When it comes to golf destinations, New Zealand, known as one of the most beautiful places on earth, has several of the most spectacular golf courses anywhere. As part of ongoing efforts to find special golf travel experiences, I visited New Zealand’s North Island with President of TRG Golf, Sandra Richlin, to play one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses known as the Kauri Cliffs.
After landing in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, with about 1.5 million people, the golf resort was a short one hour flight (or a four hour drive) northeast to the Bay of Islands. Bay of Islands. We flew and rented a car at the airport near the tiny town of Keri Keri, a half hour from the golf course.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Kauri Cliffs. Maybe you were lucky enough to see it if you caught Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf in 2003 when Kiwi Michael Campbell, 2005 U.S. Open Champion, played Fred Couples. It is a place of unsurpassed beauty.
Julian Robertson, a Wall Street billionaire, fell in love with New Zealand’s Matauri Bay and decided it was the perfect location for a world class golf resort. He purchased 6,000 acres, much of it a working sheep ranch, and unlike real esate developers who are eager to maximize profits by building homes on the most scenic sites, he built the magnificent clubhouse, and the elegant guest cottages adjacent to it, well back from the ocean’s edge.
The late golf architect David Harman then built this spectacular 6,500 yard course. Fifteen holes are on the land high above the ocean, with six directly on the cliff’s edge. offering breathtaking vistas of the Pacific and dozens of the Cavalii Islands sprinkled across its waters. The remaining three holes plunge into a gorgeous valley with a marsh. As beautiful as the Pebble Beach resort is, in a beauty contest with Kauri Cliffs, Pebble would consistently finish runner up.
While the first six holes offer elevated views of the deep green land spilling into the bay, it is the 201 yard (160 from the white tees) par 3 seventh hole that sends the golfer ransacking his bag for a camera. The green is situated at the very edge of the cliffs. Looking down past the thick foliage on the cliffside, is a view of a cove surrounded by dense green foliage with a white sand beach set off by turquoise blue waters and the white sea foam from receding waves. Beyond this land mass are the Cavalii Islands scattered across the background. As golf destinations go, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The next two holes continue to offer stunning views of the coastline, while the tenth hole takes you into another land entirely. After a 50 foot drop into a valley below, there are dozens of the exotic New Zealand tree ferns throughout this area, which is enveloped by gently rolling hills and featuring a reed filled marsh which frames the fairways and protects the eleventh green. The thirteenth hole takes the golfer back up to the next tee, which towers over the entire course. It is a 211/161 yard par 3 which starts the finishing stretch. The fifteen is a 498/469 yard par 5 where breathtaking views of the Cavalii Islands again intrude on a golfer’s efforts to line up a putt,
while the sixteenth, a short 335/323 yard par 4, may tempt the long hitter to try to take advantage of a downhill fairway and reach the green. The seventeenth, the number 1 handicap hole is a 498/469 yard par 4 with the fairway set at an angle to the tee, and the finishing hole is, for the longer hitter, a reachable par 5 of 493/458 yards.
For those looking to stay on the property, the luxuriously appointed Lodge offers 22 guest suites and a 4,200 sqare foot, 2 bedroom “Owner’s Cottage”. The food, service, and quality of the facilities have earned it numerous awards from Conde Nast and the Robb Report, among others. Kauri Cliffs should be on every avid golfer’s must play list. It will astonish you with its beauty.
By TRG Golf Contributor Stephen Friend