As a city, Auckland is blessed with an abundance of golf courses. But in an area that has experienced tremendous growth in population, infrastructure and tourism during the past decade, it’s fair to say changes to the golf market have lagged.
Perhaps that is simply the perception because Auckland veterans like Titirangi, Gulf Harbour and Remuera have re-invested in facility improvements. Or it could be that skyrocketing real-estate prices have kept golf’s stakeholders in a holding pattern.
Regardless of the reasons, Auckland’s golf market has seen a resurgence in the past few years led by three high-profile projects: the announcement of a Jack Nicklaus renovation at Royal Auckland; the opening of new facilities at Wainui, north of the city; and at Windross Farm, south of the city near Ardmore Airport.
The brief to the design team was to create an architecturally significant championship course, with full practice facilities and a modern clubhouse. The result is a breath of fresh air for the Auckland market and surrounding area. Course architect Brett Thompson of RBT Design – who played a major role in producing Millbrook, Clearwater Resort and Jack’s Point – worked with New Zealand golf legend Phil Tataurangi as a course consultant to produce the 18-hole layout at Windross Farm.
The land it sits upon had barely a metre of rise and fall when Thompson and Tataurangi first visited the site. A nearby hillside (ironically Kiwi with a deep green colour in the winter, browned off in the summer and dotted with sheep) provided the inspiration the golf course would take. After months of shaping, the course began to come alive with a mix of fescues covering the site.
The final product is an 18-hole ‘inland links’, enjoyable to play every day as a member but also memorable for those visiting. Less than 30 minutes from both the CBD and Auckland Airport, the location is ideal for international golf tourists. (And while Windross is absolutely a walking course, carts are available.)
A traditional par-72 layout with returning nines, the course is almost completely devoid of trees but is toughened by 38 well-placed bunkers. A standout feature would have to be the investment in drainage, which is among the best in New Zealand. It allows the course to play firm and fast – essential for a links golf experience.The course itself has generous fairways, which are somewhat of a requirement given the site’s exposure to wind. Windross reveals its unique characteristics on the par 3s and around the bentgrass greens where extra time was spent creating undulations that guard them from misplaced approach shots.
The course traverses 60 hectares of pristine farmland with 360-degree views of spectacular treelined hills and lush, green countryside. The grass types chosen for all playing areas was also made strategically and the decision made to use a fescue mixture on all fairways, tees, green surrounds and rough, with bentgrass as the preferred putting surface. This has not only provided an excellent playing surface across all closely mown areas, but has given the course a magnificent contrast in aesthetics and texture while creating some spectacular views.
While you would struggle to make a big number at Windross, there are several holes where golfers must earn a par. Your game from inside 100 metres will determine the score for the day, and on several holes, creativity is crucial. To really score well at Windross, golfers need to call on a variety of shots. If you get your angles right on certain holes, a low, running approach shot will usually produce the best results, which is favourable if the wind is blowing. However, from the wrong side of the fairway (or rough), you will often be required to put the ball in the air in order to save par.
At a course’s core, the architect’s ability to make best use of the available land is the difference between a good outcome and a great outcome. At Windross Farm the shape of the site was used to tease out exciting golf, especially in the finishing holes. Starting with the driveable par-4 15th of 282 metres – a classic example of risk/reward architecture – the closing holes at Windross were built for tournament golf.
Windross has already cemented its place in New Zealand golf history by being the first ever host venue for a LPGA Tour event in September 2017. The event was hosted by former world No.1 Lydia Ko and cast a bright spotlight on New Zealand as an emerging golf destination to a world audience. This was the first time in Ko’s professional career that she played in Auckland in front of what turned out to be a huge home crowd. Brooke Henderson prevailed in the end and took home the spoils with a winning score of 17-under.
Windross Farm appeals as one of the most exciting developments in the game for years. It is within 30 minutes of the city and is very playable yet challenging in that subtle way that offers everybody a chance to score well. New Zealand’s newest marquee golf course offers golfers of every ability challenging options and outcomes on every shot, on every hole. No two rounds are ever the same on this course that has been designed with a minimalistic and understated philosophy in mind to ensure a truly unique experience.
If you haven’t had a chance to experience Windross Farm yet, then be sure to visit soon as the profile of this newcomer is going from strength to strength.
Windross Farm Golf Course
237 Alfriston-Ardmore Road