The Ten Best Courses You Can Play in New Zealand

New Zealand is an absolutely wonderful golf destination, heretofore often overlooked. If you want to play the very best courses, the good news is that all are open to visitor play. Here are ten really enticing golf challenges. There are about eight layouts that stand out for me beyond the rest, but trying to decide among the final two became extremely difficult so while I defend my inclusions, I apologize for any courses left off. They are listed alphabetically.

Cape Kidnappers (Courtesy of Joann Dost)

Cape Kidnappers – Perhaps the best course in New Zealand and one of architect, Tom Doak’s top five designs by most any count. It features a mix of terrific inland holes to combine with the exhilarating cliffside ocean ones looking out on Hawke’s Bay. Expansive fairways seamlessly blend into undulating greensites that appear to have existed since time began.

The Christchurch Clubhouse (Courtesy of Christchurch G. C.)

Christchurch Golf Club – This classic club, the second oldest in the country started in 1873 hosts a rich tradition and is one of the best examples of the wonderful old classic tree-lined courses you will find in New Zealand. I found the terrain and the greensites here to be just a bit more interesting that many of the other contenders. I knew I was in for a treat when I discovered the first green also served the 17th hole as well!

Hills (The) – This is the exclusive property of jeweler Michael Hill set in a protected area guarded by the Southern Alps outside of Queenstown, and shared with only a few dozen members at present. The good thing is that very limited outside play is possible though a $500 NZ green fee is charged. Be that as it may, playing this course is an absolute delight, as its conditioning and design will delight as it did in hosting the New Zealand Open for several years beginning in 2007. Love it or hate it, the par-three 16th with its canted green and tiny creek pinching the right side is one of the most unique holes I have ever encountered.

The Par-5 Seventeenth at The Hills (Courtesy of The Hills)

Invercargill Golf Club – This classic parkland venue near the south tip of the South Island was a delightful surprise. The tree management, course landscaping and conditioning, challenge, and bunkering were the best of the many parkland golf courses I encountered.

The Subtle Bumps and Rolls of the Parkland Invercargill Golf Club  (Courtesy of Invergargill G.C)

Jacks Point Golf Club – This John Darby design opened in 2008 really added to the golfing attractions of Queenstown in the South Island. Either the view of The Remarkables snow-capped mountain range or of Lake Wakatipu greets golfers on every hole. The challenge is tough, but playable and the bunkering is very attractive – a terrific golf course!

Jack’s Point Near Queenstown.  (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)


Kauri Cliffs – This is simply one of the most visually spectacular golf courses in the world. Built on a grand scale with expansive views and features, it is much more than just a “pretty face”. The layout also offers many solid and interesting holes that are challenging, but also playable as well. I will also nominate this facility as the single golf course resort in the world, and it doesn’t get much better than that!

Kinloch Club (The) – Some are calling this layout the best new golf course in the Southern Hemisphere with it being Jack Nicklaus’ first Signature Design in New Zealand. A rugged and wooly layout with lots of scruffy bunkering, it is actually the firm, fast, undulating putting surfaces that make it such a challenge – the toughest course in New Zealand. Terrific views of Lake Taupo and the surrounding hills will mesmerize you.

The First Hole at Rugged Kinloch (Courtesy of Kinloch)

Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club – This is the only links course on the list, but it is a classic, championship test and one of the best links outside of the British Isles – a wonderfully charming course that regularly has made the World’s Top 100 rankings. .

The Approach to the Par-4 Tenth at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club (Courtesy of Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club)

Titirangi Golf Club – This Alister MacKenzie redesign has been thoughtfully restored to capture many of the trademark characteristics of this architectural master, particularly the ragged-edged bunkering. The terrain and trees are so reminiscent of a classic San Francisco area course. This very popular club has a great set of challenging par-threes and watch out for the greens as well.

Tenth Tee Area at the Titirangi Golf Club  (Courtesy of Titirangi G.C.)

Wairakei International Golf Club – This is a favorite and a top contender for the best golf course in New Zealand by the

Par-4 Sixth at Wairakei International  (Courtesy of Wairakei Int’L.)

natives. Americans will enjoy it to for its rolling, tree-lined fairways and bunkering are so reminiscent of the great American parkland venues.

Honorable Mention:

One of the World’s Great Two-Shotters – the 16th at Gulf Harbour Country Club  (Courtesy of Gulf Harbour)

Gulf Harbour Country Club – the back nine was one of the best I encountered, especially the 16th pictured to the right.

Hastings Golf Club – fun, traditional good test.

Queenstown Golf Club – though not quite of championship caliber, this hilly little layout is perhaps my favorite course in New Zealand!

Looking Back Toward the Tee of the Par-4 5th at the Queenstown Golf Club  (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)

Russley Golf Club – the last eleven holes are quite demanding and attractive.

Tauranga Golf Club – interesting terrain adjoining a racetrack of all things.

Terrace Downs – breathtaking scenery of the river valley and Southern Alps at a spectacular resort setting.

18th Green at a Great Resort – Terrace Downs  (Courtesy of Terrace Downs)

5 Responses to “The Ten Best Courses You Can Play in New Zealand”

  1. Alistair Tod

    Good stuff Bob – glad to see this up in a great format. Will get a link to this out in my next newsletter.

    Hope all keeping well.

    Speak soon.


  2. Dustin

    Is there any way to get in contact with you guys? I can’t seem to find it here. Thanks! – Dustin

  3. Vic Bianchini

    Looks like their all fabulous courses! Where would Tara Iti rank? Can the public play Kinloch? Thanks much! Vic

  4. Bob Fagan

    When I visited Kinloch it was private, but much has changed and I would recommend that you contact the facility as to what their policy for public play currently is. As for Tara Iti, based on the body of work of my good friend, Tom Doak, (including Cape Kidnappers in NZ) and the few pictures I’ve seen, Tara Iti should rank right around the best in NZ. I hope to take advantage of an invitation to play there soon!

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