A short drive from the heart of Queenstown, Arrowtown is described on its tourism website as a ‘charming and quirky’ old gold rush town, which is also a perfect description for one of the purist golfing experiences available in New Zealand. The Arrowtown Golf Club was established in the 1930s on a 9-hole course just a short stroll from the centre of town. It was laid out by members alongside a regional road, and later expanded in the 1970s on a narrow plot of land on the other side. It’s said that B.V. Wright, who advised on the design of the second nine in 1971, had worked closely with Reg Romans on the original holes some 30 plus years before.
Whether true or not, one of the great achievements with the newer holes is tying them with the older nine and making the course feel like it had always been a full 18. Principally this was achieved by sticking with the unusual tactic of completely bunkerless golf holes. There isn’t a single sand hazard at Arrowtown, nor is the course the poorer for it. Instead holes tumble and roll across quite dizzying undulations, with narrowness, bumpy ground, native fescue grasses and some wild design features keeping golfers on their toes. As one would expect, there are a few dullish moments but generally this is great fun and certainly the equal of the pricey, more high-profile, modern courses nearby.
The fun at Arrowtown starts from the opening hole, a strong par three with a green set immediately beyond a broad mound. The 2nd and 3rd then play through claustrophobic valleys toward push-up green sites, the 3rd with a fabulous mountain backdrop and nasty bump in its front. The remainder of the outward half is great fun, with wild, blind tee shots, crazy split fairway landing areas and wonderfully organic green areas. Most are quite small and can be difficult to hit when firm and bouncy.
The back nine continues the Arrowtown theme of quirky holes, rolling fairways and small, natural green sites. The par 4, par 3, par 5 combination from the 11th to 13th is especially memorable. The over-riding memory, however, from Arrowtown is golf as it was meant to be; fun, original and not taking itself overly serious. Neighbouring Millbrook and The Hills might be stronger, longer and more daunting tests, but neither is quite as charming. The views here are equally impressive as any in the district and the rare treat of a course on natural land that is under-designed and under-stated is likely to please discerning visitors. Even those who find the idea of an old, short bunkerless course a little twee should be aware that this is a serious test, thanks to its narrow, bouncy fairways and small greens.
For an unusual but interesting and enjoyable round of golf in a beautiful setting, Arrowtown comes highly recommended.