Kinloch voted No.1 in New Zealand

New Zealand Votes Kinloch Club No 1!

From Denise Langdon
PaR nz Golfing Holidays, Auckland, New Zealand

October 14, 2014

The Kinloch Club has been voted number one golf course in New Zealand by the recently published New Zealand Golf Rankings 2014, compiled by PGA Golf Professional Andrew Whiley. Kinloch, on the shores of Lake Taupo, is the only course in New Zealand designed by 'The Golden Bear' Jack Nicklaus and is said to be one of his favourite 25 signature courses. The course received international accolades when it opened in 2007, earning the top spot on US Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine's rankings of new golf courses that year – the only one outside North America to be included in the top 10. Along with fellow New Zealand courses Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs and Paraparaumu Golf Club, Kinloch was included in Golf Digest's 2013 top 100 courses outside of the United States.

Nicklaus, a keen fly-fisherman, was familiar with the Taupo area because he had fished there many times. In his opinion, Kinloch has the views and contours needed for a great golf course.  Former British Open champion Sir Bob Charles has likened the links layout to that of traditional coastal courses in Scotland. Co-host of the 2014 New Zealand Open in February-March, and one of New Zealand's foremost championship golf courses, The Hills in Queenstown was voted number two. Designed by John Darby, of Darby Partners, in association with landscape gardener Sebastian Mead and green keeper Ian Douglas, it is set over more than 200 hectares (500 acres) of a glacial valley.

Award-winning New Zealand architect Andrew Patterson designed the clubhouse to integrate with the landscape, and the building was among the nine best sports and leisure buildings in the world at World Architecture Awards 2008. Aside from its natural beauty, a distinctive feature of this 18-hole course is its range of sculptures. The course founder and owner, New Zealand-born jewellery manufacturer and arts patron Sir Michael Hill, has created a contemporary sculpture park to exhibit New Zealand works such as 'Schist Strata' by Chris Booth and 'Kelp' by Mark Hill, 'Red Ridge' by Australian Kon Dimopoulos, and other international works such as 'The Wolves are Coming' by Chinese artist Liu Ruowang. The Hills will undoubtedly get a boost for the planned 2016 Ranking List, with the October 2014 announcement that global golf brand BMW Group will take naming rights sponsorship of the 2015 New Zealand Open.  The Hills will jointly host the 2015 and 2016 Open with Millbrook Resort.

BMW has increased its commitment to the Open significantly, thus allowing organisers to promote a prize pool of NZ $1million.   The New Zealand government has also pledged NZ $700,000 from the Major Events Development Fund along with a further $250,000 towards television production and distribution. Michael Hill Tournaments Ltd will match the government’s $250,000, ensuring live broadcast of the national open is back on television screens in New Zealand, and sent out via Sky Television to Australia and Japan.  Other international network deals are expected to be signed with a targeted 200 million households worldwide viewing these two iconic New Zealand courses.

In third place was Jack’s Point, also located in Queenstown, overlooking Lake Wakatipu. It is another John Darby creation. Jack’s Point is an 18-hole championship course that follows the natural terrain below The Remarkables mountain range, presenting the golfer with tussock grasslands, stone walls and rock outcrops, steep bluffs, and native bush. The course was included in the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World list shortly after it opened in 2009. It has a dramatic setting in the Wakatipu basin, and Darby deliberately gave each hole a distinctive perspective and character while being sensitive to the natural landforms.  The clubhouse incorporates design elements, such as trusses made from Southland sale yard timber, that link it to the South Island's rich farming history.

The 2014 New Zealand Top Course Rankings is Whiley’s fourth.  Typically major golf and travel publications undertake and publish such rankings, not so in New Zealand. The judging panel comprised a select group of PGA professionals including Greg Turner, Michael Hendry, Grant Moorhead, Richard Lee, and Fraser Wilkin along with golf superintendents, top women golfers, leading golf administrators and other key golf figures in the industry, including yours truly. 

The two leading publications, New Zealand Golf Magazine and The Cut have not published a ranking list for some time. New Zealand Golf Magazine publisher Geoff Witton says it is ‘contemplating’ undertaking such a project in 2015.  Heather Kidd, editor of The Cut,comments that it a huge exercise to compile a ranking, and her publication chooses to publish other national and international lists instead. Whiley’s methodology is solid. He engaged key players in the New Zealand golf industry to rank courses according to seven criteria; shot values, resistance to scoring, design variety, memorability, aesthetics, conditioning and ambience.  He employed the same system as Golf Digest’s premier formula used for ranking courses around the world.  Rankers were asked to give a score out of five for each of the seven criteria.

The compiled teams of rankers were asked to rate their top 12 courses in both the North and South islands, and from these, the top 25 were produced. 

The top 10 in order are:

  1. The Kinloch Club
  2. The Hills
  3. Jack’s Point
  4. Cape Kidnappers,
  5. Kauri Cliffs
  6. Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary
  7. Royal Wellington
  8. Paraparaumu Beach Links
  9. Titirangi
  10. Millbrook Resort with its 27-hole offering

I applaud Andrew Whiley for sticking with this exercise for the past eight years.  We have a growing list of recognised courses worldwide, New Zealand golf tourism is expanding rapidly, and ranking lists are interesting and important for both locals and visiting players.  Whiley is a NZPGA board member, the PGA Director of Education, and the current professional at Dunedin’s Chisholm Golf Club. 



Denise Langdon
Tournament Director for NZ Golf 
Email | Mobile +275 662 385 | Skype denise.langdon 
Office +64 9 486 1077 | Fax +64 9 486 1078 |
PO Box 331395 | Takapuna 0740 | North Shore | New Zealand