Golf: The Hills pipped by Kinloch

The Hills has the loveliest aesthetics, the most impressive conditioning and the best ambience of all New Zealand golf courses.

But it has not quite done enough to be No 1 overall.

Sir Michael Hill's piece of paradise near Arrowtown comes in at No 2 in the annual rankings of New Zealand courses, compiled by Dunedin professional Andrew Whiley.

The Hills topped the charts in the above three categories but finished second overall - by an extremely narrow margin - to Kinloch, the Jack Nicklaus signature course near Taupo.

The best of the other Otago courses were Jacks Point (third) and Millbrook (10th). Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs, Wairakei, Royal Wellington, Paraparaumu and Titirangi rounded out the top 10.

Kinloch has gone from No 3 to No 2 to No 1 in the past three years of the rankings. Wairakei was top in the first poll, and Kauri Cliffs was No 1 in 2012 and 2013.

Whiley believes this, his fourth poll, is the most extensive ranking of New Zealand golf courses yet undertaken.

He had 22 respondents, including New Zealand PGA professionals, tour professionals (including Greg Turner, Michael Hendry, Grant Moorhead, Richard Lee and Fraser Wilkin), club professionals, two top women's golfers and course superintendents.

Each was asked to rank his or her top 12 courses in each of the North and South islands. From those rankings, a national top 25 was calculated.

Whiley had previously conducted rankings where golfers were asked only to rate the courses, with no breakdown of what made them better than the rest.

He has now adopted the Golf Digest ranking system, where respondents are asked to rank each course - out of five points - in seven categories: shot values, resistance to scoring, design variety, memorability, aesthetics, conditioning and ambience.

Whiley hopes the rankings will encourage both golf tourists and New Zealanders who may have overlooked world-class courses on their own doorstep to book a round.

He intends to do a follow-up ranking, featuring regional ''club member'' courses. He will be asking club golfers from throughout New Zealand for feedback to assist these rankings.

The next full golf course rankings will be conducted in 2016.

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