Review Kauri Cliffs & Cape Kidnappers


As a lover of great golf courses, I now have a few notches on my belt having seen some of the most beautiful and famous courses around the world. There are the old greats in Scotland, and the mind-blowing courses in America. But there will soon be another great golfing destination, New Zealand.

I have been gradually crossing off courses from the top 100 on my working holidays around the world. Sadly, I haven't been to New Zealand for over four years. Since my last visit, there are four golf courses there that are becoming monsters. I speak of Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers, The Hills and the Kinloch Club.

These four courses alone have the potential to propel New Zealand into the golfing stratosphere. That's not selling any other golf course short in New Zealand as there are an abundance of beautiful courses, but I think these four are something special. Now I'm ashamed to admit I haven't been to any of these four courses.

"Well bloody hell Rob!" I hear you say. "How can you go blowing air up these four, you haven't even set foot on them." To this there's no argument. But I look forward to seeing them perhaps with more anticipation than any other course I have visited so far, and I have a feeling that I will not be disappointed.

Anyone who has seen photos of Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers would have to agree with me. They look as if they may have been created by golf-loving gods, or maybe a twister picked up Pebble Beach Golf Links and dumped it on the 200-meter-high cliffs in New Zealand! They are a credit to the designers and anyone who has worked on them. We all know New Zealand as one of the most geographically diverse places in the world, and to not change the property but instead design the course to naturally encompass the land it around it, is what has makes these two courses so stunning.

Both Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers are owned by New York hedge fund guru Julian Robertson. After Robertson bought a 6,000-acre sheep and cattle farm in Hawkes Bay in 1995, he didn't know what to do with it until a golf designer said he could create a course without moving any dirt.

Kauri Cliffs was designed and built by David Harman of Golf Course Consultants, Orlando, Fla. The par-72 course measures 7,119 yards. Fifteen holes view the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside cliffs that plunge into the sea. The inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland. The golf complex includes a large practice range, putting and chipping greens, a well-stocked golf shop, and ladies' and men's locker rooms.

Par-71 Cape Kidnappers stretches 7,119 yards. Designed by Tom Doak, the layout occupies a portion of a 428-hectare sheep and cattle property and opened in November 2007 to accompany Kauri Cliffs. Built alongside cluster of farm buildings with a red silo at its center, the Farm is set on a ridge above the course. Golf Magazine ranks the course No. 41 in the world and it's easy to see why. Cape Kidnappers straddles massive chalk cliffs, and every hole has a view of Hawke's Bay. The land leans toward the sea along a series of ridges. What's distinctive is that you get to the edge of the course and can peer over cliffs, a breath-taking experience. On the sixth and 15th holes, you have to navigate across a ravine to reach the greens. Hit a bad tee shot and your ball will plunge into the ocean 200 meters below.

Properly maintaining these courses is a feat in itself, as everyone knows we don't have anything like the numbers of qualified superintendents down here as in the States. What Oceania lacks in staff numbers, it makes it up by well-trained and passionate greenkeepers and groundsmen. It would be a rare top golf course that hasn't seen the service of a traveling Kiwi or Aussie - we are known to get around a bit after all! Traveling Oceania greenkeepers have never had much hassle getting work, as we are recognized all over the world as hard-working "turfies" who know their stuff, be it warm or cool season grasses we are fast to adapt.

This will be the last time I rave about these two courses until I'm lucky enough to set foot upon them and have a beer with a few greenkeepers. I'm sure the challenges they face on the wind-blasted cliffs make for interesting stories on these unusual links courses.

As for The Hills and the Kinloch Club, I believe I have already mentioned the great courses on more than one occasion. These two courses are less than a year old, and they'll aiming to double New Zealand's highly underrated contribution on the flawed top-100 list, surely the folks in America can't ignore the splendor of them.

The above article originally appeared on the Australian website, www.pitchcare.com.au.


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