Oreti Sands Golf Club
Our quest to play the world’s most unique golf courses brought us to Oreti Sands Golf Club. Unfortunately, it brought us here 18 months too late. Due to dwindling membership and lack of funding, the Club closed back in April 2018.
Located deep in the Southland of New Zealand, with no road signs, and no help from Google Maps, we couldn’t find the golf course on our first attempt. Wondering if we were close, we stopped an oncoming car to ask if they knew where the course was located. They unfortunately never heard of it and seemed to have never even heard of the word golf!
As they speed off, we decided to head to our next location just up the road, the Invercargill Golf Club.
World’s Southernmost True Links Golf Course
Now, why would a golf course that we couldn’t find, and has been closed for over a year be on our bucket list? That is a good question; one with a couple of good answers. First, according to our favorite golf book True Links, there are only 246 authentic links golf courses in the world. Our goal was to play all 9 true links golf courses of New Zealand, and Oreti Sands was one. Not only that, but Oreti Sands Golf Club (no website found) was once the southernmost true links golf course in the world!
While we were at Invercargill Golf Club, we inquired about Oreti Sands. From everyone that we talked to about the course, it seemed as though it was something special to play. We also learned that Mr. Gene Sarazan visited here back in 1934. His reason was simple- to “satisfy his ambition to have driven a ball further south than any other American professional!” He then proceeded to tee one up and hit it deep into the southern Tasman Sea.
And, most importantly while we were there, we were given directions on exactly where the golf course was located.
We Found It
Armed with directions, we managed to find the golf course our second time around. We pulled our campervan under the “Welcome to The World’s Southern Most 18 Hole Links Golf Course” sign and parked in the empty parking lot. It was eerily silent, but we found it!
We got out and peered through the windows of the locked and abandoned clubhouse. We could see unopened boxes of scorecards in the small room where the honesty box was located. It was here that we saw the “Course Closed” sign. It stated that the course was closed as of the 31st of March 2018.
Golf is a Good Walk Spoiled
We decided to take a walk around the golf course to see what, if anything, remained. Near the clubhouse, we saw remnants of a tee box from what we guessed was once the first hole. Standing there was an empty frame that once housed a hole sign that has long since disappeared. Continuing towards the sea, we found blue, white, and red fairway distance markers, and what we thought was once a green.
With greens, tees, and bunkers no longer visible, we walked through what had to have been a wonderful true links experience. We found stairs that lead to tee boxes, but there were no tee markers. With the sun shining down, we walked around and between some incredible dunes! There was something peaceful strolling around these links even though we couldn’t play golf. And the more we walked, the more we could tell that this was once a true golfers’ golf course.
While walking around Oreti Sands, I decided to hit a shot in Mr. Sarazan’s memory. Unfortunately, I hit it into the trees! I hate to use the “S” word, but I literally shanked a brand-new Srixon into the trees dead right! Menekse was more accurate with hers and we found it in the long fairway grass.
While we were at Invercargill, we learned that the property would be for sale to the right buyer. Does anyone have a direct line to Mr. Mike Keiser, the genius behind Bandon Dunes? We have no doubt that his passion would breathe new life back into these incredible links!