Westport Golf Club
Located on the rugged West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, just south of the town of Westport, is Cape Foulwind, a headland that pushes its way out to the Tasman Sea. The name alone gives you an idea of how much wind there can be in this part of the island. Before you get to the tip of the promontory, you will find Westport Golf Club. Westport is another one of the True Links Golf Courses of New Zealand. And so, to say that we were excited when we arrived would be putting it mildly.
As it did for much of our trip, it rained all night the evening prior to our arrival. True to its name, we pulled into the driveway of the Clubhouse to steady onshore winds, but blue skies overhead. We entered the Clubhouse and found that it was in the middle of being repainted. Two friendly gentlemen, volunteering their services if we understood correctly, were kind enough to welcome us in and to show us around. Noticing that the club champion trophy case dated back to 1905, we inquired about the history of the Club. The golf course changed locations sometime after the war, “before my time” said one of the painters with a smile.
Westport Golf Club (no website found) is an 18-hole golf course that measures 6143-yards from the Men’s tee, and 5510 from the Women’s tee. A couple of hundred yards from the ocean, you can hear the crashing surf, and it is heavily influenced by the sea. With the cool wind still blowing, we happily paid our modest green fees of 30 NZD, (17,83 Euro, 19.77 USD) for 18 holes and made our way to the first tee.
Out at Westport Golf Club
With a narrow undulating fairway, Tasman, the 322-yard par 4 fourth hole, was simply a great links golf hole. Playing towards the Sea, and back into the wind, the hole plays longer than the yardage on the card.
I missed the fairway just left, and had just 100-yards in. Determined not to be short, I made a good strike which landed on the back half of the green.
Menekse hit a great tee shot, then a less than stellar 3-wood. But she followed that up with a well-struck 6 iron that made its way onto the putting green. Her putt for par was left short, but she tapped in for an easy net birdie.
Directly parallel to Tasman, we also enjoyed Bucklands, the par 4 fifth hole. At 386-yards, this straightaway hole plays back downwind, with an airstrip down the left side! The small airport reminded us of another true links course we had just played a week or so earlier, Nelson Golf Club.
Some Great Par Threes at Westport
With two on the front and two on the back, Westport has a marvelous collection of par threes. Ranging from 126-yards to 197-yards, and each playing in varying directions, the wind always needed to be considered.
Airport, the short 126-yard par 3 second, was our favorite of these par threes. Aiming towards the Tasman Sea be sure you take enough club to account for the wind. Because if not, there are two small hungry bunkers short that will surely swallow anything short. Menekse escaped trouble by playing left of the green. There are a couple of short pine trees long of the hole, but they didn’t block enough of the wind. I hit a wedge that unfortunately flew too high and ended up short, in the left bunker.
At 197-yards, Robertson, the sixth was the longest of these great par threes. Menekse and I both hit great tee shots, finding the long narrow green. As we walked off the tee box, we noticed a couple in a buggy behind us that quickly caught us. Just as we were approaching the green, we decided to let them play through, so we waved them up. The lady hit a great shot, also reaching the green, while her husband left his tee shot in the bunker short. While the gentleman was getting ready to play his bunker shot, his wife thanked us for allowing them to play through. She mentioned that they were getting in a practice round. “Tomorrow is the Champion of Champions Tournament,” she told us. “It’s just local, but it’s a big deal around here” she whispered as we watched her husband hole his bunker shot for a birdie! We hope his shot wasn’t a day too early!
Throwing Strikes like Orel Hershiser
With small greens as targets, you need to be solid with your irons if you hope to score at Westport. If not, you better be strong with your wedge game! The greens were small and played slow, which is a difficult combination for players, well, like me! I missed too many greens and left myself too many 4-footers to save par to have a great scoring round.
But Menekse was starting to put together a solid run. A strong tee shot on Foulwind, the seventh, was followed by a smooth 5 wood on Prescott, the eighth. And then another buttery 6 iron on The Ridge, the tenth. By the time we reached Plateau, the par three eleventh, she had really found her groove. She was throwing strikes like one of my childhood heroes, Orel Hershiser, the famous pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers!
Loss of Momentum
By the time we made the turn, the sky began to darken, and it felt like the rain was close. So, it was no surprise that after we hit our tee shots on the thirteenth, it began to rain. The wee shower quickly turned into heavy rain, so we ducked into a small rain shack next to the tee hoping to wait it out.
While staying dry, we couldn’t help but notice all the pansies, or violas planted next to the tee box. Why you wonder? Because Menekse is Turkish for Pansy!
Unfortunately, however, the 20-minute or so rain delay caused a bit of a loss of momentum for Menekse, and she struggled over the next four holes. Golf is a fickle game indeed.
I bombed my tee shot on Waterloo, the 365-yard par 4 sixteenth just into the left side lite rough. With 89-yards directly to the pin, the distance felt perfect for my 54-degree wedge. Taking one last look at the flag, I looked down at the ball and it just felt better than it had all day. Confident with the swing, I hit down on the ball and struck it well. I watched anxiously as it came down directly online! It took one bounce, hit the pin, and ended up a couple of inches from the hole! I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few eagles over my many years of golf, but only twice on par fours. Tapping the putt in for birdie was wonderful but holing that from the fairway would have been unforgettable!
Westport is a Golf Course with Potential
A slight dogleg right also measuring 365-yards, Homeward was the fantastic par 4 seventeenth. Gone were many of the pine trees that cramped much of the golf course which gave it a crowded feeling. The ocean also came returned, which lent the hole a true linksy feel. Menekse was also back, hurling her tee shot down the left side.
At only 455-yards, Jack Brown, the closing hole is a short par 5 but was another great golf hole. With a wide-open fairway with a lot of humps and bumps and views out to the ocean, Westport saves its best for last. I played Mr. Brown down the right side but couldn’t get up and down for my second birdie in three holes.
There was something different about the final two holes at Westport. With fewer trees, the holes had more room to breathe. This openness also allowed the wind from the ocean to become a factor once more. Looking around the surrounding area, the only trees here were those on the golf course, so you know that they probably weren’t here naturally. Westport Golf Club has huge potential. With a major tree removal project, the golf course could be restored to a truer links feel. With sand-based soil that dries quickly and fairways that have some beautiful movements in them, Westport possesses everything that it needs to be an excellent golf course!