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”
A secret no longer, New Zealand delivers spectacular golf
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.
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“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.