• Gerrit van Rooyen

New Zealand Golf 1871 to Today

A quick summary - By Gerrit van Rooyen writing for Wellington Golf Tours


This week I thought I would chat a bit about the history of golf in New Zealand. As I am not as familiar with the game of golf as Steve is, I thought it would be interesting to find out exactly how it started in New Zealand and how big it really is here. I was quite surprised to find out that New Zealand has more golf courses per capita than any other country in the world apart from Scotland apparently! (This was a figure from somewhere in the early 2000s, so it might have changed by now, but that is still quite amazing.)


Just some of the Golf Courses around New Zealand

History of New Zealand Golf


In 1871, in Dunedin’s Otago Golf Club, they teed off for the first time in New Zealand history on an official golf course. A few years later in 1873, another club opened in Christchurch. The Otago Golf Club is now considered the fourth oldest club in the world. The club was started after an ad was placed in the local paper stating that gentlemen are asking to have their own club. Many believe that Dunedin was chosen for the first spot as it was considered the “Edinburgh of the South”, seeing as most people travelled to Scotland to play golf back then.


9 time New Zealand Open winner from 1950 to 1971, Peter Thompson, did a lot for NZ golf's image

Back in those days golf in New Zealand was a different game, mostly played by older men. It was not until the 1960s, when golf became an international sensation, that New Zealand golf became a lot more casual and you would find all sorts of people on the greens.


Many golfing competitions were held in New Zealand, with the first amateur championship as early as 1892, and by 1924 the popularity of the sport had it so that there were over 100 clubs around the country. Not only that, there were over 9000 regulars, with over 4000 being women.


Golf and Inclusivity


Canadian Brooke Henderson - Winner NZ Open

Although many women did play, it was still a segregated sport, with the first women’s tournament held in 1975 and in 2005 the women’s union merged with the, now called, New Zealand golf Inc to be all-inclusive.





Kurupō Tāreha - Prominent figure in NZ golf, started his love affair with the sport in Scotland in 1897

Speaking of inclusivity, there have been many prominent Māori golfers. Kurupō Tāreha (Ngāti Kahungunu) won the amateur cup in 1903, who then became the president of the Māori Golf Association.


Later on, Walter Godfrey won the Amateur cup at age 16!


If you would like to know more about the history of New Zealand golf, there is a great site (where I have gleaned most of this information from) located HERE








Wellington Golf


The first golf club in Wellington, the Hutt Golf Club, was opened in 1892 and was the third club to open in New Zealand. Some interesting history about the club can be seen HERE, including how it merged to become the Boulcott’s Farm Heritage Golf Club and all the issues it had to get to where it is now. (Apparently, it started as a small course in the middle of a horse racing course!)



Boulcott's Farm - Heritage Golf Club

There are currently 27 golf clubs in the Wellington district. Many of which Steve will be happy to take you on during one of his tours. You can see them HERE, ranging from 18 to 9 hole course and having something for every level of play.


The sport is booming, with many regulars and new faces to be seen at the courses weekly.


The Wellington Golf courses are a big attraction with tourists coming in on planes and cruise ships every year, as New Zealand, and in particularly Wellington has such great weather for it. Although Wellington can be a little windy some days, this time of year (Spring and Summer) there are plenty of good sunny days that do not get too hot.


We hope to see you soon so Steve can show you around some of the idyllic courses and fill you in a bit more about how awesome golf in Wellington can be.



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