Two people playing golf with scenic mountains in background.

The Best Hidden Gem Golf Courses in NZ

New Zealand is home to some world-class golf courses. Beginners, intermediates, and pro golfers will not only love the stunning NZ scenery, but the challenge offered by their many unique courses. 

While there are the classics (think Tara Iti, Cape Kidnappers, and Paraparaumu Beach), some of the best hidden gem golf courses in NZ aren’t household names. 

Here are the ones we highly recommend visiting if you’re looking for a new place to swing your clubs. 

Terrace Downs, Canterbury 

Terrace Downs is one of the top mountain courses in the country, perched on the edge of the Rakaia River Gorge at the foot of the Southern Alps. It’s an 18-hole, par-72 championship course, stretching to more than 7,000 yards from the back tees. 

The layout of this course is challenging for golfers of all skill levels. It’s laid out in two loops of nine, and features multiple water hazards and 70 bunkers across the course. The front nine has a woodland feel to it, while the back nine is more of a links-style setting. 

It begins with an interesting risk/reward par-5, and golfers will find the par-5, 605-yard 7th hole to be a challenge. 

The signature hole is the par-3 16th. The tee box sits 500 feet about the gorge, offering a stunning view that could distract golfers before they even play their first shot. 

With varied terrain, generous fairways, undulating ground, and semi-rough hazard areas, this course can be a challenge for every golfer. 

Muriwai Golf Course, Auckland 

This beautiful 18-hole, 72-par championship links course in Auckland will provide golfers of all skill levels with a challenge. 

Golfers will find the sweeping views of the Muriwai coastline to be both distracting and spectacular. But the course will require a strategic approach, as it features narrow fairways with tough rough, fast, undulating greens, and strategically placed pot bunkers. 

The signature hole is the 8th hole, and it’s a short par-3, 168 yards that has you playing into the wind, towards the sea. On very windy days, golfers will find themselves reaching for their driver. 

Golfers will also find the 12th, 16th, and 18th holes to be memorable. 

Manor Park Golf Sanctuary, Wellington 

This unique Wellington golf course should be on every golfer’s bucket list of courses to play. What sets the course apart is that it has non-gender based tees, and it’s recognized as a wildlife sanctuary. 

The course is flat, and golfers will find it easy to walk the course. But this doesn’t make it easy to play. Golfers will find this course enjoyable and fun, but it does require accuracy and straight shots. 

There are no free swings on this course, as it’s narrow from every tee box, there are rolling fairways, and subtle slopes.

Golfers should arrive at least an hour early to take advantage of the superb practice facilities at this course. 

Rotorua Golf Course, Arikikapakapa, Rotorua 

This 18 hole, par-70 course provides a unique experience, offering variety and a challenge on each hole.

Golfers would need to pack extra balls, as the course winds its way through active and dormant geothermal areas. On some holes, like the 9th hole, there’s a bubbling mud pool, streams of warm water, and in the distance a geyser will erupt every now and then. 

While it may be tempting to hit long shots for most holes, golfers may want to either lay-up or focus on the accuracy of their shots.

The 3rd hole is an excellent, long two-shotter that will have you play over a warm stream. Golfers may find the short 9th hole to be a delightful challenge. The 13th and 14th holes will give you a fair idea of the challenging holes to come. 

Eketāhuna Golf Course, Tararua 

This gem of a course, also known as Makakahi golf course, sits along the banks of the Makakahi River. 

The course is easy to walk, with no need for a GPS. Golfers will find it easy to become distracted with the beautiful natural surroundings, and peaceful rural atmosphere

Golfers can choose to play the entire 18 holes or you can play the Sheep Track, which will have you playing the most scenic holes on the course. 

The course is open to the public, and you only need to book tee times for large groups. If you’re passing through during the summer, stop and play a round of Twilight golf. 

This article was written by golf enthusiast Jordan Fuller. Jordan is a golf coach, mentor, and blogger who has played on amazing courses across the world. When he’s not on the course, he writes informative how-to articles and equipment reviews on his website, Golf Influence