I was fortunate enough to play Cape Kidnappers in 2003, well before the course opened. At that stage the bunkers had no sand, but the course was in pretty good shape, and made a huge impression…
I returned a year later for Tom Doak’s Renaissance Cup tournament, and joined in the merriment playing in some not so gentle ocean breezes on this most exacting course. I keep going back…
The fun really begins when you first enter the front gates some 8 kms from the course itself. The driveway heads down a deep gully with just enough room for the road and the rocky creek beside it . From there the road heads steeply up into the heavily forested hills, and suddenly the outlook is dark and foreboding…
And then you emerge out in to the farmlands above, famously sited on fingers of land jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, and divided by a series of deep ravines. The driveway bucks and rolls as it goes down into and up out of those ravines as you make your way to the course proper.
You arrive to find that the clubhouse looks like a classy shearing shed - entirely appropriate given the site is a working sheep farm.
The course itself starts off by heading inland for a few holes. The first hole sets the scene - a bruising 402 metre par 4 dogleg with a deep gully in front of the green.
Par here is a good score.
The next few holes are framed by some beautiful strategic bunkering, and have lovely sculpted greens with enough movement to get your attention without being silly.
None of the holes are particularly tight of the tee, but if you do miss the fairway the longish fescue surrounds are not friendly.
These are just quality golf holes in a lovely rural setting.
By hole 5 The Pacific Ocean is part of the backdrop, but hole 6 really grabs you by the throat!.
A 206 metre par 3 over the deepest of ravines, it only needs the hint of the sea winds to make par nigh on impossible.
It makes a spectacular picture though, and you will not forget the massive bridge that takes you across the ravine to the green- the first of a number at Cape Kidnappers. These bridges will stick in your memory banks as one of the lasting visions you will automatically remember as unique to this course.
Holes 7 & 8 head back away from the ocean playing through some wild territory beside the ravine, and are another two very entertaining golf holes, while 9 returns to the clubhouse. With a blind tee shot and an awkward second shot, I never really came to love the ninth hole, but as a whole the front nine is just quality golf, and great fun too!
Play that front nine in good form and good conditions and you would never want to leave- or maybe you would… the back nine beckons!
At 430 metres the par 4 10th is a tough introduction to the back nine as you head out to the cliff tops. Things go up a notch from then on with the long par 3 11th, the long par 4 12th with it’s skyline green ( the hole is named Infinity ), and the short par 13th all perched on the edge of the cliffs.
Hole 14 is a example of genius at work. You would think that the tension would ease off as the course now heads briefly away from the cliffs. And in favourable conditions the bigger hitters could drive this par 4, so what is the attraction you ask?
The tee shot asks you to diagonally cross the ravine, but this should not be a major factor. Rather the smallish green is devilishly shaped and wraps around a single pot bunker front and centre of the green.
The hole is known as “Pimple” which should tell you something about the contours of the putting surface. Now you need to keep in mind that although this is not remotely like links land, the playing surfaces are generally firm and fast.
So to hit the small undulating green surface and stay on it, quite often with the wind at your back will take a precise approach. Maybe the play is to lay up off the tee, and have a full shot in?
And the position of the flag from day to day will determine the best angle for approach…
This is the sort of hole I could play over and over…
I love it!
Hole 15 is also the sort of hole no one will ever forget!
Known as “Pirates Plank” it is a 594 metre par 5 on a finger of land projecting right out into the ocean. This is one tough golf hole. Play this one in the wind and score a par! Not likely!
It is not my favourite hole as it requires you hit long and straight, and there are no other options.
But it is one of the THE most spectacular golf holes anywhere.
16, 17 & 18 then turn inland and back to the clubhouse. There are no more cliff tops but again some really good golf holes to finish. The back tees on hole 16 are sited high on the cliffs and afford wonderful views- don’t forget to go up and have a look next time you play. I also particularly like the wonderful punchbowl green on the home hole.
Cape Kidnappers is a golfing experience no serious golfer should miss. It would be easy to say that the spectacular vistas and cliff top holes make this a must see, must play destination. But Tom Doak has fashioned a golf course which oozes quality - a course which more than matches the drama of its’ setting
There can be no greater compliment.
However Kidnappers is exposed to the elements and your experience cannot help but be affected by the conditions - so time your trip carefully…. or just keep going back..
The Travelling Golfer