New Zealand has more than 400 golf courses; some in geothermal areas; some in farmers' fields; all of them fairly inexpensive.
Over the 400 courses around New Zealand, there are one six-hole course; 183 nine-hole courses; 211 18-hole courses and five 18+-hole courses. The country offers beauty, diversity and value for money for the golfing enthusiast.
The North and South Islands are both home to a number of internationally acclaimed golf courses and cater for beginners to experts. New Zealand has the highest number of golf courses per capita in the world. Courses range from top-of-the-line courses, such as Kauri Cliffs in Northland, to small golf clubs with green fees of $5, where sheep keep the fairways trim.
Little gems to big nuggets
New Zealand’s reputation for hospitality extends to welcoming visitors at most clubs, though booking is recommended. It is generally an inexpensive country in which to play golf with green fees ranging from NZ$25-$150 at the top courses (Kauri Cliffs excluded). Many golf courses hire clubs, trundlers and motorised or electric buggies/golf carts (NZ$20-50). Clubhouse facilities vary from basic necessities to excellent, including restaurants, bars, showers, pro shop, driving range, golf instruction and accommodation.
In small rural centres, farmers make land available for play, the greens are fenced off and stock graze the fairways, eliminating the need for mowing. Waikohu Club at Te Karaka, 30kms from Gisborne hosts the unusual hazard of a large Hereford bull!
Golfers wanting to get away from the mainstream clubs should taste the country courses, which often have a Farm Manager rather than a Greens Superintendent. It can be unnerving to face a shot to a fairway where a hundred or so sheep are having dinner but they seem to have an inborn radar system telling them when they are under fire.
The local rules at such course reflect the uniqueness - the golfer must drop away from a newborn lamb and the player has an optional replay if the ball strikes the wire or the post of the electric fence (used to keep the sheep from the greens).
At Rotorua Golf Club (18 Holes: Par: 70), in the geothermal region of the North Island, golf is hot. Literally. There is a steaming lake by the 16th hole as well as bubbling mud pools. Taupo Golf Club (2 x 18 holes: par 72) in the central North Island also has fumaroles spitting steam in the air.
Wairakei International Golf Course is set midway between Wellington and Auckland, near Lake Taupo. It is set in the heart of Wairakei Tourist Park with its rising steam and thermal attractions. Wairakei (18 Holes: Par: 72) is reputed to have the most bunkers of any course in New Zealand - 108. It is home to New Zealand’s most famous par five, the 14th, known as The Rogue. The hole is named after a geyser, which used to erupt in a nearby field.