For anyone thinking of retiring to a home on a world-class golf course, in an English-speaking country with British traditions and legal system, a stable economy, low crime rate, and temperate weather, New Zealand ticks all the boxes says PETER SWAIN.
Kiwis still refer to Britain as ‘the mother country’, and our two countries have many things in common, including a love of sport. New Zealand's golf prowess isn’t as well known as their love for rugby and cricket but the land of Bob Charles and rising female star Lydia Ko, has a dozen world class courses.
New Zealand is also incredibly beautiful – most of the Lord of the Rings and the recent Hobbit films were filmed there. The North and South Islands together are slightly larger than the UK but have a population of only 4.5 million people who drive on the left and produce some of the finest wines on the planet. What more could you want?
Of course, it does take 24 hours to get there. But thankfully golf-friendly Air New Zealand is regularly voted the world’s best long-haul carrier. You can break the trip halfway in LA, and if you’re contemplating a full time move, who cares? And as long as visitors are going for a month or more, the 12-hour time difference isn’t really an issue.
New Zealand facts
GETTING THERE: Auckland is the international hub for flights from the UK, with Christchurch, the capital of South Island, a short 1½ hr hop further on. Air NZ has most flights, but Singapore Air and Cathay also fly there with one stop, and BA and Virgin with two. Flight time, about 24 hours in total.
CURRENCY: NZ dollar
GOLF TOURNAMENTS: Kiwis and Australians enjoy their own vibrant PGA Tour. The most lucrative tournaments are the NZ BMW Open currently held in Christchurch, and the PGA Championship at the Hills Club in Queenstown.
QUEENSTOWN, South Island
This small town in Central Otago is known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’. A sort of Chamonix in the Southern Alps, it was here that AJ Hackett invented bungy jumping by launching himself off the Kawarau Bridge. Sky-diving, white-water rafting, mountaineering and skiing also attract visitors, and if all that sounds a little too energetic, the glorious Gibbston valley, just 10 miles away, is a paradise for budding wine lovers.
Most of the vineyards in the valley are only a generation or two old, but already they’re creating waves. The Pinot Noirs from the likes of Mount Difficulty, Amisfield and the Gibbston Valley Winery are world-class, while the dry Rieslings are a mellow revelation. Just like the local golf courses. Queenstown and its quaint neighbour Arrowtown have six, of which three are right up there with Scotland’s finest.
With its distinctive modernist clubhouse, the most pristine is the Hills. At 7,213 yards, this personal fiefdom of local millionaire, Sir Michael Hills, regularly hosts the NZ Open and the PGA Championship. Dramatic scenery, immaculate conditioning and some very original design features make for a memorable if long and challenging round. But the club has no houses on it – good or bad depending on your perspective.
So keen golf property buyers must head instead for Jack’s Point and Millbrook.
Jack’s PointBearing comparison with Lock Lomond or Kingsbarns, this is a spectacular course running along the banks of Lake Wakatipu, under the lee of the 7,500-foot snow-topped Remarkables mountain range.
The 6,906-yard masterpiece, designed by John Darby, meanders across rolling hills covered in tussocky grass, dotted with dramatic rocky outcrops. Of all the courses I’ve played in NZ, it’s my favourite.
Through nationwide country-house specialists Baileys, a Christies International affiliate, good-sized plots overlooking the course start at only NZ$215,000 (£120,000), with a minimum of about the same again to build a house.
A couple of modernist palaces along the lake featuring plenty of stone, wood and glass have already been built, and look magnificent.
One of the advantages of Queenstown is that while golf and adventure sports feature in the summer, the ski slopes of the Southern Alps are only 15 minutes away, so there’s good potential here for all-year-round rental income.
The 500-acre Millbrook Country Club, featuring an 18-hole Bob Charles-designed championship course, and a new 9-hole loop created by Greg Turner, is reminiscent of Devon – Dartmouth Golf Club springs to mind. Streams, schist stone outcrops, elevation changes and trees provide plenty of challenges.
Open in 1993, it’s a mature set-up with an active social side so British members feel completely at home. As well as the golf, they enjoy a 25m indoor heated pool, magnificent spa, grass tennis courts and three restaurants. The pro shop will even renovate your hickory clubs.
Millbrook was recently judged one of the Top Five Golf Resorts Worldwide. Its hotel features cosy rooms in the Village Inn, and spacious two-bedroom apartments called Hotel Villas, several of which are on the market for NZ$595,000 (£325,000).
NZ$1.85m (£1m) buys you an upmarket McEntyres Tarn. Several of these stone and timber 3,0002ft four-bedroom open-plan houses designed for both summer and winter living, with fireplaces inside and out, have been bought by extended Kiwi and UK families clubbing together to share the cost. It all makes for a thriving community.
The capital of South Island had two devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, but don’t let that put you off. NZ$30 billion (£16.5 billion) has been earmarked for renovation, and the vision is to re-create one of the great small cities of the world.
The place has a vibrant cultural life, great shopping and is surrounded by lovely countryside. Micro-breweries abound, restaurants are innovative, and nearby wineries, with Pegasus Bay in the lead, produce outstanding vintages.
On the edge of town, the magnificent 7,137-yard Clearwater course currently hosts the NZ Open. Another John Darby design in association with Bob Charles, who also has a house there, it’s a tough Florida-style parkland set-up with flawless fairways threaded between artificial lakes, leading to vast greens protected by aggressive bunkering.
One-bed Lakeview Villas start at NZ$265,000 (£145,000), with the popular two-bedroom models fetching NZ$495,000 (£272,000). ‘With the airport nearby and rental property at a premium in Christchurch, 6-7% rental returns are realistic,’ reckons the local Sotheby’s agent, Brian Brakenridge, who also has a variety of plots to sell. Family club membership is NZ$2,800 (£1,540) a year.
There’s no CGT or stamp duty in NZ, and as the rebuilding of Christchurch gathers pace, this will be a truly exciting place to live over the next 25 years.
DON’T FORGET: Always seek an independent lawyer to guide you through the buying process, and check maintenance charges and rental conditions carefully.
ALWAYS REMEMBER: New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere with their winter and summer at opposite times of year to the UK’s. So retirees keeping a base in Blighty to keep in touch with the family can avoid cold winters altogether. Now there’s a thought…