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  • Neil White

New Zealand Golf Club

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

It is a lovely paradox that one of the world’s first banked motor racing circuits should be built on the same estate as one of the most peaceful golf courses in Britain.

At New Zealand Golf Club, on the Brooklands estate in Surrey, we found the only nod towards speed was the delivery of our magnificent full English breakfast.

This is a place for gentle “good mornings”, long lunches and a clubhouse and golf course which combine the qualities of 2020s with the traditions of the 1920s.

The lockers with names of the departed simply crossed out and replaced by those of their successors is one of its quirks.

Its unusual name is steeped in the history of its founders who had been involved in the setting up of a British colony on the other side of the world in the 1800s.

New Zealand doesn’t shout about welcoming visitors but once they are through its imposing electric gates, they are treated as if they are a member for the day.

The jovial chap in the pro shop pointed us in the right direction and the ladies who took payments for our rounds and took our food orders in the clubhouse were lovely.

The lounge with its leather seats and wood panelling looked like it may have done more than a century before and my teacup and accompanying chocolate were both presented with the club’s woodpecker logo.

Outside there is a small practice green and tiny net adjacent to the pristine first tee and an opening par-four of more than 400 yards.

I had decided from the outset that keen course management would be the only way to avoid acres of beautiful purple heather and score well.

The first is lined on either side with pretty but gnarly snuff and a bunker also protects the target, so I played it as a five and ditto the second which has a narrower landing space off the tee. Result was a four-point start.

New Zealand has superb attention to detail and smooth consistent runs on greens with borrows so subtle they can send the ball unexpectedly offline.

Superbly maintained paths wind around the course and even through the rhododendrons, leaving players to emerge to attractive hole after attractive hole.

The course may be par-69 but it is certainly no pushover and all of its par-threes are a challenge, beginning at the third with bunkers on each side of a green with a false front.

We were taken back in front of the clubhouse on the fifth, the second short hole and the presence of the crowd lunching on the veranda prompted me to duff my tee shot straight into the heather.

I was about to doff my hat after my recovery until I watched in dismay as the ball slithered into the bunker. Blob.

It felt as if they were chortling behind my back as I teed off on the straightforward par-four sixth, so I snapped hooked into more purple stuff and this time it took me four shots before extraction.

Meanwhile, if they had been watching, they would have raised a glass to Mrs W. who sank a 12-footer for par.

Thereafter, a stern word with myself helped change my fortunes and my golf was more in tune with the gorgeous surroundings after refreshment at the superb halfway hut.

The eighth was one of my favourites, a short-par-four requiring a long, accurate tee shot over Calluna before a very tricky approach into a green with intimidating sand traps at the front and an even bigger one behind the flag.

The hits keep coming on the holes on the furthest corner of the property, across Martyr’s Lane, beginning at the ninth, New Zealand’s stroke index one.

This is a bending par-four with a slither of fairway between thick heather on the left and three bunkers on the right.

It is followed by a lovely par-three surrounded by raw bunkers and framed by gorgeous tall trees.

I had recorded pars on both but my day really kicked up a notch after I had cleared mighty thick rough on the 11th and then wielded a six-iron and saw my ball land within six feet of the flag. Oh, yes, it was birdie time.

The finishing run is particularly strong with course management essential for good scoring.

This is especially true on the par-four 15th which has a ridge of thick heather and bunkers about 30 yards short of the green.

The 16th also has a high intimidation factor – a very tricky par-three over a purple haze while the 17th is a very sharp right-to-left dog-leg.

New Zealand’s home hole is a gorgeous par-four, through trees and over the heather for the last time before an approach into a green with a backdrop of its smart clubhouse.

I missed a six-foot putt to complete a superb day with a three.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to unwind with a drink after the game because we had planned to go out with friends in London.

And, in a way, that shows the lure of visiting New Zealand.

This peaceful oasis of sumptuous golf is just 27 miles from central London and the perfect antidote to the hustle of life in the capital just as it was to the chaos of those early days of motor racing.

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