Iarrived in Auckland for a Kiwi golfing getaway and a chance to experience some of the charms of New Zealand’s biggest city. I checked into my hotel in downtown Auckland and headed for Formosa Country Club.
Formosa is a stunning resort golfing complex approximately thirty minutes drive from the city centre. Formosa includes an eighteen hole golf course, driving range, gymnasium, restaurant, corporate function facilities and luxury on course villa accommodation.
The resort itself is set in beach lands atop cliff side terrain scattered with palm trees and the panoramic views of Waiheke Island and The Hauraki Gulf are simply breathtaking. I was pleasantly greeted by the staff and decided to warm up on their world class practice facility to iron out my swing prior to tackling the 6600 metre Championship Sir Bob Charles designed course modelled on Augusta National. The course has been host to many major tournaments over the years including several New Zealand Opens.
I teed off and I immediately recognised the need to allow for the wind in my shot selection as my approach to the first green came up short. The open Formosa layout can be deceptive and hitting shots at the correct trajectory to compliment the breeze is essential to good scoring.
The front nine was a pleasant challenging experience, however nothing could prepare me for the cliff top stretch of holes starting at the par three eleventh a mid length hole that required me to punch a long iron into the breeze to find the green. The very next hole was definitely my favourite; a long par five dogleg right with a waste bunker that runs all the way down the left hand side of the fairway. I made sure that I didn’t try to 2cut the dogleg too fine and played safe down the left side to make my par. The par three fifteenth is a stunning short hole that also has a great ocean backdrop; a well calculated club selection is also required here to avoid the impending. After bogies at the next two holes I concluded my round with some redemption holing a tricky twentyfive footer for birdie on the last green. As difficult as the course may seem due to the challenge of wind, sand and water, the quick sloping greens are certainly deceptive and a subtle challenge to leave yourself an uphill putt.
After a very tough day playing an inspiring layout a took the opportunity to have a delightful meal in the clubhouse and lookout over the course recounting my round again in my head as golfers all
seem to do. Formosa was a great start to my Auckland swing!
The next day I travelled fifteen minutes north of Auckland over the harbour bridge for breakfast in the costal suburb of Campbells Bay. Then I was off to play Pupuke, a wonderful parkland course set amongst undulating costal bushland in the Centennial Parklands.
Founded in 1914 the course is nearly one hundred years strong and from the moment I arrived at the club its hospitality was overwhelming. I was paired with a really fun group of members that told me all about the history of their club and also assisted me in using my driver sparingly during the round. Pupuke is not a long course by any stretch of the imagination, although the real challenge is its undulations and any inaccurate drive can roll into thick bushland. I strongly recommend this course a must play if you are visiting Auckland and the views of the Hauraki Gulf.
With the afternoon in front of me I down back through Auckland to the Waitakere Ranges twenty minutes to the south west of the city to play one a course designed by one of my favourite golf course architects Dr. Alistair McKenzie. Yes! Titirangi is only course in New Zealand to be designed by the good doctor, who also designed Royal Melbourne, Cypress Point and of course Augusta National.
Keeping with the environment, a McKenzie design trait, the par 70 championship course is gentling undulating set amongst natural bushland and is tough but fair rewarding good shot making but also punishing wayward approaches; with deep bunkering and trees strategically positioned trees. My favourite hole is the par three eleventh hole, which requires a carefully played tee shot over a valley to a green that slopes from front to back guarded by bunkers. Any Dr. Alistair McKenzie course will satisfy me to play anywhere in the world but Titirangi was a real treat!
After a experiencing some of Auckland’s much proclaimed night life at Viaduct Harbour, I was a little dusty the next morning so I decided to take a cart around Gulf Harbour course. North of Auckland Gulf Harbour is an undulating course with a moderately interesting front nine holes. However, when I reached the back nine I knew was at another fantastic Auckland region Kiwi golf course with some of the most spectacular views complimented by challenging magnificently design holes. The back nine makes its way down to the beach and it is here where the costal stretch of holes begins.
I really enjoyed the par four twelfth hole, which is a classic short par four that I drove near the green a pitched and putted for birdie. The final four holes really do make a great culmination to your round. It all starts at the downhill par three fifteenth which has the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. I did not find the long par four sixteenth hole easy at all
though, although I don’t think I would be the only golfer that has double bogeyed this hole. I did redeem myself on the last two holes with a birdie and par finish. The eighteenth hole is a downhill par four with a unique double fairway shared with the first hole and has views of town from the tee. The views from the course at Gulf Harbour were certainly spectacular and the back nine has one of the best finishing stretches to a course I have ever played.
My final round in Auckland was back at Pukekohe, a quaint parkland course I played at a year ago and really enjoyed, so I thought I would head back to see if I could better my efforts of last year. The course really gives you a feel of the land of the long white cloud as it is set amongst rolling farmland with a variety of established trees and ponds setting the challenge for golfers like myself who may be a bit ambitious.
I really enjoyed the par three fourth hole over a pond to a small green, accuracy is placed at a premium here. The unique finish of two par five holes back to back is an interesting way to end your round at Pukekohe, the eighteenth hole is a gem with a Karaka Road guarding the right hand side of the green; having played the course before though I managed to keep my second shot well to the left hand side. The hospitality that I experienced at ‘Puke’ last year was just as warm as I ventured into the clubhouse for a beer and a laugh with the members.
I left Auckland airport on my Jetstar flight bound for Melbourne, with thoughts of how much fun I had in Auckland with not too much time spent driving and how each course was so scenic in its own unique way. I can’t wait to get back to in a few months to play some of the course I had heard about from the locals but had not had a chance to play!
Steve Khatib founder of Golf Dynamics is an internationally respected authority on all matters golf, owing to his affiliations through many years spent with the worlds leading golf minds in the USA. Steve presents several popular radio and television programs throughout Australia and has been awarded PGA Teacher of the Year, PGA AAA Specialiast Coach and Master Clubfitter accreditations.