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  • Writer's pictureGerrit van Rooyen

Know the Greens

Golf course types

Whether you are new to golf or just never really got a handle on the terminology, join me on a journey exploring the different types of golf courses. What defines these courses, where can you find them, and what are the benefits and disadvantages of each. Lastly, how are they represented in our small but great country?

Links courses

Imagine you’re on the coast, and around you is a barren landscape of smooth-rolling hills. It’s probably what you think of when you think of a traditional Scottish course. This is where the link-style course originated. It’s the oldest type of course and popular throughout the UK and Ireland.

These coastal courses may have been developed for efficient land use. The sandy soil is hopeless for agriculture but great for draining away excess water making the course playable year-round. The coastal location and lack of trees make for a lot of wind, which can add to the challenge.

These courses have fast fairways and large greens. The coast, bunkers and uneven terrain create natural hazards and each hole is unique.

It’s no wonder that this is a popular course in New Zealand, as we have no shortage of coastline or rolling hills. Tara Iti, north of Auckland, is ranked one of the best links courses on the world. If you are with us here in Wellington, Paraparaumu is another great example of a links-style course using natural sand dunes to create an exciting course.

Parkland Courses

Let’s move away from the coast now and take our journey inland. Imagine a course that looks like a well-manicured garden. The vegetation is more lush with grassier greens and plenty of trees.

This course takes a lot more work to maintain. The trees create narrower fairways, which are more forgiving due to the flatness, which leads to less rolling, and well-manicured grass, which creates gentler bounces. While more sheltered from the wind, rain can cause issues as water can flood the greens making it unplayable at certain times of the year.

You’ll find this is the course is most often used by the PGA tour and featured in every Masters.

In New Zealand, you’ll find plenty of Parkland style courses including Royal Wellington Golf Club and Auckland Golf Club.

Desert Courses

Now let’s move to a drier location. Imagine in the midst of an endless stretch of sand and rock the only green you’ll find is in a tee box, fairway and putting green. Around this manmade green, you’ll find the natural desert features such as sand dunes to add to the terrain of the course. These courses tend to pop up in huge dessert areas where you don’t see grass naturally and a parkland or links-style course is not possible. You’ll find courses like this in the American South West and the Middle East.

The trouble with these courses is that they aren’t natural. The greens need to planted and heavily irrigated. This can be an issue as water is obviously in short supply in these areas. When you are located in the middle of a huge desert, there’s really no other option if you want to play traditional outdoors golf. However, as we’ve seen in previous blogs, there are alternatives, using technology or indoor facilities which may be more suitable for such difficult areas.

You won’t find desert courses here in New Zealand, as they aren’t needed. As I said, they are only used as an alternative when more traditional courses aren’t possible, and with our climate, coasts and size you’re never too far from a suitable golf location. If you’re really keen on this experience you could travel across the ditch to Australia, but even in such a dry place you won’t find much and will have to go all the way to WA.


That covers the main types of courses. You’ll find more niche ones as well such as sand courses, where sand is mixed with oil to create “browns” instead of greens, or snow or ice courses, which has its own set of challenges.

For a great selection of links and parkland courses, New Zealand is an awesome holiday spot for golf lovers to experience new and interesting courses. If you are here in Wellington, let Steve show you what’s on offer with one of Wellington Golf Tours' true kiwi golfing experience.

Next week I will look more specifically at the types of grass used and how it is maintained year-round.

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