Located on Musick Point near Buckland’s Beach in East Auckland, Howick is one of the city’s premier seaside courses. Its peninsula setting offers breathtaking scenery with almost 360-degree water views not seen anywhere else in Auckland.
Situated on Crown land, the club has a long-term lease arrangement guaranteeing it will be part of the East Auckland community for years to come. That’s a far cry from the precarious position the club once faced.
Howick’s history stretches back before World War II when a group of locals acquired a small plot of land for a nine-hole course at Shelly Park. Following the war, the club moved to a new location to facilitate the creation of an 18-hole course. However, crippling lease costs forced the club to look elsewhere for a permanent location.
It wasn’t until 1953 that Howick finally settled on the current site at the old Musick Point Air Radio Station. Extensive earthworks and thousands of hours of voluntary labour were required to clear 98 acres of vacant scrubland. It’s been an impressive transformation into one of the most scenic golf courses in New Zealand.
The par-69 layout has a unique routing with two par 5s, five par 3s (two of those back to back) and 11 par 4s. “It’s a bit of an old-fashioned style of course,” says club president Ron Gold. “With modern courses going more open, Howick’s tree-lined fairways make it a tough challenge.”
Tree-lined fairways may be a feature of Howick, but it’s the spectacular scenery that’s the real showstopper. Striking views of Auckland’s city skyline capture the attention when walking off the third green. Close ups of Waiheke Island and the Hauraki Gulf are another treat towards the end of a round.
“The views are what really make the difference at Howick. If you’re having a bad day at the office, you can always look at the view and not worry about the golf,” Gold says.
Playing on a coastal peninsula does bring certain challenges. Hauraki Gulf’s notorious easterly wind can make golf tricky for less-accomplished players. Add in Auckland’s natural undulating terrain and the 5,454-metre course often plays closer to a par 72.
That’s one of Howick’s many charms, says Gold. “It’s nowhere near as easy as what people think it’s going to be. When the wind really picks up, some holes can play five to six clubs different between days.”
The par-4 17th is a prime example. Stepping onto the tee you’re welcomed by the best views on the property, looking out over the Hauraki Gulf. But at 385m from the elevated back tee, the 17th is the hardest hole on the course. Out of Bounds runs the entire length of the left side with the potential to ruin a good round.
The 17th plays downhill and the fairway narrows towards a raised, multi-tiered green. The tendency is to avoid the OB on the left. However, a steep slope off the right side of the green will repel a wayward approach. Hence, it can be a daunting challenge with the breeze coming off the coast. It’s this sort of challenge that makes the 17th Howick’s signature hole and it consistently ranks as the best penultimate hole in Auckland.
Another feature of Howick is its back-to-back par 3s on the front nine. The fourth and fifth holes play down the western side of the course along the inside of the peninsula. They’re both relatively mid-length par 3s (176m and 167m) and face the same direction. However they can play completely differently depending on the wind.
Former ladies club captain Anne Rickerby has been a member at Howick for more than a decade. She had never played golf before moving to Auckland in 2000. But living right next to Howick proved irresistible and she knew the course had something to offer.
“It’s one of the cheapest courses to play here in Auckland as a member and visitor,” Rickerby says. “The views you get are absolutely stunning. Auckland people tend to think the course is hilly but I would call it more undulating. People who come here from overseas think Howick is absolutely magnificent.”
The club has a healthy membership base of men and women. The annual full-playing membership with no restrictions is $1,290. However, unfamiliar faces are always welcome – a third of the club’s revenue stream comes from visitors. Affiliated golfers can play 18 holes for as little as $40.
According to Rickerby, some of those visitors are treated to a bit more than just golf on the odd occasion. “We had a group of French golfers here [last] year. When they stepped on the 17th tee to take a photo of the view they managed to get a snap of Emirates Team New Zealand out on the water practising for the America’s Cup in Bermuda. Where else could that happen?”
Like most courses in Auckland, the best time to play Howick is during the summer months. The settled weather, lush green fairways and renowned views make Howick a top pick to play over the New Year.
That’s why there are so many return visitors. “People remember it, that’s for sure,” Gold says. “Some people find the hills tiring, but most come off the course feeling like they’ve had a challenging game of golf. A lot want to come back again and try to conquer it. That’s often the way you feel here at Howick – it may look easy but more often than not, it will get the better of you.”
Howick Golf Club at Musick Point
32 Musick Point Road, Bucklands Beach, Auckland
$40 (NZ affiliate) $50 (visitor)
(09) 535 1001