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— Explore New Zealand 18 Holes at a Time —

WAIRAKEI

'FARMER'S FOLLY', THE 8TH HOLE AT WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE — 383 YARDS, PAR-4, #2 HANDICAP
Photos courtesy Wairakei Golf Course

WAIRAKEI GOLF & SANCTUARY

— WAIRAKEI GEOTHERMAL PARK, NEAR TAUPO —

A challenging golf course in search of an identity. The recently-incarnated Wairakei Golf & Sanctuary
is at least the third attempt to make the Wairakei golf course a major New Zealand player.
Photo courtesy Wairakei Golf Course

WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE

NEAR TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND
PO Box 377, State Highway 1, Taupo, New Zealand
TEL: +64 (0)7 374 8152  •  FAX: +64 (0)7 374 8289  •  info@wairakeigolf.co.nz
WEB SITE: www.wairakeigolfcourse.co.nz

          We have an affinity for "natural" golf courses — courses that seem to attach themselves to an existing topography without requiring bulldozers to do a lot of rearranging.
          Few courses can be so pristine, so protected, and still so interesting as Arikikapakapa in the middle of Rotorua, New Zealand’s geo-thermal park.
          In sharp contrast, just down the New Zealand’s Highway 1 about 50 minutes south of Arikikapakapa is another thermal zone golf course — set on 450 acres of the Wairakei Thermal Park — that takes advantage of a very natural setting, yet offers all the amenities to attract country club golfers from around the world. And, with the opening of Wairakei International Golf Club in 1970, New Zealand had its first entry in the listing of top-class worldwide resort courses.
          But things can change quickly. By 2005, Wairakei International was ranked #56 on Golf Digest's top 100 of golf courses outside the United States.

 

 

''THE ROGUE', 14TH HOLE AT WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE—
599 YARDS, PAR-5, #1 HANDICAP AT WAIRAKEI G.C.

But, when the 2009 list was published,

 

Wairakei was not included. Instead, two new New Zealand courses, CAPE KIDNAPPERS, and KAURI CLIFFS appeared on the list, and — as the rising stars of New Zealand golf — held down places #6 and #19, respectively, on the 2012 list. On Golf Digest's most recent list of the top ten golf courses in New Zealand, Wairakei has fallen to 8th place behind five newer courses (Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay; Kauri Cliffs in Northland, the upstart Kinloch course in Taupo, JACK'S POINT and The Hills in the Queenstown area), and two traditional mainstays of New Zealand golf, the Paraparaumu Beach links near Wellington, and the great Alister Mackenzie's Titirangi parkland course near Auckland. On the one hand, Wairakei wasn't near to a principal population center. On the other, Wairakei wasn't the newest, glitziest course on the block.

          In its original incarnation — owned by a New Zealand government corporation charged with developing tourism from the 1960s to 1989 — Wairakei tried to be an upmarket New Zealand course in a region with limited population that was just beginning to build a reputation as a destination for international visitors, and was probably ahead of the curve.

          In its second incarnation — under Japanese ownership from 1989 to 1997 — Wairakei International Golf Course marketed itself to attract international visitors, stressing its Peter Thomson (Australian, 5-time Open Champion) international (read "American") parkland design, dissing New Zealand golf courses by implication, and, likely, losing any chance at a loyal following of Kiwi golfers.

          Since 1997 Wairakei has been owned by a small consortium of New Zealand businessmen, who have continued to promote the course's appeal to visitors as a high-challenge international-style course while adding a new wrinkle sure to appeal to New Zealanders. The perimeter of the 450-acre site has been fenced with a 7-foot high "Xcluder" barrier designed to keep out non-indigenous pests and predators while permitting the property to be an oasis of native New Zealand ecology. The struggle between maintaining the remote island nation's natural ecology while growing its role in international commerce is among the most politically-charged issues in New Zealand. Wairakei Golf & Sanctuary has synthesized the issue into a golf property. Presumably, international guests will come to Wairakei for the golf and leave with a greater awareness of the environmental challenges facing New Zealand. Presumably, a Wairakei Golf Course openly promoting its new-found green discipleship will attract more New Zealand golfers.

          Is this most recent approach the winning formula for Wairakei Golf Course, one that will reverse its fall from early success and international recognition into mediocrity as just another golf course to be eclipsed in the international resort course wars?

WAIRAKEI

HWY 1, 10 MI NORTH OF TAUPO, NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

 

WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE, TAUPO REGION, NEW ZEALAND

LENGTH & PAR:
• Championship Blue Tees: 6,460m (7,065 yds) Par 72, Slope 131
• Visitors' White Tees: 5,853m (6,401 yds) Par 72, Slope 129
• Ladies’ Red Tees: 5,084m (5,560 yds) Par 72, Slope 128

GREENS FEES for international visitors:

• NZ$185 for an 18-hole round (NZ$100 for a second round same day)
It is expected that visiting golfers are members of recognized golf clubs.

FACILITIES:
• Golf Cart Rental: NZ$50 for 18 holes. (Reserve in advance.)

• Golf Club Rental with Trundler (pull cart):
• Executive Clubs: NZ$55/18-holes. (Reserve in advance.)

• Golf Shoe Rental: NZ$10 for 18 holes. (Reserve in advance.)

• Pro Shop: Tel: +64 7 374 8152. Email: info@wairakeigolf.co.nz.

• Clubhouse with Cafι & Sprig Bar with outdoor decks

• Practice areas for chipping and putting

VISITORS WELCOME YEAR ROUND
• No Handicap Restrictions
• Proof of golf club membership may be requested of visiting players.
•Tee-Time Reservations Required

RESERVATIONS:
• Telephone from outside of NZ: +64 7 374 8152
• Telephone inside NZ: (0)7 374 8152
• Email:
bookings@wairakeigolfcourse.co.nz

• Or, have HOME AT FIRST book your tee time at Wairakei Golf Course as part of your customized, independent, fly/drive New Zealand itinerary. HOME AT FIRST adds no service charge for this booking.

GETTING TO WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE:
From
HOME AT FIRST nearest lodgings:

• In and near ROTORUA, drive Highway 5 south toward Taupo. At the junction with Highway 1, take Highway 1 south 1-2 miles to the entrance to the Wairakei (International) Golf Course (& Sanctuary). The entrance is on the right side (west) of Highway 1. Drive time from Rotorua: about 1 hour.

• In and near Taupo, drive Highway 1 north about 4 miles (less than 10 minutes) to the entrance to the Wairakei (International) Golf Course (& Sanctuary). The entrance will be on the left side (west) of Highway 1.

HISTORY OF WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE

          Although golf followed European colonization to New Zealand very closely, being well-established by the first decade of the 20th century, international interest in New Zealand took root only with the 1970 opening of Wairakei International, the country’s first course designed to lure tourist golfers. The concept and design of the course was both ambitious and forward-looking. The consortium that did the original planning for Wairakei International Golf Course conceived it as an expanding resort project with a challenging golf at its center.

Peter Thomson, golf champion and course designer

PETER THOMSON

          Initially, despite its design by English golf course architect Commander John Harris, Wairakei was not especially successful. Its location away from any of New Zealand’s major tourist arrival centers — Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch — plus its initial modest clubhouse, pro shop, and practice facilities, limited its appeal to New Zealand visitors. In the years since, new ownership with considerable new investment, plus a course upgrade designed by 5-times British Open champion Peter Thomson, has resulted in facility consistent with resort courses around the world. More importantly, in recent years the Rotorua/Taupo region has become a desirable, internationally recognized tourist destination, especially for outdoorsmen. Only adding to

Wairakei’s appeal is its close proximity to the high-end, fishing-oriented tourist resort, Huka Lodge, and the Wairakei Resort Taupo geothermal holiday and conference center, both virtually next door neighbors to Wairakei Golf Course.

THE COURSE & SOME NOTABLE HOLES

 

'Paenga Tui' — the 18th Hole at wairakei — par-5, 567 yards

          Wairakei International is a handsome parkland course set among rolling, tree-lined hills on the uplands central plateau of New Zealand’s North Island. Streams and ponds and generous bunkering combine with the hills and trees to make this course play long and demand accuracy. The course is manicured and kept lush, even during times of summer drought that can parch other courses in the region. Its white, curbed, concrete cart paths provide a distinctive border accenting to many holes.
          Despite its length, Wairakei is best known for its four par-3’s. Hole number two is an early test — 235 yards (143 yards from the whites) across a gully to a two-tiered green protected by bunkers on three sides and trees to the back. Par here is good. However, the top-handicap holes on the course are long ones. The elevated tee of the 6th hole overlooks a long (475 yards from the blues) open fairway in the midst of impressive scenery. A long second shot to the green will need to be very precise to avoid any of the six guardian bunkers at the green. Shorter hitters may play short in order to drop a wedge on the green and go for a one-putt par here. Even more daunting, the 600-yard-long (from the blues), par-5 14th hole requires three carefully places long shots just to get on to its elevated, two-tiered green.

 

          Wairakei is a course with three tee lengths

"A" position for the 2nd shot at Wairakei's 600-yard-long 14th
"A" position for the 2nd shot at
Wairakei's 600-yard-long 14th hole.

appropriately challenging for most regular golfers and a resort that will appeal to most country club members at a price they will find comfortable. It is not New Zealand’s most challenging course, its most elaborate resort course, its prettiest course, or its easiest to get to. It is, however, an important course. Wairakei was the prototype for international resort golf in New Zealand, and grew with a growing resort region. In its footsteps have grown a host of other resort courses, like the ground-breaking Millbrook resort near Queenstown on the South Island and Kauri Cliffs

in the far north of the North Island. Its success, and the success of its followers, insures that resort golf will be a visible part of the development of New Zealand as a world tourism destination.

THE TAUPO REGION

          The geo-thermal region surrounding Wairakei Golf Course, extends from the geyser lands of Rotorua (one hour north) to the volcanoes an hour south of Lake Taupo. Immediately in the Wairakei area are the attractions of Huka Falls, the engineering curiosities of New Zealand’s geo-thermal power plants, and, especially, Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake and a superb location for water-based recreation. Sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, and fishing are primary activities here. Lake Taupo has earned a reputation as one of the world’s great fresh-water fisheries, known especially for record trout and fishing contests that draw entries from around the world.
          The region is also home to a large Maori (native New Zealander) population, who understand the economic wisdom of inviting tourists to become familiar with their traditional South Pacific

Maori Dancer in Rotorua, New Zealand

culture.

Photo © Home At First

TRAVELING TO NEW ZEALAND & WANT TO PLAY GOLF?
Let
HOME AT FIRST make your advance tee-times at golf courses throughout all regions of New Zealand as part of your pre-reserved New Zealand trip itinerary. Play only one course or play courses at various stops along your planned itinerary. There’s no extra charge for this service.

MORE RESOURCES:
• Golf in New Zealand
• Home At First's
New Zealand travel program

Want to learn about other courses throughout NEW ZEALAND
including some of the greatest tests of golf in the world? See our
NEW ZEALAND COURSE GUIDE for more information.

Read more about HOME AT FIRST's independent fly/drive
travel program to New Zealand's
TAUPO & ROTORUA region.

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