My first visit to New Zealand was 1989. At that stage the country had a few good courses but none with significant international profile. I am just returning from a two-week trip escorting a group of PerryGolf clients through the North and South Islands of New Zealand and can unequivocally say that New Zealand is one of the great golf and lifestyle destinations. The intervening 30 years has seen a remarkable evolution in the golf and hospitality industry. Read more “Reflections on a Great Golf and Sightseeing Experience in New Zealand”
Lydia Ko won her 15th tournament on the LPGA Tour earlier this year, pushing her career earnings near $10 million. Just 21 years old, she’s already traveled around the globe competing in amateur and professional golf championships. She remains captivated by the phenomenal cast of courses in her homeland.
“New Zealand is simply an amazing golf destination,” Ko said. “It has some of the best golf courses I have ever played. It should be a must-visit place for golfers from all over the world. You won’t be disappointed.”
Perhaps there was a time when the beautiful country of 4.7 million people across two islands tucked in the South Pacific was a hidden destination for international golf travelers. The secret, however, has been revealed over the last two decades as New Zealand enjoyed a barrage of dramatic, spectacular courses certain to create indelible memories and eager returns.
PerryGolf is thrilled to take travelers to this magical land. The 2020 New Zealand, Tasmania & Sydney Golf Cruise is certain to sell out and includes several of the finest courses in New Zealand, which features roughly 400 courses. Golf is the most popular recreation for male and female Kiwis. After a week or so down there, you’ll understand the source of their fierce attraction to the game.
PerryGolf president and co-founder Gordon Dalgleish visited Tara Iti in 2016 shortly after the mystical course opened and walked away impressed that architect Tom Doak created a world class seaside links on what was a dense pine forest. The first course in New Zealand with fescue grass on the fairways, Tara Iti plays firm and fast with no rough. Bunkers border the fairways which are mown a similar height as the greens. Approach and recovery shots provide myriad options for playing shots along the ground and allowing the contours to feed the ball to the hole.
One interesting shot after another is presented throughout the round at Tara Iti, which catapulted into the Golf Magazine Top 100 in 2017, making its debut at No. 29.
Located on the southern end of the North Island overlooking Hawke’s Bay in the New Zealand wine country, Cape Kidnappers was born from owner Julian Robertson’s affection for Pacific Dunes on the Oregon coast. After playing that course with his son, he sought out its architect, Doak, to design Cape Kidnappers along 2,600 yards of shoreline. The course opened to guests in 2004 and instantly shot near the top of the country’s rankings.
“We were deliberately subtle with our architecture as there was no way in the world to compete with the surrounding beauty,” Doak said.
Avoid the bunkers at any cost at Cape Kidnappers. On land of devoid of trees and essentially free of water hazards other than the obvious cliffs and ocean below, the bunkers are deep and penal.
Doak used the greens at Garden City Golf Club on Long Island as a model, devising the slopes in harmony with the natural rolling characteristics of the land. The par-4 No. 14, measures only 350 yards from the back tees but the green will remind visitors of the Road Hole No. 17 at The Old Course at St. Andrews.
Enjoy the remote setting as you pass a sheep and cattle station heading to the pro shop.
“A designer can always make a golf course too hard,” Kauri Cliffs architect David Harman said in 2003. “He can add more bunkers, more walls, whatever he dreams up. The true test is whether or not he can use what Mother Nature gave him and turn it into something like what you see here.”
Kauri Cliffs was truly Harman’s masterpiece. He made 46 trips from his home in Florida to this property that neighbors Cape Kidnappers but was the first to open in 2001. He made the aforementioned comment to legendary golf commentator Jack Whitaker in 2003 when Fred Couples and Michael Campbell competed in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match at the course (watch below).
Sadly, Harman succumbed to cancer in 2004. But his legacy lives on in this magnificent setting which offers breathtaking views of the Cavalli Islands and Matauri Bay.
Swirling, gusting winds make the course play differently from hour-to-hour. Yardages are only a suggestion. Downwind, par-5s can be reached with a mid-iron second shot. Into the wind, they are unreachable in three. With options ranging from 4,900 to 7,100 yards, finding the appropriate teeing ground is imperative to maximize enjoyment.
Risk / reward holes dot the property. But be careful. You won’t soon forget the par-3, No. 7.
Located 20 miles from Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the championship golf course at Jack’s Point is just one piece of an idyllic escape offering hiking and mountain biking trails and pure serenity.
The course, designed by John Darby and opened in 2008, sits atop sharp bluffs overlooking the lake and meanders through the wetlands and rocky hillside. Many experts consider it the best on the South Island. Created with minimal excavation, it fits naturally into the landscape and measures 6,986 yards with a par of 72 from the championship tees.
The tee shot at the downhill par-3 7th is remarkable (add an ‘s’ and you have the name of the mountain range in clear view throughout the course). Golfers fire toward a infinity green with the crystal blue waters of the lake as the backdrop.
While that quartet is outstanding, it’s not as if they’re the only excellent options available in New Zealand. The layouts are diverse and demanding.
Breezes blow tall at Paraparaumu Beach, 45 miles north of Wellington, where Tiger Woods competed in the 2002 New Zealand Open – for a hefty appearance fee rumored to be four times the size of the purse. The Kinloch Club is the first (and only) Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in New Zealand, carved through farmland on volcanic terrain. The Hills is another Darby creation which has played host to the national championship on multiple occasions. Royal Wellington dates to 1895 and is like ‘playing golf in an Arboretum’ according to architect Greg Turner, who redesigned the course in 2013. And Wairakei is a parkland favorite near beautiful Lake Taupo on the North Island.
Turning 65 earlier this year opened a new chapter for Howie Knodt in competitive golf as he resumed playing and quickly returned to a familiar place – the trophy presentation ceremony.
Knodt, a PerryGolf Customer Relations Representative, won the Southern California Golf Association Super Senior Championship last month, firing 68-72-140 at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa for a three-shot victory.
Despite a distinguished amateur record, the San Diego resident played a limited tournament schedule in recent years. Becoming eligible for the Super Senior division, however, motivated him to practice. He delivered, withstanding the final round pressure of leading the tournament and holding off two-time defending champion Kemp Richardson.
“It was a chance to see a lot of guys I haven’t seen for a long time,” Knodt said. “I’m kind of surprised because I haven’t been playing any tournaments. Guess it shows I still have a little gas in the tank.”
Then again, no one in Southern California should be surprised.
Knodt dominated the Senior Division a decade ago, earning Player of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010 as he won the SCGA Senior Amateur and twice claimed the SCGA Senior Match Play title. He’s also a four-time San Diego Senior Am champion and 10-time club champion at San Diego Country Club, which was founded in 1897, has been at its current Chula Vista location since 1921 and has the reputation as the best conditioned course in the region.
In recent years, Knodt has focused on serving as a liaison between PerryGolf and the First Tee, organizing fundraisers for the 150 chapters nationwide. PerryGolf is a Silver Corporate Sponsor of the First Tee, which reaches more than 5 million kids annually, using golf to teach core values and develop healthy, productive citizens.
Knodt also hosts webinars for PerryGolf and escorts guests on a Tour on occasion, impressing several guests with his shotmaking and golf skill on a recent Escorted Tour to Australia and New Zealand.
Knodt brings a wealth of travel industry knowledge and experience to PerryGolf. Prior to coming on board six years ago, he spent three decades as the managing partner of Carefree Travel, overseeing a half-dozen retail stores across the San Diego area. He also owned and operated Special Event Cruises, providing continuing education programs at sea for doctors and dentists.
A strong player since college, Knodt received a unexpected stroke of good fortune while playing in a tournament in his mid-50s. He won six free golf lessons with San Diego instructor Bob Madsen and the partnership drove him toward improving his golf fitness and forming a plan that ultimately produced his early senior success.
“He turned out to be an amazing instructor and coach,” Knodt said. “He sat down with me for 2-3 hours and asked me what I wanted to try and accomplish. He laid out this plan to try and accomplish these goals. He had an unorthodox approach. The first two or lessons I never hit balls and he never put my swing on video.”
Knodt advanced to match play in the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur at Shady Oaks, the legendary home of Ben Hogan in Fort Worth, Tex., finished top 20 in the British Senior Amateur at Walton Heath and dominated the competition around San Diego County and Southern California.
After selling his travel agency, Knodt’s relationship with PerryGolf began via email correspondence and subsequent two-hour phone conversation with president and co-founder Gordon Dalgleish
“I love Gordon and the whole group over there,” Knodt said. “They’re such a joy to work with and I love their business philosophy.”
Winning the SCGA Super Senior earned Knodt exemptions into several of the association major championships next year. He’ll play in four or five of those and continue his work with the First Tee, volunteering locally in San Diego and also helping coordinate the golf package auctions which raise money for the individual chapters.
And if you happen to run across him on the course, be certain to take the full allotment of shots your handicap allows. Chances are, you’ll need everyone of them.
Traveling with your spouse creates an opportunity to recharge and reconnect, while sharing lifetime memories visiting interesting locations that are rich with history, beauty and fantastic golf. PerryGolf recommends these three destinations for adventurous couples who enjoy spending time traveling, chasing birdies and basking in the wonders of the world.
Savor the majesty of Barcelona, with its ideal blend of food, scenery and nightlife. The second-largest city in Spain is one of the most frequently visited destinations in the world and was the host of the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Equally unforgettable is the beautiful port city of Malaga and its glorious renaissance cathedral, which was built between 1528 and 1782 and whose interior includes both the renaissance and baroque styles.
Walk in the footsteps of golf’s legends during a round at Valderrama, considered the top ranked course in continental Europe and site of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, won this year by tournament host Sergio Garcia.
Finca Cortesin, which played host to the Volvo World Match Play Championship on three occasions, is a divine Cabell B. Robinson design routed through a dramatic valley located near the Mediterranean. It’s routinely ranked as one of the top courses in Spain.
When it comes to romance, history and gastronomic delight, Italy is difficult to beat.
PerryGolf’s escorted tour includes 14 Nights and 6 Rounds of Golf.
Admire the countryside while traveling stress-free on Italy’s wonderful railway system.
Enjoy the Roman Edifices while touring the city of Verona, which served as the setting for three Shakespeare plays, including Romeo and Juliet as well as The Taming of the Shrew.
Perhaps glimpse a celebrity while taking a moonlit stroll on the banks of Lake Como.
Spend time studying the intricacy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s magnificent painting, ‘The Last Supper.’
The Marriott Venice Resort & Spa is known across Europe for the most luxurious accommodations. Nights spent there are relaxing and divine.
And, of course, there are terrific golf options.
Roma Acquasanta is Italy’s oldest golf course and features stunning views of the Rome skyline.
Also located only 10 miles from Rome is the delightful championship layout Marco Simone, which is the site of 2022 Ryder Cup. Saint Peter’s Dome is within view from several holes on this Jim Fazio design which unfolds on the grounds of an 11th century castle.
Venice Golf Club basks in a spectacular setting between the Adriatic Sea and Lagoon of Venice and features distinct links characteristics and the ever present bora and sirocco winds. Great champions from Palmer to Jacklin to Trevino have battled this formidable foe.
New Zealand has roughly four million residents, making it one of the world’s least populated countries. Golf is the most popular sport with more courses per capita of population than any country in the world. And the world-class courses are complemented by food, wine and phenomenal scenery.
PerryGolf takes you there for a 13-Night, 7-Round Escorted Tour that simply must be experienced first-hand.
Admire native birds like the Kiwi or the Moa. The Kiwi, which is a flightless bird, has loose hair, strong legs and no tail. It is the national icon of New Zealand and the unofficial national bird. They can live from 25-50 years, although they are vulnerable to predators because they lack a sternum and have underdeveloped chest and wing muscles.
For the wine lover, Hawke’s Bay and its world-renowned wineries, is a highlight of any trip to New Zealand. It’s the nation’s oldest wine producing region in New Zealand is known for its full-bodied red wines and complex Chardonnays.
Speaking of breathtaking beauty, the golf at Cape Kidnappers provides the pinnacle. This unique Tom Doak design in Napier ranked No. 44 in the world in Golf.com’s 2017-18 rankings delivers stunning panoramic views of Hawke’s Bay. The fairways perched 157 meters above the sea, on the grounds of what was formerly a 5,000-acre sheep station.
Our goal in designing golf courses is to create interesting holes you wouldn’t find anywhere else. That wasn’t hard to do at Cape Kidnappers, because the site is not like anywhere else in golf. If it were any bigger or any more dramatic, it would probably be cordoned off as a national park. – Tom Doak
The only Jack Nicklaus signature course in New Zealand, is Kinloch, a links-style design tucked between gorgeous views of Lake Taupo and rugged farmland. Often compared to the classic seaside links of the British Isles, Kinloch is a fair, yet demanding and memorable test of golf.
And, tucked inside Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range, is Jack’s Point, located 20 miles from the cozy resort town of Queenstown. Measuring nearly 7,000 yards from the championship tees, the course winds through a natural environment of tussock grasslands, native bush and massive rock outcroppings.
Since my first visit to Hawke’s Bay 12+ years ago, I was very much taken by the ambience and lifestyle of the region. There is much to like about the area, which will explain why it attracts a healthy number of affluent people from around the world who could call anywhere home.