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Because the New Zealand outdoors is clean and inviting, the climate mild, and the landscape rugged, sport and fitness are important to New Zealanders, and national teams and individual representatives are followed with pride and fervour.
Sport is an important part of New Zealand life, with a large proportion of the adult population belonging to sports clubs of some kind. Media coverage of sport is extensive. The Hillary Commission for Fitness, Sport and Leisure, named after the New Zealander who first conquered Mount Everest, promotes sport on a recreational basis, as well as providing funding for competitive sportspeople.
New Zealand's diverse landscape and mild climate offers unlimited scope for recreational activity. The choice is limitless with sports clubs, golf courses, racket courts widely available.
With more golf courses per head of population than any other country, about 400, New Zealand is an ideal destination for a golfer. Many of the courses are world class; frequently set in stunning surrounds, overlooking snowy mountains, lakes, seascapes or forests.
The main season is March to October, both because the winters are relatively mild and because in summer many New Zealanders concentrate on water sports.
Most clubs welcome visitors, with green fees from $10 to $40 depending on the location and standing of the club. Equipment hire, resident professionals and in some cases motorised carts are widely available.
One of the most popular team sports is rugby union. The national team, known as the All Blacks, is one of the world's best. Another main winter sport, and the sport with the second highest player numbers, is netball. The national team, the Silver Ferns, has won the world championship several times.
Rugby league, which is professional at the higher levels, is also popular. The NZ Warriors play in the Australian-based national rugby league. Field hockey, soccer and semi-professional basketball are also played.
Summer sport faces stiff competition from the recreational possibilities of the beaches, lakes and forests, with cricket being the major sport. The Black Caps is the name of the national side. There are many tennis courts throughout the country, and other racket sports are widely played.
Lawn bowls attracts a wide range of participants from youth to retired people. In the summer months its adherents swarm over the greens dotted throughout the country.
All forms of motor racing have a keen following, New Zealand having produced world champions in Formula One Grand Prix and motorcycle racing.
For those interested in horses, a day at the "gallops" or a night at the "trots" can be a fun feature of a holiday. Bookmaking is banned, wagering being totalisator-based; the minimum bet is $1. Racing is well-administered and well-policed. See also separate entries on walking, tramping, fishing, hunting and water sports.
National Thoroughbred Racing Museum, Auckland (Ellerslie Racecourse)
Bowls NZ Museum, New Plymouth (Dean Park)
New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin (Railway Station)
New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame, Auckland (Alexandra Park Raceway)
Rugby Museum, Palmerston North
Cricket Museum, Wellington