Waipu Golf Club
Located a couple of hours’ drive north of Auckland, Waipu Golf Club was one of the best golf surprises of our entire trip through New Zealand. The first surprise is immediately apparent when you drive into the car park and the Pacific Ocean greets you. They say that Waipu Golf Club is “where the tee greets the sea” and it is easy to see why. Located directly on the ocean, the clubhouse of Waipu Golf Club has incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. The Chicks and The Hen, otherwise known as Marotere Island and Taranga Island, roost just off the beach on the horizon. And, on a clear day, we understand that you can see all the way to Coromandel.
Being new to driving in New Zealand, we arrived a little later than we had hoped. But we were excited to play our very first golf course in this incredible country and decided to play despite the quickly darkening skies. Upon entering the Pro Shop, our next surprise came in how we were welcomed like locals! A warm “Heya” came from the friendly smile behind the counter, and we knew that we had found the right place.
When you come to Waipu Golf Club, and we highly recommend you do, come on a Thursday. In one of the greatest deals in all of golf, green fees on Thursdays are an unbeatable 18 NZD for 18 holes!
Out at Waipu Golf Club
As it tends to do, it didn’t start raining until we arrived on the first tee. But, we were so excited to hit our first tee shots in New Zealand that we looked at each other, decided it wasn’t raining that hard, and went ahead and hit our tee shots. Menekse went down the left side of the fairway, while I took the more scenic path quite right, almost to the ninth fairway. Nevertheless, our journey had started, and despite the drizzle, you could see the excitement on our faces!
The 224-yard par 3 second hole was one of our favorites on the front nine. Hitting towards the Pacific Ocean in the distant background, the raised crowned green will punish any shot that is less than well struck. I struck one of those well-hit strikes and found the center of the green, while Menekse was short left off the tee.
The short 304-yard par 4 third hole is a slight dogleg right, and I’m happy to report that it took only three holes to make our first birdie in New Zealand! Unfortunately, however, it only took 1 hole to make our first bogey.
A Short Rain Delay
By the time we reached the fourth green, the rain was really chucking it down. So we took a short break under a small pine tree that framed the green, but not before we were completely wet. Letting the shower pass, we decided to take a chance and press on.
Another great hole on the front is the shortish dogleg right 330-yard par 4 sixth. It was starting to get dark, so I opted for the safe route and hit 6 iron down the left side of the fairway, staying away from the beautiful dunes that line that side of the hole. Menekse pushed her tee shot a touch right but was safely in play. With the sound of the ocean on the horizon, I hit a well-struck short iron into the angled green. Unfortunately, our second birdie in New Zealand wasn’t yet to be as the ball stayed on the high side of the cup and didn’t fall.
Growing up in Oregon, the wind coming off the Pacific Ocean blows, normally, onshore. However, since Waipu Golf Club is on the Pacific Ocean side of the North Island, and the weather tends to come from the west to the east, the wind was blowing offshore. We will admit that we struggled to get accustomed to a strong wind blowing towards the ocean!
And speaking of wind, we couldn’t help but notice the size of the flags at Waipu Golf Club. Due to the strong wind, and the expense of having to replace flags often, Waipu now uses what we best can describe as mini flags. Though memorable, they were difficult to see with our range finder!
It was really getting dark by the time we reached the long par 5 eight hole. At 514 yards, the hole begins at sea level, and takes you straight uphill and into the wind, away from the ocean. Once we arrived at the green, even in the dark, we looked back downhill towards the ocean and the view was fantastic. We thought that if it was possible to turn the eighth hole around and play it towards the ocean, it would be incredible. But then it would play downwind.
We played the 385-yard par 4 ninth in complete darkness. Hitting our tee shots and hoping to find them, we happened upon mine on the left side of the fairway. We had no idea the distance to the hole, but we could see an outline of a bunker short. Relying solely on feel, the distance felt like a wedge. Making our way to the green, we found the ball in the middle of the green. Complete feel!
Even in weather that a seagull would loath, the sand-based fairways were dry underfoot. Another pleasant surprise!
A 5-Day Rain Delay
After we finished the front nine, and with the Pro Shop now closed, we went straight to our campervan and spent the night in the parking lot, and fell asleep to the pleasing sound of rain. Unfortunately, we woke to the continuing rain as the pleasant sound quickly turned into an annoyance, and so we asked if we could play the back nine on our return from the very north.
When we arrived 5 days later, we were greeted with blue, and more importantly, dry skies, the same friendly smiles of the pro-shop, but also a stiff wind.
In at Waipu Golf Club
The stretch of holes from 13 through 16 are fantastic golf holes! From the twelfth green, you walk up a narrow path surrounded by blooming flowers and reach the highest point of the golf course, the 159-yard par 3 thirteenth. Playing parallel to the sea, and with a stiff right-to-left wind, both of us took aim a good 10 yards right of the pin. Menekse smartly stayed low and under the wind, while my shot ballooned higher than intended, got caught by the wind, and landed left of the small plateaued green.
Happy at Waipu Golf Club
Fourteen through sixteen run parallel to one other and have true links feel. From an elevated tee, and with the wind directly behind us, the 541-yard par 5 fourteenth played shorter than the mark. Feeling bold off the tee, I blocked my tee shot slightly right and found the wispy light rough. But with a helping wind, I was able to select a mid-iron in, which found the right side of the green that is protected on the left side by natural-looking bunkers.
The fifteenth hole turns you back around and returns you up the hill you just came down. But at 397-yards, and into the wind, this par 4 definitely plays longer! With bunkers short on both the left and right sides of the green, I made my way into my first bunker in New Zealand determined to get up and down to save par. Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t to be.
Again, playing parallel to each other, the 395-yard par 4 sixteenth starts at an elevated position and leads you back downhill towards the ocean, happily again with the wind. Be sure to marvel at the view while on the tee, because it is a sight you won’t soon forget!
After we putted out on eighteen, we made our way back to the clubhouse and were greeted with smiles that now matched those on our faces. Since it was early in the day, and with the view of the golf course, the ocean, and the islands in the background, we took the opportunity to catch up on a little work in the clubhouse. We also couldn’t help but notice that they had hung our Puttering around the World sticker on the window near the starter- thank you!!!
After your round, ask Aaron to pour you an IPA while you sit back and enjoy the views of the golf course and the Pacific Ocean in the background. We are sure you will be as surprised by everything Waipu Golf Club has to offer as we were!