FOLLY', THE 8TH HOLE AT WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE 383 YARDS, PAR-4,
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
is at least the third attempt to make the Wairakei golf
course a major New Zealand player.
Wairakei Golf Course
an affinity for "natural" golf courses courses that seem to attach
themselves to an existing topography without requiring bulldozers to do a lot of
Few courses can be so pristine, so
protected, and still so interesting as
Arikikapakapa in the
middle of Rotorua, New Zealands geo-thermal park.
In sharp contrast, just down the New
Zealands 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.
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,
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,
and The Hills in the Queenstown area), and two traditional mainstays of
New Zealand golf, the
Beach links near Wellington, and the great Alister
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
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
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?
HWY 1, 10 MI NORTH OF TAUPO, NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE, TAUPO REGION, NEW ZEALAND
LENGTH & PAR:
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
Golf Cart Rental: NZ$50 for
18 holes. (Reserve in advance.)
Golf Club Rental with Trundler
Executive Clubs: NZ$55/18-holes. (Reserve
Golf Shoe Rental: NZ$10 for
18 holes. (Reserve in advance.)
Pro Shop: Tel: +64 7 374 8152.
Clubhouse with Cafι & Sprig Bar
with outdoor decks
Practice areas for chipping and
VISITORS WELCOME YEAR ROUND
No Handicap Restrictions
Proof of golf club membership may
be requested of visiting players.
Tee-Time Reservations Required
Telephone from outside of NZ: +64 7
Telephone inside NZ: (0)7 374 8152
FIRST book your
tee time at Wairakei Golf Course as part of your customized, independent, fly/drive New
FIRST adds no service charge for
GETTING TO WAIRAKEI GOLF COURSE:
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.
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 countrys 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.
Initially, despite its design by English golf course
architect Commander John Harris, Wairakei was not especially successful. Its location away
from any of New Zealands major tourist arrival centers
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
Rotorua/Taupo region has become a desirable,
internationally recognized tourist destination, especially for outdoorsmen. Only adding to
Wairakeis 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
'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 Zealands 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-3s. 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
Wairakei is a course with three tee lengths
"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 Zealands 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
Millbrook resort near
in the far north of
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
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 Zealands geo-thermal
power plants, and, especially, Lake Taupo, New Zealands 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 worlds
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
Home At First
TRAVELING TO NEW ZEALAND & WANT TO PLAY GOLF?
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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. Theres no extra charge for this service.
Golf in New Zealand
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including some of the greatest tests of golf in the world?
NEW ZEALAND COURSE GUIDE for
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travel program to New Zealand's
TAUPO & ROTORUA region.