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Paraparaumu Beach: New Zealand’s Spiritual Home of Golf

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Located on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast, about 45 minutes from the Capital of Wellington, the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club has a world-class links layout with a storied history. Known as New Zealand’s “Spiritual Home of Golf,” the club formally opened in 1949, with golf being played at least twenty years prior.

Designed by Australian Alex Russell, a renowned architect and great amateur golfer, Paraparaumu Beach is a classic links-style course with firm, fast conditions. It features rolling terrain, strategically placed bunkers, and plays much longer than its yardage in a good wind. Host of 12 New Zealand Opens, its most memorable moment was the 2002 event, won by in-his-prime Tiger Woods in a playoff, despite a four-putt at the second hole.

In this post, we will travel to the New Zealand coast to discover Paraparaumu Beach, learn its origins and history, and some interesting facts about golf in New Zealand. We’ll review the course and its highlights, suggest further reading, and link some videos that bring the course to life.

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Origins and History

Golf was first played over the dunes at Paraparaumu Beach in 1929 by a group of enthusiasts who formed a makeshift 9-hole course. In early 1949, after purchasing the land outright, the membership decided to expand the 120-acre site into an 18-hole course. They approached Alex Russell for the design in exchange for no payment other than travel to New Zealand. Russell was a former Australian Open Champion and great amateur golfer who worked closely with Alister MacKenzie on renowned courses like Royal Melbourne and Yarra Yarra.

Educated in England, Russell served in World War I and became interested in golf course design while studying and playing in Great Britain. Paraparaumu Beach was the only course he designed outside of Australia. Russell was taken in by the land and believed they could build a world-class course. He spent weeks on site combing through maps and photographs, finally designing a routing that took advantage of the dunes and undulating terrain. He took a minimalist approach in converting the stretch of linksland into an 18-hole layout and opted for small pot bunkers and the natural slope of the sand dunes to supply the hazards. Russell also applied famous templates like Redan and Cape to aid the course’s defense. After opening in 1949, Paraparaumu Beach was well-received and considered one of the finest links in the Southern Hemisphere.

In 1962, Paraparaumu played host to a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between Bob Charles vs. Bob Goalby. The course has also hosted many of the country’s leading tournaments, including 12 New Zealand Opens, and has been ranked as high as 71 in the world rankings by Golf Magazine. No event was more memorable than the 2002 New Zealand Open, won by Tiger Woods in a playoff over Craig Perks. Woods struggled on the firm, fast greens and even four-putted the second hole despite his caddy at the time, Steve Williams, being a club member. Paraparaumu Beach has unquestionably become, as its founders had hoped, instrumental in developing and growing the game in New Zealand.

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Did You Know?

Home to at least nine links-style courses, New Zealand boasts the most of any country outside the British Isles. That may be surprising, but the Southern Hemisphere can support links-style conditions and grasses in its more southern points, and a combination of seaside locations, sandy soil, and firm, fast-draining turf contributes to the links-style characteristics. Paraparaumu is the northernmost of New Zealand’s nine links courses and the only one on the north island.

Debate as to how many of New Zealand’s over 400 courses are “true links” and meet the criteria set forth by George Peper notwithstanding, it cannot be argued that New Zealand’s seaside golf is comparable to the best in the world. With two new courses opening at Te Arai, the seaside links-style Coore/Crenshaw designed “South Course,” carved from sand dunes, and the Tom Doak-designed “North Course,” New Zealand’s golf tourism is rising, showcasing the spectacular seaside terrain and dramatic natural landscapes.

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The Course

Paraparaumu is a classic out-and-back links layout playing to a par 71 at around 6,600 yards from the back tees. The nines return through the middle of the property. The course requires players to manufacture shots to navigate the humps, hollows, and pot bunkers throughout the layout. Accuracy and shotmaking are rewarded, and it’s good to be comfortable playing knockdown shots, bump-and-run, and putting off the green. Tee-box signs in both English and the native Māori with hole names such as “Little Danger” and “Blind Faith” give you a sense of what’s to come.

The par-3s at Paraparaumu are considered among the best in Australasia, especially the short 5th “The Island,” played to an elevated, plateaued green surrounded by hollows that could repel a carelessly played chip or pitch. Kiwi Frank Nobilo fell prey and scored a seven in the New Zealand Open. The par-4 8th, with its tiny, pushed-up green, is another standout.

The inward nine features “The Divide,” the tough 446-yard 13th played to an undulating fairway with an approach to an elevated green with “Russel’s Ravine” in front and trouble in the back. The aptly named 15th, “Blind Faith,” is a 372-yard par-4 with no view of the fairway off the tee, and the one-shot 16th is played to a postage stamp green.

Paraparaumu’s signature risk/reward 17th, “The Jewel,” plays to a fairway split by a ridge. Typical of good strategic design, taking the more difficult route leaves you with a shorter and more straightforward second, while playing it safe off the tee makes for a tougher approach.

Visit Paraparaumu Beach online at https://www.paraparaumubeachgolfclub.co.nz.

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PuttView Golf Books

PuttView Books are detailed yardage and green maps designed to help golfers save strokes, especially under tournament conditions. They offer precise visual representations of courses, including topographic slope percentages, fairway arrows for slopes over 4%, and a dual view of greens accurate to the millimeter. The books are printed on high-quality waterproof paper, sized to fit traditional yardage book covers, and are USGA legal. 

Customers praise PuttView Books for their stunning detail, stylish presentation, and the confidence they instill in decision-making on the course. With 30,000 courses represented, your home course is bound to be available, as is Paraparaumu Beach!

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Further Reading

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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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True Links
by  Malcolm Campbell & George Peper

Summary: True Links by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper profiles over 240 of the world’s top links golf courses across the British Isles and beyond, examining their history, design features, and status as an authentic “true links.” Organized geographically, the book offers photos, maps, scorecards and playing tips for renowned seaside tests like Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Cabot Links, Barnbougle Dunes and others that meet the authors’ criteria.  For links golf aficionados, True Links serves as an illustrated guidebook for experiencing the unique joys and challenges of the game’s most revered coastal courses.

Videos

Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club
Paraparaumu – Random Golf Club
Shell’s WWoG – 1962

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