Otakou Golf Club
Located at the far end of the South Island’s Otago Peninsula, Otakou Golf Club is another of New Zealand’s golf courses that take some effort to find. Winding up and down a long dirt road, we weren’t sure if we were going in the right direction. But Google Maps was positive, and so we continued. It was late in the day, but it was probably the best weather for golf that we had since Asia. The sky was blue, the birds were singing, and we were excited to play another True Links Golf Course of New Zealand!
Otakou (no website found) is a 9-hole golf course that measures 3085-yards from the Men’s markers and 2778-yard from the Women’s. As we climbed out of our campervan Lorna, we walked up to the clubhouse to place our money into the honesty box. Green fees are a modest 15 NZD (8,12 Euro, 9.05 USD) for 9 holes and 20 (10,83 Euro, 12.07 USD) for 18.
An Honesty Box Surprise
But, to our shock, I didn’t have enough money in my wallet! I only had 11 NZ dollars and 80 cents! Late in the day and desperately wondering what we should do, we knew that the 45-minute drive back to town wasn’t an option. We wouldn’t have been able to get back and still have time to play golf. Not sure of what to do, we came up with an idea. During our travels, we usually have some change left over from each of the countries that we visit. So, we found our wallet where we keep our “leftover money” to see what we had. The only currency that we had enough for the remaining green fee was Hong Kong Dollars! But unfortunately, we only had enough for one green fee. Menekse said that I should play and that she would walk the course with me.
We placed our money and an apologetic note along with one of our Puttering around the World stickers in the payment envelope and made our way to the first tee. We’re so sorry Otakou Golf Club! We’re sure opening the envelope was as much of a surprise for you as it was for us!
Our Very First Albatross!
So, why didn’t we have any cash when we arrived at the golf course? Good question. And the answer has to do with an albatross…. An Albatross, or a Double Eagle as it is known in the US, is being 3 under on a single hole. Scoring a two on a par 5 for example. It is the rarest of all shots in golf- even rarer than a hole-in-one. You have probably heard of the second most famous albatross, the infamous “shot heard round the world”. This was Mr. Gene Sarazan’s incredible dunk on the fifteenth during the 1935 Masters.
But the most famous albatross you wonder? Well that distinction, in the Humphrey household anyway, belonged to my father! With a persimmon 5-wood that I still have, he holed his second shot on the par 5 sixth hole at Riverwood Golf Course, the golf course that I grew up on!
But back to the story of why we didn’t have any cash with us when we arrived at the golf course. It was because we had spent the day at the Royal Albatross Centre and paid our entrance fees in cash. And, it is where we saw our very first real, and huge, albatross!
Playing Golf in the Sunshine
Sally’s Alley is the 184-yard slightly downhill par 3 second hole. From an elevated tee box, I punched a solid 5-iron that settled pin high, landing right of the target. The green is surrounded on three sides by giant pine trees that give the hole a cathedral-like feeling. And most likely lend to the name.
Relishing how great it felt to play golf in the sunshine again, we made our way to Fieldwicks. With an intimidating-looking tee shot, I nevertheless hit driver on the 363-yard straightaway par 4 fourth. The tight fairway was full of humps and bumps that had some beautiful-looking undulation to them.
Running parallel to the fourth, Rutherfords was the fantastic fifth hole. With tall pine trees lining both sides, this 528-yard par 5 requires a slight draw off the tee. I was up to the challenge and found the left side of the fairway off the tee. A long kidney-shaped green, unlike every other green on the course, awaits you. Besides being our only birdie of the day, Rutherfords was our favorite hole!
Koputai, the 154-yard par 3 sixth was lined with beautiful gorse that was in full bloom down the left side. I pulled my 8-iron left, which meant that I had a nice view of it. Frustratingly though, I couldn’t get up and down for par.
Is this a True Links Golf Course
While Otakou Golf Club is considered a true links golf course, we didn’t feel that it adhered to the traditional guidelines of true links golf. This was due primarily to the number of trees that framed almost every hole on the property. True links golf courses are traditionally devoid of trees. Perhaps the trees came after Mr. George Peper’s and Mr. Malcolm Campbell’s publication of the book True Links. But, based on their height, we didn’t think so.
Rather than being located directly at the sea, the course is located on the bay of the Otago Peninsula. This explained why the usual true links smell of the ocean was replaced by the smell of pine trees.
Also absent was the wind. We learned earlier in the day that albatrosses require strong winds to fly, which is why they live here. But, today was a calm day, so we didn’t see any albatross in flight. Likewise, the flags at Otakou Golf Club lay flightless. But they were absolutely tattered, evidence that it can get windy here, just not today.
However, the ground was sand-based which made walking the fairways in our shorts and t-shirts all the more enjoyable.
And, in order to complete our goal of playing all the true links golf courses of New Zealand, we just had to play golf at Otakou Golf Club. Even if it meant paying some of the green fees in a foreign currency. We’re so sorry Otakou, but we trust you understand that we did it for the love of the game!