The revival of Formosa Golf Resort – getting back on its feet, on and off the course

In the 25 years since Formosa Golf Resort opened, its adolescence has been a wild time.

Born to a famous father in 1997, it was designed by New Zealand’s first major champion – Kiwi golfing royalty, Sir Bob Charles.

By its first birthday, it was hosting the New Zealand Open, which that year even saw Tiger Woods’ moustachioed caddy, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, fly to Auckland for the event just months after he’d helped Woods to his iconic first major at The Masters.

But at times since, Formosa’s found itself on the naughty step.

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Conditioning of the course slipped badly under previous owners. Unkempt turf littered with weeds were matched by bunkers without any sand.

The lowest point though came in 2020, with an $86,000 fine for pumping untreated sewage into the environment, a year after Auckland Council had banned Formosa from discharging waste into a nearby stream.

Thankfully, the ownership which oversaw those bad times are long gone.

Now, it’s operated by Australian hotel chain Rydges, who are well into a major restoration to get the place back on its feet.

And, they’re doing a good job.

The view from the 11th tee as the signature back nine opens up.


The view from the 11th tee as the signature back nine opens up.

The fairways are manicured, the greens are true and the bunkers are full of fine, fresh sand. Clearly, a lot of time, money and effort has been poured in – and now some of the best holes in the country shine once again.

The undulations and tiers in the Par 4 fourth green are some of the most extreme (and fun) to be found anywhere in New Zealand. Hit the wrong shelf to a front-left or back right pin and even a single digit handicapper will be relieved to not four-putt.

The 7th is a brilliantly strong Par 3, playing way uphill, across a valley and through a chute of trees.

But it’s the back nine where Formosa really shines.

The view from one of the 50 villas available at Formosa.


The view from one of the 50 villas available at Formosa.

Eleven is the undisputed highlight of one best collection of Par 3’s in the country, plunging steeply downhill with the ocean in the background.

The sea views continue on the 13th green, with the putting surface snug to the water’s edge and offering a beautiful view of Rangitoto Island.

Fourteen is a brilliant short Par 4 which is all about avoiding a huge centre-line fairway bunker, followed by the 16th and 17th which are perhaps the best consecutive holes on the property.

A villa lounge, with ocean view.


A villa lounge, with ocean view.

The first of those is a reachable Par 5 (if you’re a big hitter) and where the second shot to the green is one of the most fun on the course. Seventeen, meanwhile, is a short but tricky Par 4 where it’s all about navigating a large pond and tall tress on the front-left of the green.

Huge improvements have also been made off-course.

The GPS systems in the golf carts are fitted with Bluetooth, so you can connect your phone and listen to music on the way round.

The driving range has been done up and on what’s a large property, there’s no need to have to make a separate trip to the pro shop for a range token – you can just rock up and paywave with your bank card or phone for practice balls on the automated machine.

The Nineteen restaurant and bar at Rydges Formosa Golf Resort.


The Nineteen restaurant and bar at Rydges Formosa Golf Resort.

Fifty villas have also been given some much-needed TLC. The interior designs are modern and sleek, with most offering a pretty view of the Hauraki Gulf.

The view and volume of on-site accommodation make it a popular wedding venue – one of which was being set-up on the lawn area between the clubhouse and the 10th tees on the day visited.

The bar and restaurant have also undergone extensive renovation, with the kitchen using local and sustainable ingredients across menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and kids are also catered for.

Overseeing it all is a new general manager in Bjorn van Ginkel.

Bjorn saved my bacon when I’d realised while driving home that I’d left something expensive in the golf cart I’d been using, and kindly couriered it back to me (thanks again, Bjorn).

The last time I’d been to Formosa was 1995 – and there was a reason I hadn’t been back for seven years. But with the recent restoration and more work on the course to come, it’s back on the map as a tee-time.

Fact file:

Rydges Formosa Golf Resort is located 40 minutes southeast of Auckland. Non-affiliate green fees start from $60 for nine holes, weekdays. See: rydges.com

The writer was hosted by Rydges Formosa Golf Resort.

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