New Zealand is blessed with an enormous quantity of golf, currently sitting right at 400 courses. Along with quantity we have quality with world class courses that regularly feature in global top 100 lists. Beyond the pristine fairways of Kauri Cliffs and the jaw dropping landscape of Cape Kidnappers there are some hidden gems scattered across New Zealand that bring with them a unique blend of quirky and rustic.
New Zealand’s country courses are like nothing else in the world typically characterized by a lack of paid staff, with labour often carried out by passionate memberships who pour precious time into their local track. Since costly equipment isn't available, sheep typically act as mowers, with additional support coming from local farmers and their heavy equipment and agricultural expertise.
Green fees are collected in cash by honesty box, with guest books for players to sign in before their round. Some of these courses feature as few as six greens with most falling into the 9 to 12 green category with enough tee boxes to ensure an 18 hole round is available.
Hazards exist in their traditional golf form, but additional obstacles can often be found from farm fences running right through the middle of a fairway, small electric fences around greens, and often sheep dung dotting the property.
Forget the golf cart make sure you pack your own lunch and be prepared to carry your own bag. Dress up if you like but dress codes don't exist here nor do tee times or starter’s boxes, simply rock up, tee off and enjoy an incredibly refreshing golf experience.
The real charm of a country course is that they are uniquely Kiwi, often featuring handmade signage and tee markers. Green fees usually range from $10-20 regardless of whether you play a full 18 holes (or less), this truly is golf in its most pure form.
While there are many country courses that deserve attention, we've picked a selection of country courses that are a must for any golfers visiting New Zealand.
Waitara Golf Club
Waitara Golf Course can be found on the rugged west coast of New Zealand’s North Island in the Taranaki region. This Picturesque 18-hole links course is just a 20 minute drive from central New Plymouth the main city in the region. Spectacular views of the Tasman Sea, stunning coastline and Mount Taranaki make it hard to keep your eye on the ball but create a perfect backdrop to some challenging golf. Whilst the course is short at 4750m (5,190yd) it provides a difficult layout to test all abilities.
Waitara Golf Club, 64 Mouatt Street, Waitara
Te Pohue Golf Club
Located on the Napier-Taupo Road, this golf course is as convenient as it is fun to play. With an entrance directly off the highway visitors are greeted by handmade and hand painted concrete tee markers. Sheep often found roaming the fairways so be sure to yell ‘fore’ if you send your drive right down the middle. Small electric fences surround the greens, and golfers are prompted to turn these "off" before they play so as they don’t add new meaning to a ‘knee trembler’ putt. Great elevation changes, natural use of land, with clever hole names make this a stop where both your camera and golf clubs will be used equally.
Te Pohue Golf Club, Ohurakura Road, R.D.2, Napier 4182
Takapau Golf Club
Takapau's 12 hole course turns 120 years old in 2018 and has one of the most challenging par 3s of any course in the country. Named The Styx, this 158 metre hole has a natural creek, sloping hillside, and a massive willow tree all protecting the green. There are several options for starting holes on the course, and the 12 holes move you around the property nicely, taking in the rolling hills of Central Hawkes Bay.
Takapau Golf Club, Charlotte St, Takapau 4203
Tarras Golf Club
One of the best drives in New Zealand is the central route from Christchurch to Queenstown on SH8. Before reaching the golf mecca of Queenstown, you pass right through the charming town of Tarras in the heart of Otago sheep country. The golf course at Tarras is anything but ordinary, embracing the country course philosophy with free roaming sheep, small fences around the greens, and an honesty box system for payment. Nine greens and 18 tee boxes provide a full golf experience for a mere $15 per round.
Tarras Golf Club, 3025 Lindis Pass-Tarras Rd, Tarras 9383
Roxburgh Golf Club
One of the most unique courses in the country, Roxburgh sits directly on SH8 between Queenstown and Dunedin. Playing only 4,372 metres with a par of 68, you'll soon find the challenge isn't based on length, but instead on the rocky schist that dots the course. The rugged beauty of the course is distracting, and for only $20 this is a course not to be missed.
Roxburgh Golf Club 280 Scotland St, Roxburgh 9500, New Zealand
Tokanui Golf Club
The southernmost nine hole course in the country and possibly the world, Tokanui's seaside links course has views of the Pacific Ocean looking out to Stewart Island. It is accessed on the scenic route through the Catlins, which connects Dunedin and Invercargill. Golfers playing Tokanui will soon realise it is an experience that changes with the wind. With barely a tree on it, the Southerly wind offers protection to the often firm and fast conditions. At just $7 to play, Tokanui should absolutely make its way onto any lower South Island golf itinerary.
Tokanui Golf Club, Boat Harbour Road, Fortrose