Why would anyone fly 18 hours and lose a day and a half of their lives just to play golf? New Zealand's Kauri Cliffs provides a definitive rebuttal to any naysayers. Wow! This place is pretty incredible.
Isolated on the northernmost tip of New Zealand's North Island, Kauri Cliffs is an eight-year-old course that we've ranked #63 in the most recent Top 100 Courses in the World -- and has a lodge that's every bit as good as the golf holes. We ranked the lodge in our Top 12 International Resorts last year. Both course and accommodations are worth the freight.
Kauri Cliffs has been overshadowed in recent years by its four-year-old sibling, Cape Kidnappers, but for sheer scenery and variety, it easily holds its own. With its vast, gigantic sheep-covered hillsides, pockets of tropical ferns, forest and marshland and remarkable beach coves dotted with wind-blasted, twisted trunks of trees, it's part Hawaii, part Ireland, part Monterey Peninsula -- but something quite distinctive, too.
From the course, 15 holes either play alongside the Pacific Ocean or overlook it, and what's astonishing is the utter lack of development. On the back nine especially, you're greeted with stunning vistas of the Bay of Islands -- a series of small, jagged rocky outposts that pop out of the water and lend texture and definition to the whole scene.
I've run into some other seasoned travelers here for the Kiwi Challenge -- NBC's Dan Hicks on the treadmill, Roger Maltbie working through some seriously tasty eggs benedict at breakfast, Brandt Snedeker at dinner -- and we're of the same mind: Kauri Cliffs is one long haul, but absolutely worth the journey.
For more on golf in New Zealand, click here.
(Photo: Kauri Cliffs)