James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Book review: Country Courses of New Zealand

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Country Courses of NZ. Photo / Supplied
Country Courses of NZ. Photo / Supplied

There's one thing I find really frustrating when taking road trips around New Zealand. It's not the endless loop of iPod tunes after forgetting to add a new playlist or the real possibility of my kids barfing at any time with car sickness.

It's driving past empty golf courses in scenic, tranquil settings where there are no queues and booking times for a tee are probably unheard of that really does my head in.

Michael Donaldson's book Country Courses of New Zealand alleviates this somewhat by giving us a look into 10 courses scattered around the North and South Islands that people like me have driven past, probably thinking "I'll bring my clubs next time".

Though the stunningly photographed book reads in many parts like a caddy's notes, there is magic in the various characters at these clubs and the little glimpses from some of our best professionals into the courses that helped shape their games.

Former PGA pro Phil Tataurangi, who learned the game from the age of 7 at the Waitomo Golf Club, thought the topography changes, fast greens and tree-lined fairways made it easy to pretend he was playing at Augusta National, while top commentator Frank Nobilo says the Waitakere course demanded he shape his tee shots and learn how to control his ball flight and the distance of his iron shots.

The book reveals things you can't see from the highways like the cable car on the 18th hole at the Rangatira course just out of Hunterville, or the switch for the electric fences around the greens you have to turn off before your round at Eketahuna.

It also gives insights into the strange goings on at some clubs like Mahia where after an entry fee of $120 for two days at the annual tournament sees your green fees sorted, "four feeds" of fare like venison and paua fritters - and some members camping out on the course or sleeping in the clubhouse after a riotous night.

The book is a bonus for tragics who have played a number of these courses and will likely discuss some of Donaldson's course management ideas.

But it stands on its own as a look into the architecture, vistas, personalities and communities that are a part of the local golf landscape and a worthy read.

- NZ Herald

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