Jacks Point



As the country is currently in lockdown and no golf is being played, it has been the perfect time for golfers around the country to think about their favourite days golfing and their favourite golf courses.  It is also the perfect time as the results of the New Zealand Golf Rankings are released, that golfers can mark off how many of the Top 40 golf courses they have played, and which golf courses are on their bucket list to play! 

The goal of the rankings is to recognise the best golf courses in New Zealand.  Yes, these rankings will be debated by golfers all around the country as to what they believe should be in the country’s Top 10 courses or the best course in a region.  How do the qualities of their home courses or favourite courses compare to those in the Top 10?  The other goal of the rankings is to increase golf participation and even to help courses increase greenfee revenue, with the hope that golfers will travel to play as many of the courses over the next twelve months.

The rankings have been compiled from twenty-seven “rankers” submitting their Top 12 courses in the North and South Islands.  The 27 member ranking panel has nearly 1000 years of combined golf experience, with “rankers” from Invercargill through to North Auckland.  They are a diverse mix consisting of professional players, experienced amateur players, golf industry professionals and some club players with extensive playing experience here in New Zealand and internationally.  These golf industry ‘insiders’ have ranked their top twelve golf courses in the North Island and the South Island.  The rankers were:  Phil Aicken, Michael Baltrop, Leo Barber, Robyn Boniface, Barry Brown, Blair Dibley, Stuart Duff, Susan Farron, Simon Forshaw, Peter Fowler, Michael Glading, Doug Holloway, Denise Langdon, Richard Lee, Josh Longney, Dave Mangan, Trevor Marshall, Nigel Merrett, Willie Moore, Grant Moorhead, Tony Nowell, John Sanders, Dominic Sainsbury, Brad Shilton, Duncan Simpson, John Spraggs and Fraser Wilkin.

The ranking system is based on seven criteria that cover the key factors that are essential in good golf course design and criteria for what is important to the golfers that play these golf courses.  This includes: Risk/Reward, Playability, Layout, Design, Scenic Values, Conditioning and Ambience.  A maximum of five points was awarded per category thus the maximum points any course could receive was a total of 35 points.  The points awarded were totalled up and then divided by the number of rankers; the average was then calculated providing the overall result.

The last New Zealand Top 40 Golf Rankings, coordinated with the NZ Golf Magazine, were compiled in December 2018.  With the rankings due to be reviewed later this year (2020) it was brought forward due to the opportunity that the pandemic lockdown provided with golfers sitting at home and having plenty of time to consider their views of their favourite golf courses.  Both Royal Auckland and Riverside (Lochiel) were not considered for ranking due to the courses being under renovation.

Once again, as in previous rankings, there are some “hidden gems” that were mentioned by some rankers, but which didn’t quite make the final Top 40.  This included such courses as Ohope, Waverley, Kaikoura and Roxburgh Golf Clubs which all have some great features that make them fantastic places to stop and play a round.  Golfers were also asked about their favourite 9-hole course and the best place for an after-golf beer.  Walton (Waikato) and Tai Tapu (just outside of Christchurch) were popular 9-hole courses while Muriwai, Cape Kidnappers, Royal Wellington and Millbrook were the most popular 19th holes!

It is also important to note that no ranker was able to rank a golf course where personal bias or conflict of interest could be a factor; meaning that they could not rank a course where they were a current member, where they were employed, or with which they had any other direct affiliation.  It is important that this ‘personal connection’ related to the rankings is removed from the judging process, which is also why such a diverse group of the golfers were involved in the rankings.  Geographically, it was also essential that there was fair coverage of rankers from both the North and South Islands, so that all golf courses were able to be judged on their merits.  All courses had to be ranked by a minimum of four rankers each, with Paraparaumu being the most popular golf course overall, having been ranked by 25 rankers. 

Tara Iti is clearly the best golf course in New Zealand, based on the rankings, and it is also recognised in the international golf ‘world’ as being our best place to golf.  Yes, the golf course is quite private but it is truly something special and if you are ever given the opportunity to play there, then you should jump at it!  The course is in an amazing setting, well designed with a layout that blends with the environment.  How the course plays is also unique and memorable.  Right from the time you drive through the gates, through to holing your final putt on the 18th green; it is absolutely magical! 

On closer examination of some of the results, the gap between the First and Second ranked golf courses is just over one point; while the difference between the Second and Eighth ranked golf courses is a mere one and a half points.  Jacks Point jumped from #7 in the last rankings to 2nd place and The Hills was able to leapfrog from 6th place to the number #3 spot.  Cape Kidnappers pipped its sister course, Kauri Cliffs, while Kinloch holds its position as the best course in Taupo, just edging out Wairakei.  Queenstown is clearly New Zealand’s best golf destination and every golfer should make it a long-weekend to play there; all the 18-hole courses in Queenstown, Cromwell and Wanaka region succeeded in making into the Top 40!  

Paraparaumu (#7) and Titirangi (#10) were the top “membership-based” golf courses to play.  Both are classics with extensive history in New Zealand golf and were well played by the rankers.  Big movers in the rankings were Mt Maunganui Golf Club coming in at #14 (up from #19), Omaha Beach Golf Club #23 (previously #32) and Harewood Golf Club #25 (previously #38).  Golf courses such as Wanganui Golf Club (#27), Hamilton Golf Club (#28), Poverty Golf Club (#32) and Greenacres Golf Club (#39) reappeared in the rankings after previously being seen 2016.

So, the challenge for all golfers reading this article is to mark off all the courses you have previously played in the Top 40 and then mark how many of the golf courses on the list will you be playing over the next 12 months.  To be honest, it’s not only about playing the “big name” or more famous courses, but it is also about getting out and enjoying the many, great courses we have around our beautiful country, Aotearoa.

To view the 2020 New Zealand Golf Rankings and detailed course points, CLICK HERE.