Category: New Zealand

October 28, 2008

Travelin’ Joe at Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand

Posted at 11:27 AM by Joe Passov

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.Dec_newzealand_600x403_2

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)

Travelin’ Joe at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand

Posted at 11:09 AM by Joe Passov

Anthony Kim's girlfriend, Lisa Pruett, couldn't bear to watch her man hit his tee shot on the final hole of the PGA Tour's Kiwi Challenge in New Zealand.

Pruett gazed off to the right of Cape Kidnappers' 480-yard, par-4 18th hole, watching a flock of sheep doing what sheep do best, munching on grass. She needn't have worried -- Kim blasted one down the middle. And when all eyes weren't on Kim, or the man he was tied with, Hunter Mahan, they were fixed upon the mind-blowing cliff-top scenery at Cape Kidnappers. Dec_newzealand_600x400

As with its sibling to the north, Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers is a long way from anywhere in the U.S. -- but as TV viewers in mid-November will undoubtedly confirm, it is truly worth the journey -- if only once.

    Cape Kidnappers, a 2004 Tom Doak design, is ranked No. 41 on GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World -- but is easily Top 10 when it comes to eye-candy views. The back nine in particular boasts a sequence of staggeringly dramatic holes, starting with the tiny seaside par-3 13th, and peaking with the 650-yard, par-5 15th, which falls away on both sides of the fairway and sports a horizon green that's perched precariously on a bluff overlooking the sea.

Only the brave -- or the foolhardy -- will fire aggressively at a back pin. Still, it's not the silly grin-inducing aesthetics that elevate Cape Kidnappers, it's nature's fairway contouring and architect Doak's virtuoso skills in designing green complexes.

Adam Scott found out the hard way at the driveable par-4 14th, a 348-yarder. With the hole cut behind a wild swale, Scott found himself in no-man's land after a 290-yard poke to the left edge of the fairway. His full-swing flop shot flopped, landing over the green -- and basically dead. Two chips and two putts later, Scott carded a double-bogey 6.

Cape Kidnappers is full of these interesting green complexes. It's that design sophistication and the imagination called for in the short game that catapults Cape Kidnappers from merely a beautiful layout into a course that demands all the shotmaking skills you can muster.

With a hotel on-site called The Farm, that personifies the term "rustic elegance," Cape Kidnappers delivers a vacation experience second to none. If your butt can cope with a 13-hour flight from L.A., get it -- and the rest of your body -- to New Zealand's Cape Kidnappers. If you're a true course connoisseur, it would be a crime to miss this one.

For more on golf in New Zealand, click here.

(Photo: Cape Kidnappers)

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