Golf Profile – New Zealand

Photo courtesy of nzsealand.com
Photo courtesy of nzsealand.com

About 1600 kilometers east of Australia lies the island nation of New Zealand. Similar in land area to Colorado, its population of four million have quick access to 419 golf courses, making it second only to Scotland in number of golf courses per capita. In fact, golf is the highest participated sport in New Zealand, beating out rugby with 480,000 golfers registering over seven million rounds per year.

New Zealand enjoys a temperate climate with few extremes in temperature. The South island’s Southern Alps are larger than the French, Swiss and Austrian alps combined with Mount Cook reaching a summit of 12312 feet. Being in the Southern hemisphere, New Zealand experiences summer from December to February and winter from June through August. The city of Queenstown serves as a kick off point for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing, golf, hiking, camping, boating, bungee jumping and many other adventures. The spectacular and diverse scenery made the region a perfect location for the shooting of Willow and the Lord of The Rings films, among others.

On the North Island resides the Capital city of Wellington and the largest city of Auckland. Auckland’s mean daily temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit in January and 59 degrees in July. Two of the best courses in the nation are on the North island. Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers were rated in the top 50 in the world by Golf Digest and were recently showcased on national television in the United States, hosting the Kiwi Challenge played in November.

New Zealand boasts a strong presence on the major professional tours. New Zealand golfers that have had success on the PGA Tour include Bob Charles, Micheal Campbell, Grante Waite, Phil Taturangi, Craig Perks, Tim Wilkinson, David Smail, Frank Nobilo, Greg Turner and many others. The young up and comer Danny Lee recently won the US Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort’s number 2 course, the same course where Michael Campbell won the US Open Championship a few years before. Ironically, the top paid golfer in the country isn’t a golfer at all. He’s a caddy for Tiger Woods. Steve Williams reportedly makes more in winnings and endorsements than any other golf related figure in New Zealand, although rising star Lee may soon eclipse him. In 2006, Williams’ earnings as a caddy for Tiger would have put him in 75th place on the tour money list!

New Zealand may still not be a well known golf destination, but recent exposure by NBC and Steve Williams hosting the Kiwi Challenge, Michael Campbell’s US Open win and Danny Lee’s Dominating US Amateur win helped put New Zealand back on the international golf map. The Nationwide tour also co-sponsored two events on the South island, with native son Steven Alker winning the 2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship. You are never more than 45 minutes from a golf course at any point in New Zealand, and most are much closer than that. With uncrowded and inexpensive courses all over the country, favorable weather and friendly residents, there are many good reasons to try New Zealand. In fact, according to New Zealand Golf, the national average greens fees range somewhere between $18 and $24. That is much lower than the median cost at a daily fee course in the US, which is $40.

Golf is just the beginning too. Americans only account for ten percent of tourism annually, but a high percentage of those that visit will return again. The US dollar is currently exchanging at 1.52 New Zealand dollars, which makes traveling to this beautiful land is not as expensive as you might think. For anyone that enjoys being active outdoors, a trip to New Zealand is likely to be one you never forget, and you may not want to leave!

Visit www.newzealand.com for more information. (Originally published on 7/2/2009)

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