Best Golf Courses in New Zealand
With so many exciting sports festivals happening Down Under in the next twelve months, we’re having more and more clients ask about how to enjoy their favorite sports while they’re visiting New Zealand.
One of the biggest and most popular sports for locals and tourists in New Zealand is golf. So many Americans and Canadians enjoy golf when they travel Down Under, that we decided to write a blog post all about it. Here, we’ve listed our favorite golf courses in New Zealand for international tourists.
We’ve listed our favorite courses in order from North to South, so that no matter where you plan to go in New Zealand, you’ll know which golf course is the best one nearby.
Best Golf Course in Northlands, New Zealand: Kauri Cliffs
Ranked as the second-best golf course in New Zealand by many sources, and 49th best in the world by US Golf Digest, Kauri Cliffs is one of the most prestigious places to play a round of golf in New Zealand. It’s located in the far northern part of the North Island, near the Bay of Islands and about a 5-hour drive from Auckland. This position allows for hilltop views of the ocean. The land used to be a sheep ranch, and the designer (Dave Harman) decided to keep some of the natural rough shape of the land in his design. You’ll find native bush and tree ferns in parts of this course. Green fees are steep here, though if you stay in the on-site lodge then you get a slight discount. Kauri Cliffs Lodge is one of the best five-star luxury accommodations in the country, incorporating relaxation, refined surroundings and fine dining.
Best Golf Course near Auckland, New Zealand: Titirangi
Although Auckland isn’t known for having the country’s best golf courses, it does have several that are worth visiting if you’re keen on playing golf during your holiday. US Golf Digest and Australian Golf Digest both rank Titirangi the 8th best course in New Zealand. Just a thirty-minute drive from downtown Auckland, this is the only course in New Zealand that’s designed by world-famous Alister Mackenzie. This design is in keeping with his other designs, honoring the natural landscape and allowing it to shape the course. Stay downtown to enjoy Auckland, and take a half day to play a round at Titirangi.
Best Golf Course in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand: Cape Kidnappers
Ranked as the best golf course in New Zealand by many sources, and 16th best in the world by US Golf Digest, Cape Kidnappers often competes with Kauri Cliffs for the most prestigious. Cape Kidnappers is located on the central East coast of the North Island, outside the town of Napier and within the fertile Hawke’s Bay wine-growing region. Not quite a links course, Cape Kidnappers is perched on a windy clifftop precipice over the Pacific Ocean. Architect Tom Doak placed holes along ridgelines running perpendicular to the ocean, with deep ravines in between. The scenery here is so jaw-dropping that this course is often featured in New Zealand advertisements and postcards. Like Kauri Cliffs, green fees are expensive but guests of the on-site lodge receive a bit of a discount. And like Kauri Cliffs, the on-site lodge is in the top tier of New Zealand accommodations. Enjoy rare birdlife, rolling farmland, fine wines and the epitome of laid-back Kiwi hospitality at five-star Cape Kidnappers Lodge.
Best Golf Courses in Taupo, New Zealand: Kinloch and Wairakei
Located in the center of the North Island, Taupo is most well known for its geothermal activity, challenging day hikes, sparkling lake and excellent fishing. However, it also has two golf courses that are most definitely up to snuff for any golfer.
Kinloch Golf Club is ranked third in New Zealand by US Golf Digest and fifth by Australian Golf Digest. It was also the only course outside North America to be listed by Travel and Leisure magazine in their top ten new golf courses a few years ago. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, it’s an inland links course with lots to challenge even a championship golfer. The scenery is rolling farmland with some views of Lake Taupo. Stay at the on-site luxury lodge for convenience or just schedule a tee time here and stay at your choice of accommodations in and around Taupo.
Wairakei International Golf Course is currently ranked seventh in New Zealand by US Golf Digest and ninth by Australian Golf Digest. Unlike the golf courses listed earlier in this blog, Wairakei has been around for decades, which allows golfers a comfortable feeling of being “settled in” amongst the well-established trees and vegetation and large, wide greens in this traditional offering.
Best Golf Course near Wellington, New Zealand: Paraparaumu Beach
Having hosted 12 New Zealand Opens and high-octane players like Tiger Woods, Paraparaumu is one of the most prestigious courses in New Zealand for international golf stars. However, it’s too often overlooked by tourists in favor of Kauri Cliffs or Cape Kidnappers. US Golf Digest ranks this course as the sixth best in New Zealand, and Australian Golf Digest ranks it as seventh. It’s an hour by car or train to the North of Wellington along the coast, in the tiny town of the same name. The location is great for a day trip from Wellington, and is right nearby relaxed, quiet, laid-back beachy towns. The course itself is described as an undulating links course, with a “challenging layout” (Australian Golf Digest).
Best Golf Courses near Queenstown, New Zealand: Millbrook Resort, The Hills, and Jack’s Point
We’ve chosen to list only three golf courses on the South Island of New Zealand, all of which are near Queenstown. There are absolutely some great courses in other parts of the South Island, especially around Christchurch, but none are quite up to the standard of the others that we’ve chosen to include in this list. Plus, Queenstown is without a doubt the most popular place for international tourists to visit in New Zealand. It is the adventure capital of the country, with the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu providing some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.
Millbrook Resort is located in Arrowtown, about a half-hour drive from Queenstown. It’s a full resort with all amenities, including the internationally acclaimed golf course. You can stay at the resort if you like, or stay elsewhere and just schedule a tee time here. Green fees aren’t nearly as expensive for non-guests as at Kauri Cliffs or Cape Kidnappers. The New Zealand Open is held here in 2017. US Golf Digest ranks Millbrook as the tenth best course in New Zealand, and Australian Golf Digest pegs it at number eight. Golfers have the feeling of being nestled in the mountains here, with the Remarkables mountain range as their backdrop.
The Hills Golf Course has been home to three recent New Zealand Opens in a row and is also located in Arrowtown, about thirty minutes from Queenstown. Also located in the mountains, you can expect dramatic valleys and rocky outcroppings, with panoramic views from each tee. Tee times can be tough to get here, so ensure to book early and ask the assistance of a travel professional.
The third course in this area that offers an excellent experience for international visitors is Jack’s Point. Located just outside Queenstown near the airport, this course is bordered by sparkling Lake Wakatipu on one side, and the Remarkables mountain range on the other. It has kept the integrity of the land as well as possible, designing the greens around the natural landscape. Australian Golf Digest ranks this course as the second best in New Zealand, and the number one in golf courses that offer public access. US Golf Digest ranks it fifth in New Zealand.
How to Book a Golf Vacation in New Zealand
Does the stunning landscape of New Zealand have you hankering to golf there? Then it’s time to get planning. New Zealand is becoming more and more popular to international tourists, not just golfers, so it’s important to book as early as possible. Nine to twelve months in advance is a good time to start planning. If you have less time, don’t fret — it’ll just be even more important that you enlist the services of a travel professional.
At Go WalkAbout Travel, we’re your expert travel specialists on planning a golf vacation to New Zealand. We can help you decide whether the on-site accommodations at golf courses would be most enjoyable for you, or if you’d be better suited staying somewhere else. We’ll also make sure your tee time fits seamlessly into the rest of your trip.
Don’t delay — it’s time to start booking your golf vacation to New Zealand today! Contact us now to get started.