New Zealand Golf - Showcasing our Top Ten Courses

Golf is one of the few games that does not have the constraint of a set playing field or pitch and therefore each course can be uniquely different allowing designers to take full advantage of, and work around, natural elements such as bodies of water, hills, grasslands and the all important vista orientation. The ultimate success of a course is not only determined by the challenges of that particular field but also the all important outdoor experience. If the course is in harmony with the local landscape and lets the golfer feel a sense that he or she is playing within a natural environment, then I believe a course design has been successful. New Zealand is one of those countries blessed with more than its fair share of  unspoilt natural beauty, New Zealand golf has finally come of age with visionaries creating, over the last decade or so, some of the most spectacular golf courses in the world for you to play. Here are ten New Zealand golf courses where a great game can be played, and  an inspiring landscape experienced. 

Before we examine the list it's only fair to pay tribute to one of the leading influences on New Zealand Golf - 'South Paw'  - Bob Charles.

In 1963, the now Sir Robert James Charles earned international attention with two great wins:
  • The Houston Classic - being the 1st left-handed golfer to win a USPGA.
  • The British Open.
bob Charles Golfer

His long golfing record includes 5 PGA Tour wins, 8 European Tour titles and 17 other international wins including 4 NZ Opens and 3 NZPGA championships. But more importantly to this article he later became an important designer/influence for the design and feel of modern New Zealand golf courses, and had major input into the design of the Formosa Country Club in Auckland, the internationally famed and award winning Millbrook in Arrowtown and 'The Dunes' course located at Matarangi on the Coromandel Peninsula. He was also consultant to the Clearwater course, near Christchurch - and the list goes on.  

The Top Ten...

Here is my list of 'Top New Zealand Golf Courses" . In no particular order, as all the have merits and quirks, but locations with the WOW factor as the key influence considering the expectations of those folk planning a visit to New Zealand from overseas.

1) The Hills Golf Course

Location: Arrowtown, Queenstown, Central Otago, South Island

Quick Facts: This Par 72, inland links course measures 6596 meters (7213 yards) from the championship tees and is home to the NZ PGA Championship. Sir Bob considers this the best golf course in New Zealand – “The most dramatic golf courses in New Zealand, but also the most challenging”

About: Set on 500 acres (202 hectares) of a former deer farm in a rugged glacial valley, the setting provides a stunning 180-degree view of the surrounding mountains. A race feeds 10 lakes and various ponds on the golf course. Native brown top grasses and wild mountain tussocks compliment the natural beauty of the course’s lakes, waterways and wetland areas. Dramatic Sculptures crafted by New Zealand artists are scattered through out the course.

Club House: Designed by Andrew Patterson was the supreme award winner, at the prestigious 2008 New Zealand Institute of Architects Awards for Architecture. The Hills Golf Course set in a beautiful Glacial valley with mountain view vista's, Central Otago

2) Millbrook Golf Resort

Location: Arrowtown, Queenstown, Central Otago, South Island.

Quick Facts: This 18 hole championship golf course, won the Luxury Travel Magazine’s 2011 Gold List Award for the best overall golf resort in the world. It has been designed to suit all players and there are 5 tee options to choose from. Club tees for both ladies and men measure 4450 meters (4866 yards) and 5410 meters (5916 yards) and professional tee for the longer hitters.

About: Set in a beautiful natural alpine amphitheater up against the imposing backdrop of the Remarkables Mountain Range. This course was designed by Sir Bob Charles and the course exploits the dramatic terrain fully delivering world-class golf. This championship course features five different tee positions for complete enjoyment at all levels of playing expertise. Millbrook has been described as a mix between the world class manicured "Parklands" courses and the "Links" offering a variety of natural hazards including tussocks, streams, schist stone, trees and buildings. With a backdrop of the Remarkable mountains Millbrook is shown with Autumn colours teasing the tree's

3) Kauri Cliffs

Location: Bay of Islands, Northland, North Island.

Quick Facts: The par 72 championship golf course measures 6,510 meters (7,119 yards)  and offers 5 sets of tees challenging every skill level. The Golf Digest U.S. has ranked Kauri Cliffs as number 19 in its prestigious Top 100 courses.

About: Perched above Matauri Bay, in Northlands beautiful Bay of Islands. This massive 6000 acre (2500 hectare) property offers breathtaking cliff top sea views with secluded beach coves. 15 holes view the Pacific Ocean, 6 of which are played alongside cliffs with sheers drops to the sea. Inland holes wind through marsh, forest, farmland. With stunning views over the Pacific ocean and uninterupted views of the Bay of Islands, Kauri Cliffs is a world class golf resort

4) Carrington Golf Resort

Location: Karikari Peninsula, Northland, North Island.

Quick Facts: This championship standard 18 hole par 72 course is 6417 meters (7267 yards) in length, and has a variety of terrain from rolling vales to many challenging water holes.

About: This 3000 acre (1214 hectare) estate boasts spectacular 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of secluded pure white sandy coastline including a vineyard and winery, a Black Angus beef stud farm, and 900 acres (364 Hectares) of restored wetlands. This course is great for golfers of mixed abilities, offering a great variety of hole’s from one of the longest par 5's in the country, 569 metres (599 yards), to one of the shortest par 3's at 113 meters (132 yards)  that is over water. Overlooking sandy beaches and the ancient remains of extinct volcanoes Carrington Golf Resort has stunning views.

5) Wairakei International Golf Course

Location: Lake Taupo, Central North Island.

Quick Facts: This internationally acclaimed 18 hole course is a Par 72 and 6429 meters (7030 Yards) in length. Set in 450 acres (182 Hectares) of beautiful tree covered and rolling countryside. The US Golf Digest rated it among the top 20 courses in the world

About: This course was originally designed to be New Zealand’s first international standard golf course. Wairakei suits casual and the serious golfers. The championship tees and 108 well placed bunkers has lead to worldwide acclaim. Recently the course has erected a five kilometer (3 Mile) “Xcluder” pest proof fence keeping out predators and thus protecting the native birds that live in the nearly 25,000 native trees and 5,000 exotics to flourish at the sanctuary. The views of Wairakei International golf course is a site to behold with its lakes and tree covered park.

6) The Kinlock Club

Location: Lake Taupo, Central North Island.

Quick Facts: This par 72, 18 hole championship golf course measures 6734 meters (7363 yards) from its tournament tees and was voted one of the Top 10 new golf courses in the world for 2007 by U.S. Travel and Leisure golf magazine

About: This is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and is the only Nicklaus designed golf course in New Zealand. The course moves across undulating landscape that is punctuated by exposed rock. Its fairways are conditioned for ground play and scattered with disheveled bunkers. Surrounded by the massive Lake Taupo to the south and the beautiful Kinloch hills to the east, creating a unique ambiance rarely experienced. View from above the beautiful Kinlock Golf Course down to a lake surrounded by stunning tree’s in true autumn colors.

7) Jacks Point

Location: Queenstown, South Island.

Quick Facts: 18 hole, 72-par championship golf course is 7150 yard (6538 meter) course. 

About: Jacks Point is bound by the Remarkables range and beautiful Lake Wakatipu., the course weaves through native tussock grasslands where dramatic rock outcrops sit beside steep bluffs and native bush runs right to the edge of the Lake. The course is environmentally designed to work with nature and not against it, the fairways were designed with the minimal possible excavation and plantings to compliment the natural environment have worked to make the course look very natural. Jacks Point Golf Club creaps right to the edge of beautiful Lake Wakatipu with native tussock grass.

8) Cape Kidnappers

Location: Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay.

Quick Facts: This par 71 golf course measures 7,119 yards (6,510 metres) and will challenge golfers of all skill levels. Completed in 2004, Cape Kidnappers has been hailed as one of the great modern marvels in golf and is currently ranked number 33 from the Golf Digest U.S. prestigious Top 100 courses.

About: Cape Kidnappers plays well above the sea on top of dramatic cliffs and this course actually runs to and from the edge raising the bar, so to speak. Cape Kidnappers is built on a ridge-and valley landscape with spectacular sea views and is also known as one of the most challenging golf courses in New Zealand, no matter what tees you play from. Cape Kidnappers sheer faces are clearly from this aerial shot of the golf course.

9) Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club

Location: Paraparaumu, Near Wellington, North Island

Quick Facts: This is a true ocean-side links, Par 71, 6,004 yards ( 5490 meters) and currently rated 68th best course outside of the USA by Golf Digest and has hosted the New Zealand Open 12 times which is a record unsurpassed by any other course.

About: Built on volcanic sand, the course features very well draining and undulating fairways with fierce rough and fast greens with very intimidating bunkers combine with very windy coastal weather to create a truly challenging experience. Sun setting over the beautiful true links Paraparaumu Beach Golf Course

10) Terrace Downs Golf Resort

Location: Rakaia, Canterbury, South Island.

Quick Facts: This is a par 72, 18-hole championship golf course with a length of 6,440 meters (7042 Yards)

About: Found  at the foothills of the Southern Alps, there are few scenic alpine golf courses that offers a unique mixture of Parklands and Links style. The Rakaia Gorge and mountain vistas are a constant challenge for players to keep their eye on the ball. The course includes 70 bunkers and 11 lakes with something to challenge even the most experienced golfer Views behind Terrace Downs golf course with The Rakaia Gorge and mountain in the background


The ultimate success of a course is not only determined by the challenges of that particular field but also the all important outdoor experience. If the course is in harmony with the local landscape and lets the golfer feel a sense that he or she is playing within a natural environment, then I believe a course design has been successful.

Ready to tee off? Our self drive golf tours are the perfect inspiration for practicing your swing!

New Zealand
Steve Taylor
Submitted by
Steve Taylor
: 27 Jun 2013 (Last updated: 29 Aug 2018)

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