Houhora Golf Club
Our trip through New Zealand kicked off with an adventure to the farthest northern tip of the country, a place known as the Northland. It is a place of honesty stands selling avocadoes, roadside huts selling delicious berry ice cream, sleepy no stop light towns, and Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide, and where Māori spirits begin their final journey.
The Northlands is also home to Houhora Golf Club, the most northern golf course in New Zealand. Or, as the friendly members that we met like to call it, Houhora Golf Club is New Zealand’s Top Golf Club!
New Zealand’s Top Golf Club
Houhora Golf Club (no website found) is a 9-hole course that has 2 different sets of tees that allow you to play 18. The front nine measures 3086-yards from the Men’s tees and 2770 from the Women’s tees. The back nine comes in at 3061-yards and 2770 respectively.
The Club started in 1954 but had to change locations twice, for reasons that we are unsure of, and has been at its current location since 1978. The Clubhouse is a tranquil little building that offers nice views of the golf course, and excellent Red Lion beer!
Similar to our experience at Woodburn Golf Club in Oregon, and many other courses in New Zealand, Houhora Golf Club is operated by an honesty box. Just place your 15 NZD (8,70 Euro, 9.65 USD) for 9 holes, or only 20 NZD (11,53 Euro, 12.87 USD) for 18 into the green fees slot located on the side of the building, enter your name into the visitors registration book, grab a scorecard, and you’re next on the first tee!
The Top of the Top Golf Club
The first hole is a 345-meter par 4 forth, that you must climb to the highest point of the property, in front of the Clubhouse, and tee off to a fairway that narrows as it lengthens. The wind was absolutely howling standing up there, but thankfully we didn’t feel any wind the rest of our round. I blocked my tee shot right while Menekse also got off to a tough start, but we were off and ready to take on New Zealand’s northernmost golf course!
The 529-yard third hole was probably our favourite on the course. The par 5 is straight, but has OB and cows left and a string of pine trees right, which ensures that you must hit the fairway to have a chance at posting a good score here. Enough movement in the fairway and an early evening sunlight made it even more pleasant. Just simply a fun par 5.
Playing parallel to the third hole, the 513-yard par 5 fifth plays downhill and has a small pond with a windmill left which made us wonder if Houhora Golf Club was the inspiration for the iconic windmill on the Black Course at Streamsong! With two well struck swings I was just short in 2, but wasn’t able to get up and down and had to settle with par.
We were both struck by the wide variety of trees that they had throughout the golf course at Houhora- pine trees, palm trees, bamboo trees, as well as the majestic Kauri trees. We later learned that the Kauri is one of the largest and oldest trees in the world. A trip to New Zealand without seeing a Kauri tree would be incomplete!
All the holes at Houhora Golf Club are sponsored by local businesses of the Northland. The golf course that I grew up playing, Riverwood Golf Course, was the same, so this really reminded me of ‘home’! In order to double the revenue for the Club, each hole has two sponsors. For example, the 161-yard par 3 fourth hole is sponsored by Total Span Steel Buildings, while the 161-yard par 3 thirteenth is sponsored by Fenwick Contracting. Clever!
The sun was beginning to set as we made our way to the eighth hole. Another shortish 318-yard par 4, the eighth has a nice dogleg right. We found the middle of the fairway off the tee, hit a good wedge in, but just couldn’t make a putt all day!
The short 278-yar par 4 final hole brings you back up the hill that you began your day with, and is very easy to leave your approach shot short. We know, because we were both guilty!
Par is protected at Houhora Golf Club by the small greens. There wasn’t much bunkering, but the golf course was in good shape for being so early in the spring.
Honorary Social Members
After our round, we put our clubs back into our JUCY Camper and went into the Clubhouse to have a look around. Upon entering, we were immediately welcomed by a group of gentlemen that invited us to sit and enjoy a few Red Lion beers with them.
As the evening grew, and more beers followed, we told our new friends of our travel and golf story. Being the most northern golf course in New Zealand, they were very proud that their Club was on our list! Membership at Houhora has been a consistent 40 members for a very long time, but Richard, the course historian mentioned that the Club has grown to 50 members in the last couple years!
Joining us at our table was an avocado grower, New Zealand’s most northern dairy farmer, a Māori, whom welcomed us with a Hongi, the traditional Māori greeting, as well as many others that made us feel at home. They told us tales of the golf course, gave us locally grown oranges and limes (or were they lemons?) that we ate that night, and even hung our Puttering Around the World sticker on the bar window! We were even invited by Kevin to stop by his place the next morning for a shower, which is one of the politest gestures that we have ever experienced in our nearly yearlong adventure!
And, as our night came to an end, Menekse and I were proudly made honorary social members of the Club!
The kindness of people you met on the road
The next morning, we took Kevin up on his offer, and arrived not too early the next morning (Kevin’s only guideline!). We were greeted by Kevin’s lovely wife Denise, invited into their home for a shower, and were treated to delicious coffee and toast, served with honey made from their neighbour’s farm.
Thank you, Kevin and Denise for your hospitality, and especially for your kindness!
We sincerely enjoyed playing golf at Houhora Golf Club, but it was the time spent with the members that we will treasure the most. With a beginning like this, there is no telling what incredible adventures lie ahead of us as we travel throughout New Zealand!