One Of The Toughest (And Most Beautiful) Golf Courses In The World: Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Seen it all in Golf Travel? You haven't seen New Zealand
There is really no place like it in the world. A small country located in the South Pacific consisting of two large islands simply called The North Island and The South Island. NZ offers the golf traveler a unique opportunity to experience wonders. Having a temperate climate, it's best to visit from December to March during the Southern hemisphere summer season.
Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand
Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs
Hedge fund American billionaire, Julian Robertson and his family created these magnificent golf resorts around 2001 both in the North Island of New Zealand ("Clean and Green" is a usual way kiwis refer to their country). These two amazing courses are respectively ranked 24th and 39th in the World Golf Rankings. Offering spectacular sea views, clifftop fairways and deep gorges (you're not going to waste your time looking for ball that trickled down off a cliff or flew into a deep gorge), its two of the most challenging golf courses in the world. CNN Travel rated Cape Kidnappers as the eighth toughest golf course in the world noting the 600 foot plunges into the sea.
It's best to come to New Zealand in late December through March. The average temperatures range from the mid seventies to the mid eighties during these sunny months and the winds are moderate.
Celebrities from around the world like Justin Timberlake, Chuck Schwab and others have visited these resorts. New Zealanders (commonly referred to as "Kiwis") are quiet, respectful, well mannered and very friendly. Celebrities enjoy not being bothered by fans seeking photos or autographs in New Zealand as it has an "everyman" philosophy. I was in Wellington a few years ago in an Italian restaurant overlooking the Wellington Harbour and noticed Peter Jackson and Tom Cruise sitting by themselves against the wall a few tables away. No one bothered them. Kiwis were having their own conversations and while most were aware of these major celebs, they showed a common respect for privacy.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs offers 5 star plus amenities. Dinner in the evening was fun even though my wife and I didn't know anyone. They offer complimentary drinks before dinner and as the guests at The Lodge gathered for drinks we were introduced to another couple. The wife had treated (or as Kiwis say, "Shouted") her husband a weekend at Kauri Cliffs. He happened to be a club pro at a North Shore golf course near Auckland and we hit it off right away. We learned at dinner he had played in the British Open at St Andrews years ago at the age of 19 and had great stories for us and they're still friends to this day.
Gulf Harbour Country Club, North of Auckland
Gulf Harbour Country Club is about a 40 minute drive from Auckland and is the home course of the world number one golfer Lydia Ko. The members will tell you stories as they watched her play and practice there every day when she was in her teens. The picture above is Gulf Harbour's signature hole (the 16th, par 4 - 464 yards) and hardest hole on the course. Yes, you can fall off a cliff looking for your ball and that's happened at other cliff courses in New Zealand. The World Cup Of Golf was played here in 1996 just after the course was built. John Daly drove his tee shots on this dogleg right hole as the crow flies - i.e., he used the hypotenuse, - across the gorge and landed his drives about 30 yards in front of the green.
Tara Iti Golf Club
Have you ever played Royal Dornoch?
On the east coast of the North Island is a brand new private links golf course developed by American billionaire, RIc Kayne, Years ago, I played Royal Dornach in Northern Scotland which was one of Tom Watson's favorite courses and it brought back memories of playing it again but this has much nicer weather. This course is scheduled to open October 1, 2015.
Lake Taupo Area
Lake Taupo, NZ
In the center of the North Island is Lake Taupo which offers besides magnificent golf, world class trout fishing. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Bill Gates, George Bush and the Queen Mother herself have fished for trout in the many rivers and lakes. There are two major Golf Courses in Lake Taupo: Kinloch was designed by Jack Nicklaus and the awesome aerial view (about 100 feet up) from the 10th tee overlooking the back nine is unforgettable and especially significant after fighting your way up the 9th fairway to a hilltop green. Nearby is Wairackei International Golf Course where you'll find deer and play golf among semi-tame wildlife. By the way, there are no snakes in New Zealand. The Huka Lodge is a world class accommodation in the Lake Taupo area where the notables stay.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Kiwis like to tramp. Sound boring? Not so here. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a World Heritage site and considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest,single day hike in the world. It was like walking on the moon. If you get near Lake Taupo, do this, it's unforgettable.
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand
Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club
Paraparaumu (it's a Mauri name) is a small town on the Kapiti Coast which is the coast on the lower west side of the North Island. Paraparam' (the local nickname for the town) is only a few thousand people but has its own airport and you can get a flight direct and play this course which is regarded as one of the best links courses in the Southern Hemisphere. Once ranked as high as 7lst in the world, the greens are immaculate and you can also enjoy Kiwi culture, and entertainment in nearby Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.
Queenstown golf and area
I traveled alone to New Zealand on my first visit and landed in the North Island. I asked around: what's there to do here? What's the main attraction? What's fun? What's unique, etc. Nine times out of ten, people told me to "Go to Queenstown." then I'd get a smile and that's all they said. I didn't understand then but after I went there I found there's so much to do there it's just too much to talk about. You have to see it for yourself.
If you like to ski, enjoy a winter festival, do winter sports, fireplace things, etc. go there in July and August. If you go there to golf, go in the months of December through March.
Jack's Point, Queenstown area, NZ
It's difficult to describe.
As you look down the fairway about to tee off, you might see a hanglider sail above you 1500 hundred feet in the air. This is a fairly new golf course development and the 7th hole at Jack's point overlooks Lake Wakatipu and it's about a 110 yard shot downhill for the ladies. My wife hit a nice iron to the center of the green, the ball took a few bounces and dropped off a cliff into the lake. Enough said, watch the video that follows.
The Hills Golf Club, Arrowtown
For the past three years, the New Zealand Open is held at the private Hills Golf Club near Queenstown. This magnificent course has sculptures throughout the 18 hole layout.
Kelvin Heights, Queenstown Golf Club
We played this course in May and it was just starting to get cold. So we began play around 11am each day with temperatures in the middle 50s and climbing into the 60s during the afternoon. Hardest thing was not to look up at the scenery and try to concentrate on the game. We later drove through the mountains to Wanaka NZ and played the Wanaka Golf Club which is similarly scenic but a fairly easy fun course to play.
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Let us hear from you
Golfers love to travel and more baby boomer golfers travel than skiers, tennis players and sailors combined. New Zealand offers a unique unforgettable experience. Let us hear your comments on this wonderful island in the South Pacific. From the Team at Golfwell.
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