Karamea Golf Club
Driving to the far north of the West Coast of the South Island on Highway 67 was one of the most beautiful drives that we have ever taken in New Zealand. Or anywhere in our travels for that matter! This part of the country is off the beaten track for most tourists. But, with a true links golf course located in this remote corner of the country, it was on our bucket list! Just getting to Karamea Golf Club will test your golfing conviction, but it is so worth the effort!
The small highway winds up and down mountain passes, and, not counting the cows, along some incredibly desolate beaches. Set out over the Tasman Sea, the gloriously sunny sky appeared bluer than we had ever seen it before. And the hour and a half drive went by noticeably quicker due to the scenery.
Worth the effort
Leaving the small town of Granity (do yourself a favour and stop for one of their delicious pies!), you will most likely lose the only radio signal around. And with the Kiwi’s penchant for 80’s music, if you are like us, ‘I Can’t Go for That’ from the 80’s rock duo Hall and Oats will get stuck in your mind. Now, just imagine trying to get that song out of your head for the next 24 hours. That’s right, No can do! You’re welcome!
Exiting the lonely two-lane highway, we drove down a long dirt road past some more cows which led us to an empty golf course. And a small clubhouse that offered incredible views out to the ocean.
Karamea Golf Club (no website found) is a true links 9-hole golf course that has 2 sets of tees allowing you to play 18. It measures 3022-yards from the men’s tees and 2757 from the women’s tees. We placed our green fees, which were an incredible 15 NZD (8,92 Euro, 9.86 USD) into the honesty box and couldn’t believe our eyes.
Looking out from the clubhouse, there was nothing but golf as far as we could see. Oh, and the ocean. But there were no houses, no golf buggies, and especially no people! The golf course was completely ours- especially notable because it was a Saturday afternoon! We couldn’t believe our luck as we stood there looking out to the course and at each other!
Let’s Play Golf!
Prepared for the weather, we were eager to play and knew immediately that getting here was so worth the effort!
Teeing off on a hill furthest from the ocean, the next seven holes play back and forth parallel to the coastline. With each hole you play, you come one hole closer until you reach the dunes that separate the ocean and the eighth hole. The ninth brings you back home, the only hole on the course to run perpendicular to the Tasman Sea.
There is a lot of space here for 9 holes, but not quite enough for 18. Unless, of course, some of the cows would surrender their incredible views for the love of the game!
Out and In at Karamea Golf Club
With a cow pasture left, Panorama, the downhill opening hole, will make you think twice if you are as prone to pulling the ball as I am. Staring at the OB left, all I could think of was- I can’t go for that, no, no can do!! Only 326-yards, this par 4 isn’t long, but that didn’t calm my nerves and I pulled my driver slightly left. Hitting a provisional down the right side of the fairway, I found my first ball about 2-yards thankfully in bounds.
Continuing with OB left, I was determined not to pull my tee shot on Swan Lake, the par 4 second. Menekse played down the right side and tapped in for net par, and I sunk my only birdie putt of the day.
Flagstaff is a 361-yard par 4 fourth and was one of our favorites. Slightly downhill, if you want to cut the corner right, you will need to contend with the small trees that protect that side of the dogleg. One of the few bunkers on the golf course protects the right side of the green.
We took our time on the 176-yard par 3 fifth, named Keyhole. With beautiful dunes separating you from the ocean, this short one-shoter plays ever so slightly uphill. There was a small shack on the tee, but we were memorized by the large dunes framing the tee box.
As we made our way up Heaphy, the par 5 sixth hole, it began to rain. Both agreeing that I can’t go for that, we walked back to the clubhouse determined to wait it out.
According to Mr. George Peper and Mr. Malcolm Campbell, authors of one of our favorite golf books True Links, there are only 246 authentic links golf courses in the world. Nine of those true links courses are located in New Zealand, and Karamea Golf Club is one of those sacred places!
Sand-based soil is one hallmark of a true links golf course, and this was true at Karamea. Even after a rain delay, the ground was dry underfoot when we went back out.
Karamea rests in a valley between a cow pasture left of the first and the Tasman Sea on the eighth. While the golf course doesn’t offer direct ocean views, you can hear the surf pounding the shore on every hole. Rough in some spots, the rolling fairways were full of humps and bumps and were a blast to play. The greens were small, but with the fairways cut short, they seemed to be more receptive to missed shots.
Another aspect of a true links golf course is the absence of trees. Other than a couple of small trees that didn’t impact play or the wind, there were no trees at Karamea Golf Club. Since we had just played Westport Golf Club a couple of days prior, this was a pleasant reversal.
Golf can be a Cruel Game
After the short rain delay, we returned to the course only to find that golf wasn’t our friend this time out. For reasons that neither of us understood, Menekse really struggled. How can one day of golf be so completely different from the next? Or one hole to the next? Hell, even from one shot to the next things can change! Sometimes golf is a cruel game that can make you feel completely alone. I felt so helpless not knowing how to help. Her frustration and sadness weighed on me because I know the frustrations all too well myself. We all do. But it often makes us wonder why we even play this game.
Things got a little better once we made it to Tasman, easily our favorite hole on the golf course. Running parallel to the dunes that border the ocean, the 526-yard par 5 eighth is the longest golf hole here. With the day slowly coming to an end, I hit a great tee shot safely down the right side. Still struggling, Menekse hit a solid tee shot, missed a couple of fairway woods, and finished the hole with a great two-putt.
We Play Golf for Moments Like This
With the ocean in the background, we finished as the sun began its slow descent over the ninth green.
We quickly put our clubs away in Lorna, our campervan and grabbed our cameras. Holding hands, we walked around the golf course taking pictures and enjoying the cool evening. We talked about the frustrations of the game, but also about how truly lucky we are to experience this journey. But more than that, we enjoyed each other’s company. The smiles were back!
We made our way back to the small clubhouse, sat on the moss-covered benches and watched the sunset over the ocean. It was then that we realized this is why we travel and play this game; to share moments like this. This is certainly one of the best golf courses that you’ve ever heard of. And definitely worth the effort to get here. Karamea Golf Club, well, well you. ‘You Make My Dreams Come True‘! Oh,oh!