Former United States President Barack Obama had a great day – but lost his first golf game on New Zealand soil, according to former Prime Minister Sir John Key.

After a day of golf with Obama at Kauri Cliffs today, Key reported that the game "came down to the wire".

He said the teams were "all square" after 18 holes – "Team NZ won on the second playoff hole."

Key said it was a "great match".

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"[Obama] was relaxed, loved the course and his first glimpse of New Zealand."

He said Obama was keen to return.

It is believed Key's partner was billionaire Craig Heatley – both Key and Heatley are skilled golf players.

Obama will have a chance to even the score tomorrow when the pair face off again at another course in Northland before returning to Auckland for the more formal part of the visit.

The former President arrived at the luxury Landing Residences resort at Purerua Peninsula, Bay of Islands, by helicopter.

He was seen leaving the helicopter and taking photos on the lawn in front of the clifftop accommodation.

A second helicopter followed Obama, and it's thought John and Max Key will stay at the resort tonight.

A Crown car and three patrol cars were seen driving to the Landing Residences tonight, leading to speculation some VIP guests are joining the group. All five residences were booked for tonight, with rooms costing between $4500 and $14,500 a night.

Barack Obama putting at the 13th hole at Kauri Cliffs. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Barack Obama putting at the 13th hole at Kauri Cliffs. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Barack Obama teeing off from the 15th at the Kauri Cliffs golf course. Photo / Northern Advocate
Barack Obama teeing off from the 15th at the Kauri Cliffs golf course. Photo / Northern Advocate
Barack Obama at Mechanics Bay just before his chopper flight to play golf. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Barack Obama at Mechanics Bay just before his chopper flight to play golf. Photo / Brett Phibbs