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Travel Buzz
Golfing In New Zealand
By Ray Chatelin

New Zealand remains the most affordable place in the world in which to play a round, with prices ranging from $1NZ for a pasture course to $50NZ for a championship course.  As good as other golf destinations may be, none can match the variety, cost, or beauty and unusual settings of New Zealand’s courses.  Besides, the real adventure in golfing here is telling your friends back home where you were.  With courses named Muriwai, Pukekohe and Arikikapakapa, visiting golfers needing a little assistance with directions are a constant source of amusement for locals.  Regardless, even the most exclusive clubs allow visitors, providing there are available times.

Where to Play Like a New Zealander

Because golf is played here year-round, you won’t go more than six miles without seeing a golf club sign.  Start your odyssey north of Auckland at Waitangi and then work your way down to Christchurch on the South Island.  Unless it’s a Sunday or a designated club tournament, chances are good you’ll get on. If not, try the course that’s always down the road.

A few things are different in New Zealand.  Courses are all marked off in meters, so you must know the yardage equivalents.  Men generally tee off from the blues, women from the whites, and seniors from the reds, though there doesn’t seem to be any hard rule.  However, don’t expect the same kind of club house service, varied menus and bar service you get at private clubs in North America.

Courses range in style and quality from the pasture course at Norsewood near Napier, where hazards include wandering sheep and cattle (and their leftovers), to the country’s number-one-rated links course at Paraparaumu Beach (near the capital city of Wellington) with its massive dunes, howling winds, and blind shots.

New courses are being built, especially near Auckland, where Robert Trent Jones recently built the spectacular Gulf Harbour Country Club complex.  Nearby is also Titiranga, one of Auckland’s most celebrated courses. On the South Island, the Bob Charles-designed, 7,000-yard Milbrook Country Club golf resort near Queenstown is a pearl of a course, now 12 years old.

Entering clubs such as the Arikikapakapa (known locally as the Whaka) in Rotorua or the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, located near Wellington, is the New Zealand equivalent to being at Augusta or St. Andrews, but without the stuffiness. Here you’ll find character galore.  For, no matter where in New Zealand you play, you’re always near a unique cultural experience. For example, the 5,923-yard Whaka course is dotted with extinct mud pools and unpredictable steam vents.  Whaka is also near the Maori Institute, one of the most visited places in New Zealand, serving as a living museum in which visitors can experience traditional Maori life well-removed from the Maori war-canoe past.

 Other Great New Zealand Courses

When you play the 6,548-yard Napier Golf Club at Hawkes Bay, in the central wine country region of the north Island, you have access to some of the finest Chardonnay’s produced anywhere in the world, with brands and varieties from nearby vineyards.

At the 6,418-yardWaitangi course, north of Auckland, you wander along the ocean, overlooking the spectacular Bay of Islands.  The 10th through 14th holes demand concentration as you shoot towards the mesmerizing shore line and the lush greens set along the water. Nearby is the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, where a century-and a- half ago, Maori Chiefs signed over the right for the British to settle the islands in exchange for protection.

My favorite course remains the 6,492-yard Paraparaumu course, near Wellington, which often hosts the New Zealand Open. Built near the shore, the link course has few trees along the undulating fairways and well-grassed sand hills.  On the par 3,151-yard 14th hole, club choice can range from a seven iron to a four iron on successive days. It’s a challenge in shot making and keeping emotions under control.

Still, the most unforgettable experiences in New Zealand may not come from the big and the best courses, but from the villages and towns that have their own nine- and 18-hole courses.

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