Christchurch Golf Club
A links style restoration in the heart of the Garden City
The Round Up
Location: Christchurch, Canterbury
Green Fees: NZ Resident- $115, Overseas Visitor- $205
Kiwi Caddy’s First Tee Advice: Do anything to avoid the fairway bunker on the right side, it's deep and will likely require a pitch out!
The Takeaways: Strong conditioning, Excellent fairway bunkering, Fun green complexes, Playability for all abilities, A slight lack of risk-reward balance and variety in hole layouts
Signature Hole: 9th Hole
The 3rd is a short downhill par 3 which often plays into the wind, to a green well guarded by bunkers and a drop off zone to the left.
The Par 4 9th, is a first shot hole. Demanding an accurate tee shot to a heavily undulated fairway protected by a stream running across the middle in play for longer hitters. Fairway bunkers litter the left hand side.
The 17th is a short par 4, with the elevated tee overlooking the course back towards the clubhouse. Option to layup or longer hitters may be able to clear the stream running through the fairway. Approach into the double green shared with the first flag.
Founded in 1873, Christchurch Golf Club (affectionately referred to as ‘Shirley’ by locals) stakes the claim as the second oldest club in New Zealand. Laid out just minutes from the city centre in the garden suburb, Shirley is the pride of the golfing landscape in Canterbury, and the home of local legend Sir Bob Charles.
A historic feel awaits as you drive through the gates of the club toward the pristine white clubhouse, contrasting the lush rolling fairways in the background. Shirley now presents a vast, largely tree-free setting and the view from the pro shop is more than enough to tell you that the course is immaculately conditioned, with true greens and short cut, evenly covered fairways. Formerly a traditional parkland style course, Christchurch Golf Club has gone through a significant restoration over the last few years towards a quasi-links feel. Fairways once framed by dense towering trees have been left bare and exposed, and the holes’ defences have been shifted toward bunkers, restored green complexes and undulating fairways.
The once flatter fairways have been contoured with significant lumps, bumps and slopes and a number of holes with a ‘dune style’ feel funneling you toward the greens up ahead. This has increased the creativity required in approach shots, with a number of different lies and blind shots. The previously flat greens have been replaced by multi-tiered, heavily sloping greens, which in true links fashion are guarded by gaping pot bunkers and run-off areas. The green complexes here are awesome with no straight putts on the course, and ample opportunities for some intriguing pin positions leading to some really fun approaches into the greens. Post-restoration, Shirley may well have the best fairway bunkering in New Zealand. The bunkers are deep and plentiful across the entire course, and positioned perfectly at various lengths from the tee not excluding any players from being caught out.
Shirley is now an extremely playable golf course for all abilities. By opening the course up, it has presented players with a range of options for how to play the hole and promoted creativity, much like a links course. Due to the significant tree removal, there are no restrictions or limitations on how the golf course can now be played and that can make for an extremely fun round of golf, particularly for members of the course who play it frequently. I absolutely loved most of the re-design!
The primary concern with Shirley is that the restoration of the course has left it in the awkward position of being stuck between parkland and links. There are a number of characteristics of a links course featured, however the leftover trees preclude it from true links status. Unfortunately, although a number of excellent tests of execution and strategy remain, they are offset by some weaker, straight holes with not a lot going on by way of shape, contouring or defenses making for a few holes of less engaging golf. Given that the tree-lining of the relatively straight-forward holes was the course’s main line of protection in the past, their removal has simplified a large number of the holes, reducing both the risk-reward balance and the variety of the layout. Overall this is what is hindering Shirley’s overall shot value and appeal.
Shirley Golf Club is now an open, fun and playable golf course which promotes creativity and offers a number of ways to get around it. The stretches of weaker laid out holes across the course removes it from the elite discussion, however the conditioning is as good as anything around the country. Although not perfect, the overall layout and structure of the course provides some much needed variety from the standard parkland layouts that frequent the Canterbury region. Shirley is a golf course that should absolutely be tested by all who have the chance to get out and tee it up.
Booking a Tee Time
Shirley Golf Club is welcoming of guests at most times. Like most clubs, there are a number of Member only times scattered throughout the week, and Saturday is Members Day. Booking a week in advance will usually be sufficient for obtaining the tee time you're after. You may be asked for a letter of introduction from your local club.
The best way to do this would be to drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to Stay
Post the 2011 earthquake which destroyed Christchurch's city centre, it has been restored in a modern and fun way. There are a number of fun pockets to the city and new places to stay. I would absolutely recommend staying within the city centre with plenty of bars and eateries at your door step.
High End: Newly built in 2019 within the city centre, Sudima Christchurch City is the newest 5 star offering. Offering deluxe rooms with views across the parks and cities and a spa facility.
Mid-Range: Quest on Manchester provides clean and convenient self-catered apartment stays in the city centre
Budget: Offering stylish and clean rooms at low end prices, The Parque Christchurch is a great value stay in the heart of the city!
Best Golf Within 45 Minutes:
The Canterbury Region is spoiled for choice when it comes to golf. Plenty of different options with excellent variety:
- Clearwater Golf Club
- Harewood Golf Club
- Pegasus Golf & Sports Club
What to do in the Area
- Walk or drive up the Port Hills for amazing views over the alps, sea and city!
- Head up to The Pink Lady, Christchurch's new rooftop bar for a cocktail
- Browse the Riverside Market for some of the best food offerings in the city
- Take a ride on the City Tour Tram for convenient sightseeing!
- Check out why Christchurch is dubbed 'The Garden City' at Christchurch Botanical Gardens