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Why Queenstown is the golfing capital of the world

Ask any passionate Aussie golfer where they would choose for a perfect golfing holiday abroad, and chances are Queenstown will be top of the list, writes Jon Underwood.

Queenstown golf is at the top of the list, because this ever-popular town on New Zealand’s South Island has all the right ingredients for golfing nirvana.

Picture world-class courses that are just 20 minutes from the centre of town. It’s open to all visitors, no matter what your standard.

Add a wide range of accommodation and plenty of activities for après, and you can see why Queenstown has been a mecca for golfers for decades.

Queenstown golf Fond reflections of the course at Millbrook
Fond reflections of the course at Millbrook

Thrills at the Mill

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Queenstown several times in the past 30 years and Millbrook is a long-time favourite. With The Remarkables as a backdrop, this course offers 27 varied and challenging holes set out in three, nine-hole loops: The Remarkables, The Arrow and The Coronet Nine.

Since my first visit, they’ve spent millions turning the place into a top-class resort. But along the way, they’ve still managed to retain the property’s authenticity. Millbrook Resort is built on 200 hectares of farmland and some of the original buildings are still in situ, giving the place a rustic, genteel atmosphere. In addition to teeing off, the award-winning resort offers five-star accommodation. This includes a luxury spa, several dining options and a range of health and fitness activities.

Jack's Point golf
Jack's Point golf

The Hills have eyes… and tails!

When I first played The Hills, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was on a golf course or in an art gallery. Impressive sculptures of horses, wolves and even dragonflies line and frame some of the holes. These additions certainly make this a unique place to play the game.

The course is the brainchild of jewellery magnate Sir Michael Hill. He has turned his own backyard in the Wakatipu Basin into one of the country’s greatest layouts. It only opened in 2007, but has already hosted the New Zealand Open and New Zealand PGA. Although described as New Zealand’s most exclusive golf club, The Hills allows some visitors to play and make use of the award-winning clubhouse with its renowned restaurant.

“We accept a maximum of 12 visitors per day excluding Sundays, which are members-only,” says Craig Palmer, director of golf at the course. “There are no hoops to jump through to secure a tee time. Booking enquiries can be made via our website.”

Jack’s Point is a hit among avid golfers
Jack’s Point is a hit among avid golfers

Jack makes his point

For me, the best course in Queenstown is Jack’s Point, which – entirely appropriately – was named after the first man to find gold in the region. This is a 24-karat gem of a layout, regularly voted among the best in the country since opening in 2008.

With The Remarkables as your backdrop, the layout weaves through native bush and rocky outcrops. The stretch of holes from the fifth to the eighth along Lake Wakatipu are particularly awe-inspiring. If you’re only going to play one course in Queenstown, this has to be it. Just remember to bring a camera along with your clubs. Make sure you also stay for a bite at the restaurant located in the impressive clubhouse. Jack’s Restaurant serves seasonal, local produce cooked over charcoal and some of the area’s best seafood.

Queenstown golf
Every hole at Arrowtown Golf Club has a memorable mountain view, particularly pretty when the seasons change and cast the countryside in colour

The best of the rest

While they don’t always get the plaudits of their more illustrious neighbours, Arrowtown and Queenstown golf clubs are both a delight to play for different reasons. Arrowtown Golf Club is surrounded by mountains and has memorable views from every hole, and in a nod to the pioneers who first settled here, the course features historic stone cottages on some of the holes. A range of development work to both tees and greens is underway to further enhance the playability of this country-style classic.

A friend of mine is a member of Queenstown Golf Club and always raves about the warm welcome visitors receive from the locals. I can vouch for this, having played many rounds here before enjoying some hospitality in the club bar. The course is framed on three sides by Lake Wakatipu. It is regarded by many as one of the most picturesque layouts in the world. The fifth is a particular highlight, playing as it does along the shore of the lake. It’s one hole you won’t want to miss.

This article first appeared in the Signature Luxury Travel & Style Ultimate Guide to Queenstown ebook. To download the latest issue click here.

Lead image: Golfing backdrops don’t get much more spectacular than at Jack’s Point