Play some hidden gems this summer

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the South

Earlier this month, New Zealand Golf Rankings released its 2015-16 regional golf rankings.
The regions were based on the Super 15 rugby regions such as Auckland (Blues), Waikato-Bay Of Plenty (Chiefs) and lower North Island (Hurricanes).
A total of 776 golfers responded from around the country, representing 114 golf courses in New Zealand. This was the first time golfers from around the country were invited to be involved in the ranking process. In addition they were asked to pick their hidden gem and their favourite nine-hole golf courses.
I am the organiser of New Zealand Golf Rankings and I invited all golfers to review these rankings and to consider playing the golf courses in their region. There are some amazing courses that appear on the rankings list.
I have played just over half of the golf courses on the list, and there are some excellent places I have yet to play. If you happen to live in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty region, for example, then I hope you have already played the Walton or Putaruru golf courses. Both are unique and have some great holes. They are definitely worth the drive, if they are not close by. If you are planning on playing Putaruru, then I also suggest you play the great little nearby nine-hole golf course of Okoroire. It probably has the best 19th hole in the country.
The same applies to the Highlanders region (Otago and Southland). If you truly want a unique golf experience down in this part of the country, then you will want to play Roxburgh. This is a local favourite — when they host their Open tournament most of the top local players all make the trip to play. The course winds through local schist stone valleys which result in some really odd bounces but that’s one of the unique charms of the course. The best time to play is in March and April as you can also sample the local stone fruit that makes this area a famous part of the country.
What was pleasing, as I went through the 776 results, was that everyone had opinions on what they liked about there favourite hidden gem golf courses. It wasn’t just all about the conditioning of golf course’s greens or “wow factor” but how much the golfers enjoyed the total golf package.
Here are a few snippets from the submissions:
“... because it is still largely unknown, is a real challenge and is a welcoming environment for visitors”, “Golfers here always seem to really enjoy their golf. It is a very friendly relaxed place”, “Great atmosphere, welcoming clubhouse, interesting holes and a little out of the way – i.e.; not crowded” and “... course design. great greens, grooming, unique location and environment”.
New Zealand has many great little country golf courses that do not get the full respect they should. Many golfers should experience the charms of golf courses like Waverley, Stratford and Inglewood in Taranaki. One of my own personal favourites is Taihape. It is one of those courses that many of us drive by and say “one day I will stop there and play”. I enjoyed playing there on a couple of occasions and it was always fun. Again, some great golf holes and a memorable experience just like its neighbouring course of Rangatira in Hunterville.
So this summer, please take the time to stop and play some of these wonderful country golf courses. You will honestly enjoy a great day of golf and if you are lucky you will get a great feel for the local area.