Karamea Golf Club

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 of most tourists.  But, with a true links golf course located in this remote corner of the country, it was on our track!  Just getting to Karamea Golf Club will test your golfing conviction, but it is so worth the effort!

Clubhouse at Karamea Golf Club
Clubhouse at Karamea Golf Club

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 more blue 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.  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.

Arriving at Karamea Golf Club
Arriving at Karamea Golf Club

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.

Honesty Box at Karamea Golf Club
Honesty Box at Karamea Golf Club

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

With a cow pasture left, Panorama, the downhill opening hole, will make you think twice if you are 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.

View of Panarama Green at Karamea Golf Club
View of Panarama Green at Karamea Golf Club
Looking back at Panarama at Karamea Golf Club
Looking back at Panarama at Karamea Golf Club

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.

Swan Lake at Karamea Golf Club
Swan Lake at Karamea Golf Club

Flagstaff is a 361-yard par 4 fourth and was one of our favourites.  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. 

Flagstaff at Karamea Golf Club
Flagstaff at Karamea Golf Club
Bunker on Flagstaff at Karamea Golf Club
Bunker on Flagstaff at Karamea Golf Club

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.

Keyhole at Karamea Golf Club
Keyhole at Karamea Golf Club
Keyhole dunes at Karamea Golf Club
Keyhole dunes at Karamea Golf Club

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.

True Links

According to Mr George Peper and Mr Malcolm Campbell, authors of one of our favourite golf book True Links, there are only 246 authentic links golf courses in the world.  Nine of those true links courses are located in New Zealand, with Karamea Golf Club one of those sacred places!

Enjoying the walk at Karamea Golf Club
Enjoying the walk at Karamea Golf Club

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 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. 

Undulating fairways at Karamea Golf Club
Undulating fairways at Karamea Golf Club

Another aspect of a true links golf course is the absence of trees.  Other than a couple 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 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.

Golf can be a cruel game
Golf can be a cruel game

Things got a little better once we made it to Tasman, easily our favourite hole on the golf course.  Running parallel to the dunes that boarder 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 fairway woods, and finished the hole with a great two putt. 

Tasman at Karamea Golf Club
Tasman at Karamea Golf Club
Tasman flag at Karamea Golf Club
Tasman flag at Karamea Golf Club

We Play Golf for Moments Like This

With the ocean in the background, we finished as the sun began its slow decent over the ninth green. 

Plateau, the ninth at Karamea Golf Club
Plateau, the ninth at Karamea Golf Club

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 enjoyed 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!

Enjoying Karamea Golf Club
Enjoying Karamea Golf Club
Kohaihai Green at Karamea Golf Club
Kohaihai Green at Karamea Golf Club

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 play this game; to share moments like this.This is certainly one of the best golf courses that you’ve never heard of.  And definitely worth the effort to get here.  Karamea Golf Club, well, well you.  ‘You Make My Dreams Come True‘! Oh,oh!

View from Clubhouse at Karamea Golf Club
View from Clubhouse at Karamea Golf Club
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