Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 4
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 4
A stream cuts across the fourth hole at the Wairakei International Golf Course. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 5
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 5
The fifth hole at the Wairakei International Golf Course is a little par 3 at the corner of the property. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 6
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 6
The elevated sixth tee box at the Wairakei International Golf Course provides a great view. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 8
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 8
A water hazard protects the eighth green at the Wairakei International Golf Course in New Zealand. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 10
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 10
The 10th green at the Wairakei International Golf Course sits on a plateau slightly above the tee. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 11
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 11
The 11th hole at the Wairakei International Golf Course plays as a short par 4. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 14
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 14
The gorgeous par-5 14th is the No. 1 handicap hole at the Wairakei International Golf Course in New Zealand. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 15
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 15
The par-3 15th hole at the Wairakei International Golf Course plays downhill. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor
Wairakei International Golf Course - aerial
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Wairakei International Golf Course - aerial
This aerial shot of the Wairakei International Golf Course shows just how natural the site is. Courtesy of Wairakei International
Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 8
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Wairakei International Golf Course - hole 8
A golfer tries to conquer the eighth green at the Wairakei International Golf Course in New Zealand. Courtesy of Wairakei International
Wairakei International Golf Course - golfers
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Wairakei International Golf Course - golfers
The Wairakei International Golf Course has long been recognized as one of New Zealand's best courses. Courtesy of Wairakei International

Hunt for birds and birdies inside the sanctuary called the Wairakei International Golf Course in New Zealand

TAUPO, New Zealand -- Wairakei International Golf Course, named by Golf Digest as one of the top 100 golf courses outside of the United States in 2005, served as the forefather to Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers in attracting international golfers to New Zealand.

Wairakei opened in 1970, built with government money in the midsection of the North Island just 10 kilometers from Lake Taupo, the country's largest lake. English architect John Harris teamed with five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson and his associate, Michael Wolveridge, to create a playground spread across 450 acres within the Wairakei Geothermal Park.

Playing Wairakei feels like a walk in the park, because it is. The entire 6,444-meter (roughly 7,047 yards) course officially became a protected pest-free wildlife sanctuary in 2011, when the owner fenced in the course and planted more than 25,000 native trees and 5,000 exotic species, both for beautification and as a food source to attract native birds.

Golfers will appreciate the natural setting of streams, ponds and bunker faces lined with wood (almost like Pete Dye's railroad ties). The unique routing rides some hilly land and might feel a bit disjointed at times.

It's never boring, though.

The par-5 14th, the no. 1 handicap hole, bends right, swinging through a narrow chute in the pine trees toward an elevated green set on a ridge.

"It is a tactical course," said Mark Webb of Hamilton.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Hunt for birds and birdies inside the sanctuary called the Wairakei International Golf Course in New Zealand
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