Greens and greens at Wairākei Golf Course. © Gary Lisbon

Wairākei Golf Course, Taupō

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Wairākei – a golf course in a sanctuary – has to be the quintessential New Zealand golf experience. 

10 minutes from Lake Taupō, Wairakei sits inside a predator-free sanctuary, located in an extraordinary geothermal area. It could also be the quietest course in the country, with the only sounds the protected native birds and the echo of club on ball. 

Gorgeous golf holes wind their way through deep native bush.

Officially opened in 1970, Wairākei lies on 180 hectares of natural terrain, with a volcanic landscape. It was developed by the New Zealand Government to meet a world-class championship standard. In order to achieve this, the government employed one of England’s leading golf architects, Commander John Harris, whose family had been involved with the construction of Moor Park, Wentworth, and Sunningdale in England.  

Joining Commander Harris was a fellow Englishman, Michael Wolveridge and five-time British Open winner Peter Thompson. Of special note to golfers is the close proximity of The Kinloch Club, New Zealand’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, which provides an excellent contrast in style, topography, and design to Wairākei. 

The par 72 course has three sets of tees and ranges from 5,084 - 6,460 metres and 108 bunkers, many of which have natural ferns as an integral part of the bunker faces.

In addition to the golf course, when investigating ways to enhance the natural habitats of wildlife on the property, it was determined that a predator fence was the best option. In order to keep out possums, rats, cats and stoats, a 5.5-kilometre boundary fence was constructed. At two metres high, the fence prevents climbing and burrowing animals from entering the sanctuary. Other initiatives included removing invasive blackberry and scrub and re-planting around 25,000 native trees and 5,000 exotics.  

Today, endangered species like Kiwi and Brown Teal are being released on the property as part of a collaboration between Wairākei and local conservation agencies. Around 200 pheasants and a small herd of fallow deer and stag are also being reared on site.

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