Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club
Located about an hour north of Wellington, Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, or Parapara as the locals call it, is New Zealand’s spiritual home of golf. A true links golf course, PBGC has been on our bucket list for years.
Measuring in at just over 6600-yards from the Black Tees, I opted to play the links from the 6445-yard Blue Tees for our early morning round while Menekse selected the 5156-yard Red Tees. Par at Paraparaumu Beach is 71, and it is a par that is well defended.
Home of a Record 12 New Zealand Opens
Peter Thomson, one of the greatest links golfers of all time, won the New Zealand Open in 1959, the first time it was played at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club. He went on to win the NZ Open a record nine times! Mr Thomson described the golf course as “…heaven-made for golf. The natural humps and hollows resemble the territory that makes up St. Andrews, Birkdale, Carnoustie, Ballybunion and a piece of Prestwick thrown in.” An impressive comparison indeed. Since that initial hosting in 1959, PBGC has gone on to host the New Zealand Open 12 times, a record unsurpassed by any other golf course in New Zealand.
Other winners of the NZ Open at PBGC include New Zealand golf legends Sir Bob Charles, and Michael Campbell, and other international greats such as Corey Pavin and Craig Perry.
Steve Williams grew up near here and was a caddy on these storied links as a 12-year-old boy. His first big break happened in 1976 when he caddied for Peter Thomson in the New Zealand Open held at Royal Wellington Golf Club. Finishing third, Mr Thomson was impressed with the young man and continued to employ him each time he played in New Zealand. As you know, Mr Williams went on to have an incredibly successful career and was on the bag for legends such as Greg Norman, Adam Scott, as well as during the pinnacle of Tiger Woods’ career. Mr Williams is now an honorary member at Paraparaumu Beach.
All aspects of your game better be ready by the time you reach Horuarua, or Hollows in the native Māori language, the 464-yard par 4 third hole, because it is the sternest test on the outward nine. Hollows refers to all the undulations that await your tee shot should you find the fairway. The best target off the tee is left centre; but unfortunately, neither of us found the fairway. Twin bunkers flank the short-left side, while another protects greenside left. We each walked away with double bogies, so believe us when we say that we saw a lot of this hole!
The long straightaway 446-yard par 4 fourth Nga Tokotoru, Three Kings, is named for the 3 bunkers that protect the right side of the green. With a 4-club green from front to back, an automatic 2-putt isn’t a guarantee here. Luckily, I made about a 10-footer to save par!
Morearea Iti, or Little Danger is the aptly named 371-yard par 4 eighth. The shortish dogleg right is a great driving hole which requires an absolutely straight ball, ideally reaching the top of the crest. Your next shot will be a wedge or 9 iron to a small but well protected green. There is high mound on the right side of the green that blocks some of the wind, but not all of it. I had 131-yards and hit a knock down 9 iron that came down on a string but was a club short due to the wind!
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is a true links golf course, as defined by Peper and Campbell in their fantastic book True Links. PBGC is considered one of the greatest links courses of the Southern Hemisphere.
Being a true links golf course in nature means that we sometimes missed the firm and fast sand-based soil fairways but ended up in the middle. Similarly, however, we hit fairways and ended up in the rough. We hit knock down 5 irons and knock down 9 irons just as often as we needed to hit high 4 irons and high wedges.
The greens were very good; while hard and firm, we found that they would still hold well struck approach shots. The speed was so perfect this early in spring that we wonder how incredible they must be in the summer! It was also possible to putt from well off the greens, another hallmark of links style golf. If you avoid the pot bunkers that is!
Another trademark of links golf is wind, and Paraparaumu Beach had plenty of it! We were the first players of the day and had some blue skies early. It clouded as the morning aged, but we didn’t have any rain. But there were some very strong wind gusts that kept the flags flying at 90 degrees, even that early in the morning.
Tararua, or The Divide, is the number one handicap hole on the golf course. The 446-yard par 4 thirteenth played downwind but still demanded driver off the tee. Finding the left side of the fairway, the green nevertheless seemed a mile away. I attempted a low running 4 iron that almost made it to the top of the steep slope that fronts the green. But almost wasn’t enough and the ‘what ifs’ rolled through my mind as I watched my ball pick up speed on its way back down. Having the opportunity to hit running 4 irons on par 4’s- that is the beauty of PBGC!
The only thing that is required as you step up to the fifteenth tee box is Whakaponohia, or Blind Faith. The ardent target on this into the wind 372-yard par 4 is the black and white stripped post. Menekse went down the left, while I missed the post to the right, but the fairway has a collection area on that side that I found.
For the second time in our round, I hit a knock down 9 iron into the wind to an intimidatingly small green. It came down online, but again was a club short of the pin. Menekse was able to walk away with net par but I wasn’t able to get up and down. Nevertheless, you can count us both as firm believers of Blind Faith!
Seventeen at PBGC is ranked as one of the greatest golf holes in the world! Taonganui, The Jewel, is a 442-yard slight dogleg right par 4. With a pair of bunkers short left, I hit stinger of a 4-iron that found the second bunker, my only bunker of the day. The only way to describe this bunker is that it was basically a hole filled with sand! It was about one foot deep in the back, and 3 feet deep in the front, no easy up and down.
With a view of the Clubhouse, Wa Kainga is the 487-yard par 5 finishing hole. Another slight dogleg right, Distant Home was a strong finish for both of us. Menekse made par, net eagle, and I made my only birdie of the day.
With a net birdie, par, eagle on the final three holes, Menekse had a strong finish and shot a very respectable 48 on the back nine at Parapara. I was so proud of her round of golf!
A Golf Course is Not Worth a Damn if No One Comments On It One Way Or Another
After finishing our round at PBGC, we wanted to learn more about the architect that designed these incredible links. Paraparaumu Beach was created by the capable hands of Mr. Alex Russell, who we learned was an accomplished player. One of his most impressive victories came in 1924 when he won the Australian Open as an amateur, contested at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
A prodigy of Mr. Alister MacKenzie, Mr Russell is credited with the design of many great golf courses in Australia. Along with PBGC, he is probably most remembered for the design of the East Course of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, as well as overseeing the construction of Mr MacKenzie’s masterpiece the West Course at Royal Melbourne.
The Club has Mr. Russell’s original course notes and individual hole notes hanging in the restaurant. We also learned that those papers are from the same notebook paper that he used when he created Royal Melbourne.
Mr. Russell is credited with saying that “a course is not worth a damn if no one comments on it one way or another.” Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, you are certainly a golf course worth a damn!
Golf at its Purest
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club will test every aspect of your game. It is a golf course that will offer you more than one way to play every single shot. With the variety of the wind and the rolling fairways, no two rounds here could ever be the same.
We could easily play here a lifetime and be happy. In fact, when / if this journey of ours comes to an end, PBGC would be a fantastic Club to be a member. Does anyone know a good realtor?! Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club was our favourite golf course of our 3-month journey through New Zealand, and indeed is one of our favourite golf courses in the world!