The list of New Zealand courses that sit on land tailor-made for golf is a very short one.
Paraparaumu, Arrowtown, maybe Tara Iti, and Waverley are about it.
The small South Taranaki course appears to be well out of its weight class in this company but the terrain must be seen to be believed.
Although Waverley is about five kilometres from the coast it feels like a seaside links with the humps and hollows and ridges and valleys.
It’s not surprising to find that the course architect, three-time NZ PGA winner Ernie Southerden, learned the game at the classic English links course Rye before emigrating to New Zealand.
The course is rough and ready with 400 sheep doing the lion’s share of labour in keeping the grass down with only the greens and approaches mown. But don’t let the scruffily rural appearance put you off because Waverley has some of the best holes in the country.
The set of par 3s is second only to what’s on offer at Paraparaumu and it’s a tough choice as to which is the best of the fifth, 13th and 16th. The 170m 16th probably tops the trio thanks to the contours which partially obscure the green, making it appear a much tougher shot than it actually is.
The par 5s are also good, particularly the opener and the back-to-back 14th and 15th, which play in opposite directions so the ever present wind makes one reachable and the other a bear, depending on the direction.
But like many of the best courses, it’s the short par 4s that really stand out.
The second and sixth are quality holes while the 12th which doglegs left into a dell-like punch bowl green is perfectly charming.
All of these shorter par 4s reward the golfer who can put their tee shot in the right place to open up an angled green, valuing position over length.
Fittingly, Waverley ends with another good short par 4 where attempting to cut the corner leaves a much worse angle into a green benched into a hill with a brutal fall-off at the front.
Waverley is comfortably the best country course in New Zealand and at $15 a round it must be in the running for the best deal in all of golf.