Unsurprisingly thought up one night in a pub and sketched on the back of a beer mat, the Hole in One Challenge has been a fixture on the Taupō lakefront since 1993.
Three holes of varying sizes, from standard width right up to a vast 50cm in diameter, are located on a pontoon floating just over 100 metres out from the shore. They are the irresistible target for aspiring Lydia Kos, who buy buckets of golf balls to whack towards it with mostly predictable results.
What can be relied upon, though, is the fun to be had in the attempt, by anyone able to swing a club and those encouraging/mocking them.
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Because, on average once every fortnight, someone – over 1000 so far – and sometimes even a complete novice – scores a win and walks away with a prize. Getting a ball into the holes with the blue or white flags allows you to choose from a range of vouchers for an outing with local tourism operators: anything from a leisurely cruise to a bungy jump. The skilled (or super-lucky) golfer, and so far there have been seven, who drops a ball into the middle hole with the red flag receives the ultimate prize: $10,000. As a consolation, if you just land your ball on the pontoon nowhere near a hole, you’ll get a free one and another chance at that big chunk of loot.
Don’t worry about all those submerged golf balls mounting up: a snorkeller goes out to retrieve them every day. There are six tees to drive from, so keep a close eye on your ball to avoid disputes with your fellow golfers over whose shot landed where.
ON THE WAY/NEARBY
For more conventional golfing action, there’s mini-golf a short distance away; as is another Taupō fixture, the McDonald’s, with its actual DC3 where you can sit inside to eat your Big Mac. If you’d rather dine somewhere fancier, you’re spoiled for choice around town.
Further along the lake front you can get out onto – or above – the water in all sorts of craft, or buzz around the Domain in a little train, or go to the museum. If you brave a swim and it leaves you feeling a bit chilly, there are hot showers in the Superloo here, if you pay $2.50.
A bucket of 15 balls costs $15, 30 balls cost $25 and 50 $40. Those who are feeling super-confident can pay $1.50 for just the one ball.
BEST TIME TO GO
You won’t want wind. The activity is open rain or shine, but a fine day will at least allow you to appreciate the glorious views of the mountains at the far side of the lake, if you’re not able to score much pontoon action in the foreground. During summer, Hole in One Challenge stays open late, for a different experience under the lights. See holein1.co.nz