Onekaka Links Mountain Course


by Chris Castle
Onekaka Links Golf Club

Onekaka Links Golf Club is a decade old and after 10 years, a body of opinion has evolved among the membership that seeks new challenges.

Accordingly the Course Committee was instructed to approach the best golf course architects available. The brief was to offer a course with a completely different character.

After extensive consultation we can announce that a completely different layout (over the same footprint but with 18 new holes) has been devised. Both courses co-exist.

The old course (The Links) was difficult but playable if carefully managed. Even then (and the course has been played on multiple occasions by several of the best amateur golfers in the country) the course record is 60, only four under par and one under the course rating.

The Mountain Course will break your heart, then your spirit. It can’t be played safely. Actually it can’t be played at all by many golfers.

Why is it so difficult? That will become obvious after reading the detailed course guide but in summary it features:

  • Serious trouble is constantly in evidence close to the driving lines

  • We have nine doglegs that can’t be overpowered by a long hitter

  • A number of testing teeshots (mostly steeply uphill over cliffs) and/or through narrow shutes

  • A binary outcome if these shots are not close to perfect. Short or slightly offline is dead and there are no friendly drop-zones

  • Other wind affected elevation changes that rigorously test player perceptions

  • A requirement for exceptional distance control for a number of second or third shots

  • Green side hazards are punitive and the approach shots are from much further away than on the Links Course.

These attributes will erode the confidence of most golfers (as they have already done so over the much easier Links course during the last decade). As a result melt-downs will be very frequent and inevitable. For similar reasons only five players have played to their handicap on the Links Course in that ten year period.

With the dual objectives of providing golfers with a new challenge, and also creating an income stream for the Club derived from the recovery and sale of lost golf balls, Onekaka Links Golf Club is pleased to announce the opening of the Mountain Course.

In summary:

  1. We expect most people to play it only once.

  2. We don’t expect that the course record will be much under par.

  3. We expect that 99% of players won’t be able to achieve a net par round.


Hole One – 283 metres
A short 90 degree dog-leg par four played around a bluff. The tee shot requires a 175 metre carry over water that also needs to be faded a little to set up the second. The second short (optimally about 75 metres) is played over a pond to a tight flag position normally near the front of the green. Short shots could run back into the pond, long shots will catch a downslope in the middle of the green and run to the back resulting in a very testing return putt over the undulations.

Hole Two - 273 metres
An uphill slightly dog-legged par four that will play at least 15 metres longer than its measured distance. The hole bends to the left in parallel with the seaside cliffs with the fairway crossed by ponds about 50 metres short of the green. The tee shot to a hidden, quite narrow fairway is particularly intimidating and needs to carry at least 170 metres. The cliff can be avoided by going well to the right but there are trees present there and the second shot is much more difficult from that angle. The flag position is normally back right in a shallow section of the green with a bunker in front and a penalty area two metres behind the green. There is plenty of green to the left but undulations make the approach putt more challenging.

Hole Three – 226 metres
A short dogleg par 4 with a double fairway split by a grove of manuka/kanuka trees. The hole can be reached with a direct shot but there is no possibility that the ball will stay on the green with a depth of only 8 metres on that line and downhill slopes both in front and behind the green. The same problem exists if the left fairway is selected, it’s virtually impossible to stay on the green with either a lofted pitch or a running chip. The hole should be played by laying-up in the right fairway at a marker peg 75 metres from the green. There is much more depth to the green from that angle and a much easier (but still intimidating) second shot. This green has a number of extreme hole locations that can make it virtually impossible to get near the flag.

Hole Four – 376 metres
A double dogleg left with a blind second shot over water to a shallow fairway. The tee shot is straightforward and to a wide fairway but needs to be accurately positioned on the right line and about 230 metres from the tee. From that location it’s possible to hit the second though a gap in a row of gum trees, over water, to a position about 45 metres from the green. A shorter or longer tee shot, or one on the wrong line, won’t allow that gap to be accessed and the second will need to be played to the right of the line of gum trees resulting in a much longer third shot. This green has water on three sides and bunkers across much of the fourth. All three shots require really good distance control as well as being straight.

Hole Five – 110 metres
A really intimidating tee shot steeply uphill to a hidden green with huge gum trees on both sides. The gap is about 10 metres but it looks narrower than that. There is a penalty area on the right edge of the green, so long and leftish is the line. This green is rarely hit in regulation and the shot from the drop zone is no picnic either.

Hole 6 – 165 metres
This requires a very accurate mid iron (or rescue) to an ultra-narrow green with a cliff to the right and high gum trees on a mound to the left. The prevailing wind from the right makes this hole even harder. The target area is about 8 metres wide with a severe drop off to the right next to the collar.

Hole 7 – 407 metres
A straightforward tee shot to a wide fairway followed by a layup on a hidden lower fairway running at 90 degrees to the right. Hence distance control is essential as too long will put you on the beach and short halfway down a gorse covered cliff. There is also a pond in play if the second is hit short and right.

If you get that second shot right the third is a simple pitch from about 40 metres. This is probably the easiest hole on the course but don’t get too relaxed.

Hole 8 – 140 metres
Another really difficult and intimidating tee shot hit mostly over the ocean to a green perched on the edge of a cliff. Left is dead, long and straight is passable, anywhere right (long or short) is likely in a pond or a massive cross bunker. The green is huge but a direct line to the hole may be interrupted by greenside trees or the cross bunker which meanders for 30 metres along the back edge of the green.

Hole 9 – 209 metres
This hole runs parallel to the third, is played to another section of the same green, and needs to be treated with a similar degree of caution. The flag position is customarily adjacent to and guarded by a large (5 tonne) limestone boulder in the middle of the green. There is no free drop from it.

Due to the topography and surrounding trees there’s not much logic in having a crack at the green from the tee so a layup to 170 metres followed by a 40 metre run up is the safest way to try and make par. This green is extremely shallow with a severe drop one metre behind the green

Hole 10 – 140 or 120 metres
This hole has two alternative greens. Both options are on level ground and both greens have cliff edges behind them and penalty areas or bunkers in front. Naturally the shorter option requires more precise distance control. Landing in the front bunker results in a truly frightening shot towards the hole location which is customarily less than 5 metres from the cliff edge

Hole 11 – 158 metres
This is a very testing shot with the green partially obscured by small manuka trees in a patch of long rough just short of the green. The green slopes from a central ridge towards a pond on the front left corner and more steeply to a lower area to the right. The flag is usually tucked into a small dell at the back left of the green leaving a very difficult putt over or along the central ridge. It’s necessary to risk going into the pond to get a level putt.

Hole 12 – 333 metres
A straightforward tee shot to a wide fairway followed by a completely blind second downhill to an undulating green protected by five bunkers. One of these bunkers and an adjacent Pohutakawa tree are in the middle of the green. There are three distinct zones on this green and four putts can happen very quickly if you finish up in the wrong zone. The second shot is very affected by the wind and precise distance control is challenging.

Hole 13 – 140 metres
A medium length par three over water to a green surrounded on three sides by water and five bunkers. Aim at the right side of the green which is much deeper than it looks. Wind is a huge factor on this hole and plays tricks with your mind. Once you are on the green your troubles may not be over due to the slopes and the customary pin position for this hole.

Hole 14 – 320 metres
A really intimidating tee shot steeply uphill to a hidden fairway guarded by huge gum trees on both sides. The gap is about 10 metres but it looks narrower than that. The tee shot needs to be faded a few metres – a straight or drawn full length shot will finish up down on the beach. The second is played over a pond, customarily to front edge pin positions. Terracing on this green can assist by bringing a well played pitch right back to the hole. And the false front sloping back into the pond will do a lot of damage if the shot is slightly short.

Hole 15 – 156 metres
A truly daunting, steeply downhill shot parallel to the cliff and coast line to a partially hidden green. The landing area (most of it not visible) is perhaps 10 metres wide, with a bush covered hill left and the beach right. The hole widens at the back of the green to 15 metres or so but a pond right behind the green is very much in play. This hole is terrifying when played into the prevailing westerly wind. The shot from the dropping zone is also tricky – there will be a lot of 5s scored on this hole.

Hole 16 – 80 metres
A charming little hole across the water to a very receptive green almost completely surrounded by water. The shot is often wind affected and distance control is critical as the green is quite shallow.

Hole 17 – 350 metres
This is a 90 degree dogleg right with another daunting tee shot steeply uphill through a 10 metre wide gap between two tall gum trees at the top of a cliff. A very high fade played over the right side gum tree will shorten the second shot. This shot will be 130 – 150 metres and is a very testing shot with the green partially obscured. The green slopes from a central ridge towards a pond on the front left corner and more steeply to a lower area to the right. The flag will customarily be mid-left just past the pond. Putting is always a challenge on this green and it has been seven-putted.

Hole 18 – 250 metres
The tee shot requires a 175 metre carry downhill over water that also needs to be faded about 20 metres to set up the short second. A straight drive will finish up behind massive gum trees resulting in a wasted shot chipping out sideways. Even after a good drive the second shot will be tricky given the front bunker, the green undulations, the central tree and bunker, and the three distinct zones on this green.