A Breath of Fresh Air
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 over 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.
Windross is the result of a land swap by members of the former Manukau Golf Club, which was built in 1932. South Auckland had grown around the club in recent years and an opportunity was presented by a local developer. Take a new piece of rural land about 10 minutes away with funding to build an architecturally significant championship course, full practice facilities and a modern clubhouse in exchange for the acreage populated by Manukau Golf Club. By majority vote, the members made the only decision they could . . . they took the deal.
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 Jacks Point – worked with New Zealand golf legend Phil Tataurangi as a course consultant to produce the 18-hole championship 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 (iconically 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 void of trees but is toughened by 38 well placed bunkers. A standout feature would have to be the investment in drainage, which is amongst the best I have seen in New Zealand. It allows the course to play firm and fast – essentials 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.
While you would struggle to make a big number at Windross, there are several holes where you 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, you 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. After playing Windross several times, I’ve seen how 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 282m, a classic example of risk-reward architecture, the closing holes at Windross were built for tournament golf.
Thankfully, Windross won’t have a long wait to prove this to the world as the course has been selected as the site for the LPGA Tour’s MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open. Teeing off September 28 and hosted by Lydia Ko, the tournament will cast a massive spotlight on New Zealand as an emerging golf destination.
This will be the first time in Ko’s professional career that she will play in Auckland in front of what is sure to be a massive home crowd. 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 sure to build as tournament time approaches.
Windross Farm Golf Course
237 Alfriston-Ardmore Road