery is everywhere on the property of Howick Golf Club at Musick Point. The East Auckland course near Buckland’s Beach has striking views of the city skyline and close ups of Waiheke Island and the Hauraki Gulf.
Stunning views make the $40 visitor’s green fee a bargain at the 5,454-metre, par-69 layout. The same can’t be said of making a par 4 on the demanding 17th (pictured). At 385m from the back tee, the 17th is a real brute with Out of Bounds along the entire left-hand side.
Avoiding the OB is a must on both the tee and second shots. The tricky approach is complicated by the prevailing coastal breeze off the left to a raised multi-tiered green that falls away steeply to the right. Little wonder Howick’s 17th is regarded as the best penultimate hole in Auckland. – Matt Chatterton
2. Carry the bay on Gulf Harbour Country Club’s 16th
The presentation of Gulf Harbour Country Club has improved dramatically over the past 18 months when new owners took over the daily operations to restore the Robert Trent Jones Jnr layout to its former glory. Gulf Harbour’s prestigious history includes hosting the 1998 World Cup of Golf and New Zealand Open in 2005 and 2006.
The 16th is the signature hole on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, a rip-snorting par around the bay where John Daly once drove the green some 424 metres away (top). But an Australian tournament winner (and former US PGA Tour player) faced an entirely different scenario when he reached the 16th tee during a New Zealand Open.
The short-hitting Australian pro realised his driver wasn’t a sufficiently long enough club to make the water carry into a howling breeze. Unperturbed, he took the practical route of hitting a pitching wedge down onto the ladies tees (which is some shot in itself). He then hit a fairway metal across the cove onto the fairway with his second. Ironically, he made a bogey 5 – one stroke better than his playing companion who made a double-bogey 6 after taking on the diagonal carry. – Rohan Clarke
3. Stock up at the Golf Warehouse Superstore
The Golf Warehouse Superstore on Newton Road in Eden Terrace is an institution of Auckland golf. An entire floor of the big yellow building is devoted to equipment, apparel, footwear and accessories.
Three indoor simulators with Foresight Launch monitors allow golfers to club-test the latest new products while a large indoor putting green provides the opportunity to sample hundreds of flatsticks. The venue also has New Zealand’s largest fitting studio operated by Peter Ranford and his team at Boom Golf Custom Clubfitters. With ample on-site parking, the Golf Warehouse Superstore is the ideal one-stop shop to stock up for the next round. – RC
4. Take on the Alister MacKenzie Challenge at Titirangi
Playing the only course in New Zealand designed by Alister MacKenzie (the architect behind Augusta National and Royal Melbourne) is reason enough to visit Titirangi Golf Club (pictured). However, the ‘Alister MacKenzie Challenge’ is worthy of a trip – or two – in itself.
When MacKenzie designed Titirangi, besides devising a strategic test and devilish greens, the good doctor created four signature par 3s cleverly facing the four points of the compass: north (7th), south (11th), east (4th) and west (14th).
All four holes are about the same length (152m-160m from the white tees). Each is a beast to conquer, let alone all four, given the four different wind directions, a variety of elevation changes, some tough bunkering and – in the case of the seventh and 14th – severely sloping, multi-tiered greens.
Par every one of them in a single round and you will be rewarded with a MacKenzie Challenge lapel pin. – Michael Donaldson
5. Sample a little bit of Scotland at Waipu
Dunedin is known as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’ but Waipu, 122 kilometres north of Auckland Central, is perhaps New Zealand’s most Scottish town. Settled by Scots from Novia Scotia in Canada back in 1854, the town has a regular Highland Games as well as a links-style course hewed from the sandy soil alongside the spectacular Bream Bay.
Kikuyu grass is a reason the layout doesn’t feature on a list of true links courses. But the landscape is genuine linksy, built on sand dunes that extend to touch the ocean.
The course is in brilliant nick all year round and can be played despite the heaviest rain. The greens are some of the best you’ll roll a ball on and there are some imaginative and demanding holes that unfold towards and then away from the ocean.
After the round, enjoy the views from the clubhouse or head to McLeod’s Pizza Barn and brewery where you can grab a great craft beer – the Longboard Lager is highly recommended. – MD
6. Climb the slopes at Waitakere
As New Zealand’s only golf course set in a regional park, Waitakere Golf Club is a real test of fitness. It’s carved out of native bushland high in the Waitakere Ranges and the layout is right next to the famous Cascades Kauri Reserve.
With some of the most severe elevation changes you’re likely to encounter on a golf course, the walk is not for the faint-hearted. Kiwi tour pro Frank Nobilo played Waitakere through his junior years and credits the experience of dealing with its elevation changes for helping achieve his best Major result – fourth at the 1996 Masters on the undulating Augusta National. – MD
7. Envisage Augusta on Redwood Park’s ‘Amen Corner’
Set in a tree-lined parkland setting in suburban West Auckland, Redwood Golf Club (pictured) is a boutique course with more bite than its 5,248 metres (from the white tees) suggests. The best stretch of holes at Redwood is from the ninth to the 11th, a mini version of Augusta National’s ‘Amen Corner’.
The ninth is a shortish par 5 of 415m and there’s an eagle opportunity if you can shape a drive around the ever-turning, right-to-left fairway. Like the 13th at Augusta, it has trees on the right, water on the left and the fairway slopes towards the water.
The 10th is a 137m par 3 over water – not dissimilar to Rae’s Creek on Augusta’s 12th with the water in front of the green and bunkers at the back.
Finally, there’s the exceedingly difficult 11th, a 378m par 4 to a narrow fairway (with water on the left) and an elevated plateau green tucked into a pocket. Envisage the 11th at Augusta and dream about playing the real Amen Corner. – MD
8. Bask in the beauty of Whitford Park
Set in a lush valley, the picturesque Whitford Park Golf Club in East Auckland is where Ryan Fox learned to play his dashing style of golf. Generous fairways allowed Fox to develop a power game that is, statistically, the longest on the world’s major tours.
The son of All Blacks legend Grant Fox says the appeal of Whitford Park is its superb maintenance. “I played there for 20 years and it’s one of the better golf courses in Auckland. Year-round it’s in good condition and a great test of golf,” says New Zealand’s No.1-ranked professional.
Even better, enquire about a spot in Whitford Park’s popular two-day pro-am in early January. Recent winners include Fox, Michael Hendry and Josh Geary. – MD
9. Try Wainui’s new Orchard Nine
Many golfers would be aware of the country’s newest championship course at Wainui Golf Club, north of Auckland near Orewa. Wainui’s purpose-built facilities boast an array of amenities that attract members and visitors to this rural setting less than 30 minutes from the CBD.
But fewer golfers know Wainui also offers an ‘Orchard Nine’ that plays through a feijoa orchard. It’s comprised of nine par 3s, ranging in length from 80-130m and maintained to similar standards as the championship layout.
This versatile nine provides a chance for beginners to transition into a larger setting, families to play a quick nine together, die-hard golfers to work on their short games or golf tragics to squeeze in a bit more golf in a unique setting. Green fees for the Orchard Nine cost between $10-17. – Ryan Brandeburg
10. Enjoy fresh strawberry ice cream at Windross Farm
Designed by Brett Thomson, with Phil Tataurangi acting as course consultant, Windross Farm Golf Course is one of the country’s newest layouts after a transition from the former Manakau Golf Club. It may be the only course where you can play in the footsteps of LPGA Tour superstars and enjoy fresh fruit ice cream.
The property in Alfriston, near Ardmore Airport, happens to sit right next door to The Strawberry Corner, one of the most popular strawberry patches in the Auckland region. It’s easily accessible via a short hop over the fence near the 17th tee.
Once a “local secret”, television cameras captured fans and players taking a pit stop during last year’s MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open. Strawberry Corner’s real fruit ice cream shouldn’t be missed when enjoying a round at Windross. – RB
11. Test your nerves on an America’s Cup yacht
With more than 135,000 vessels registered in Auckland, this is a city that takes its sailing very seriously. And given mankind can’t survive on golf alone, ‘The City of Sails’ is an amazing backdrop to board an actual America’s Cup yacht.
Explore Group offers daily cruises and races where everyone from a novice to an experienced sailor can take part in a head-to-head match race around Waitemata Harbour. Choose to enjoy the ride or participate in grinding, setting the sails and even taking the helm on this two-hour journey.
Yachts depart from the Viaduct, which means you can enjoy a waterfront lunch before or after the experience on the harbour. This is just one of the many ways to get out on the water and experience life as a real Aucklander. – RB
12. Walk in the footsteps of champions at Pupuke
When the world thinks of home courses for Major champions, Pupuke Golf Club in Auckland likely doesn’t come to mind. However, this club on the city’s North Shore is known in New Zealand as ‘The course that creates champions’.
Pupuke has produced two of our nation’s finest golfers with Michael Hendry and Lydia Ko coming through the club ranks. Hendry starting playing there when he was 12 while Ko famously began at age five when she was too small to even see over the counter in the golf shop. (She became a life member at 18.)
Ko counts the par-3 17th as one of her favourite holes in New Zealand. Five bunkers protect the front and left side of an angled green while a steep bank on the right repels mis-directed approaches. Although just 151 metres from the back tee, a par on the 17th would earn Ko’s approval. – RB
13. Take a lesson at the Institute of Golf
If Pupuke is ‘The course that creates champions’, then the team at the Institute of Golf surely must be ‘The coaches that create champions’. Co-founders Craig Dixon and Guy Wilson took Lydia Ko from a six-year-old primary schoolgirl to become the youngest player (male or female) to be ranked No.1 in professional golf.
Dixon and Wilson also work with 2017 New Zealand Open champion Mike Hendry and their client list doesn’t end with high-performance athletes. They count former Prime Minister Sir John Key, cricketer Mark Richardson and celebrity chef Josh Emmet as students along with hundreds of adult and junior golfers.
A new partnership with Trackman has been yet another improvement in IOG’s ongoing commitment to total game improvement and creating pathways for young players.
A 30-minute individual lesson from one of the Institute’s coaches starts at $90. – RB
14. Surf in the morning, then play 18 holes in the afternoon at Muriwai
Set on Auckland’s west coast, Muriwai is well known to most New Zealanders. Not only does it boast one of the country’s best links courses, it is renowned as one of the best surf beaches on the North Island.
The early morning surf at Muriwai produces both right and left breaks, and the black sandy beach is all that separates the surfers from the golfers. The Muriwai Surf School is a great starting point for novices.
After a morning in the water, make the short journey to one of the best free-draining courses in Auckland. While not overly long at just shy of 6,200 metres, the shifting winds and firm, fast conditions require accuracy off the tee and a solid approach game.
The black sandy soil links the course and the sea, while the wild Tasman surf provides a soundtrack for the round. If time permits, it’s worth visiting Muriwai’s gannet colony, which hosts more than 1,000 of the large seabirds between August and March. – RB
15. Let Golf Encounters deliver a golf-specific holiday
For more than 18 years, Charlie’s Golf Tours has been hosting Kiwis on golf holidays around the world. Now its sister brand, Golf Encounters, is running holidays around Auckland and New Zealand, enabling golfers to explore the country’s world-class courses and quaint regional tracks.
Golf Encounters delivers well-organised experiences at great value for singles and couples as well as for small groups of friends and large club excursions. It tailors the holiday specifically to budget, length of trip, level of accommodation and standard of courses required. And it provide rates better than if you booked the trip yourself. For more information, visit golfencounters.co.nz. – RC
16. Hit a golf ball on Eden Park’s hallowed turf
Eden Park is one of the great sporting stadiums, playing host to the world’s best cricketers and rugby players on a weekly basis. Now golfers have the chance to tread where history has been written.
Eden Park Trust introduced a ‘stadium golf’ experience last November, turning the hallowed turf into a nine-hole course with the staging of the inaugural ASB G9 event. Almost 3,000 golfers took advantage of the opportunity to play the pitch-and-putt layout that featured elevated tees in the grandstands. They even took part in a long-putt competition in the traditional home-team change room.
Judging by the high demand, it seems the $198 green fee represented good value. For those keen to play golf in a fun and unique environment, Eden Park will host another stadium-golf event in late spring. – RC