Former United States President Barack Obama is due to leave Northland on Thursday after a 24-hour visit which saw him play a round at one of the world's top golf courses and stay at an luxury Bay of Islands hideaway.

After taking off from Auckland on Wednesday morning, Mr Obama's helicopter — escorted by a second chopper which landed seconds earlier — touched down at 9.45am at the grounds of Kauri Cliffs, an exclusive golf course overlooking the ocean near Matauri Bay.

New Zealand and US flags were flying in front of the clubhouse to welcome the ex-President.

Former US President Barack Obama tees off at Northland's exclusive Kauri Cliffs golf course in a photo posted to Air NZ's Twitter account. Photo / Air New Zealand
Former US President Barack Obama tees off at Northland's exclusive Kauri Cliffs golf course in a photo posted to Air NZ's Twitter account. Photo / Air New Zealand

Mr Obama's group, which included his golf buddy and former Prime Minister Sir John Key and Key's son Max, left the clubhouse about an hour later for a round at a golf course which is consistently rated among the world's top 50.

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Security at Kauri Cliffs was low-key, with a staff member at the gate politely turning away uninvited guests and several plain-clothes police patrolling nearby roads in unmarked cars.

In any case, the golf course is protected by cliffs and ocean along one side and more than a kilometre of farmland on the other.

Barack Obama takes a putt on the 13th hole at Kauri Cliffs. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Barack Obama takes a putt on the 13th hole at Kauri Cliffs. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Security staff checked the green before Mr Obama's group of six arrived in golf carts at the 13th hole, the only one clearly visible from a public road.

At one point Mr Obama could be seen putting his arm around Sir John's shoulders, but it wasn't clear if he was congratulating him for a good shot or consoling him after he hit a ball into a bunker.

Conditions were near perfect with sunshine, scattered cloud and a light breeze which picked up later in the day.

Few people live on unsealed Tepene Tablelands Rd and the few farmers at work were oblivious to the VIP teeing off nearby.

President Barack Obama arrives at Kauri Cliffs in an AgustaWestland 109S Grand helicopter yesterday. Photo / Peter de Graaf
President Barack Obama arrives at Kauri Cliffs in an AgustaWestland 109S Grand helicopter yesterday. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Mr Obama's visit did, however, pull more national media than Northland has seen since Waitangi Day. Dozens of cameras were trained on the distant green in the hope of a capturing the 44th US President at play.

Kauri Cliffs wouldn't comment on Wednesday's visit, with a spokeswoman saying ''our bottom line is that we don't talk about our guests''.

A 1.25 nautical mile no-fly zone was imposed over Kauri Cliffs until 5.30pm on Wednesday to keep the curious at bay.

Later Mr Obama was expected to spend the night at The Landing, an exclusive lodge on Purerua Peninsula, less than 20km away as the crow flies.

The Landing is owned by Kaitaia-born Peter Cooper who made his millions developing commercial real estate in the US. Accommodation costs up to $14,500 a night, depending on the villa and time of year.

On Thursday Mr Obama and Sir John are expected to squeeze in a second round of golf before the ex-president travels to Auckland to meet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Government House and to speak to about 1000 people at an invitation-only event.

If they want to try another Far North golf course Carrington Estate, on the Karikari Peninsula, is a likely destination.

On Friday he will meet 20 Maori women leaders from the Wahine Toa network.

His visit has been organised by the NZ-US Council to promote the relationship between the two countries, which was frosty for many years because of New Zealand's opposition to nuclear weapons.