Less than an hour’s drive away from Wellington is the world-renowned Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club. Paraparam, as it is known locally, has hosted the NZ Open 12 times and is the only course that Tiger Woods has graced within New Zealand when he played the 2002 NZ Open as a thank you to his caddie Steve Williams. Craig Parry won that year with Tiger finishing sixth – apparently in horrendous playing conditions.
The course was designed by Alex Russell in 1949 on the undulating dune land of the Kapati Coast. Russell, an Australian, was a former partner of the great Dr Alister MacKenzie, and created the links course within the dunes and is considered one of the best links courses in the Southern Hemisphere. The management of the golf club have invested a lot in recent years, including major bunker renovations, and it definitely shows as the walls and makeups of the bunkers are superb.
The first hole gives the golfer a good indication of the type of test they will get over the next few hours, a blind tee shot with a slight dogleg to an undulating green. A tricky start to the round, number 5 on the stroke index, and a true indication of what to expect over the following 17 holes.
The par 3 holes are very strong – the first par 3 you encounter is the second hole, measuring at 185m from the blue tees. The wind was blowing straight at us which meant the best scenario is to punch a driver! We’re told that if the wind is prevailing (the opposite direction) then it can be anything as low as a 9 iron. This is then followed by the Stroke Index 2 383m Par 4 3rd hole, again straight into the wind with a raised green with deep bunkers. The par 3 5th hole, although not that long at 150m, but was into the wind and anything left means playing a shot to a green 12ft above your feet. Apparently Frank Nobilo once carded a 13 on this hole, so my 4 was relatively decent.
The wind back to the clubhouse is probably the tamest section on the course – I’m an 8 handicap and came in 1 under. This might have something to do with 3 out of the 4 holes were with the wind. Although enjoyable, the par 5 7th hole was a drive and 5 iron (with the wind behind) and then the next two holes were a drive and a wedge. However, I played with a local member and knowing where to aim was invaluable as 3 out of these 4 holes were blind drives again.
After the turn, any golfer with a snap hook in their locker would be trembling stood on the next 3 holes. Anything left is out of bounds and potentially in somebody’s back garden. Again, these 3 were all into the wind and the 390m par 4 11th and 460m par 5 12th need strong shots to have any chance of a green in regulation.
The course turns 90 degrees at the 13th and is often one of the favourite holes of many a visitor to Paraparam. A full two shot
408m par 4 requiring a well placed drive and then a the need for a ridiculously accurate second shot to a heavily protected green sitting a good number of feet above the fairway. I was ecstatic to card a 4 on this hole.
The par 3 16th features another green with a huge drop off, and the 17th hole features a split fairway with a risk and reward shorter line in, but not the greatest angle to come in at the raised green. I went for it and was left with, yet another, chip shot to a green that was above my head. The 18th is another par 5 that is reachable in 2, particularly with the wind behind and finishing with a putt for Eagle (although it ended up a birdie) was a most satisfying end to a cracking round.
We really enjoyed our time at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club – excellent hosts, we played with a local member, John, who definitely helped us along the way and a course that had us thinking on every hole. We all commented that the greens were probably the best in the country, the bunkers were top-notch, and even though some of the fairways were a bit bare – that’s more than expected for a links course at the height of one of the best summers on record. Would definitely play here again and no trip to New Zealand should be without a round at ‘Paraparam’.