The Bay of Islands, near Kerikeri on the north island in New Zealand is one of the most spectacular vistas to be found anywhere in the world.
And that is the backdrop to Kauri Cliffs, making it a gorgeous place to stay and play golf.
Billionaire Julian Robertson purchased an old cattle ranch, and employed David Harmon to design his course which opened in 2000. No expense was spared in setting up the course, clubhouse, and accommodation.
And no expense is spared in making sure the maintenance of the course is absolutely pristine.
How many courses do you go to and find only a handful of players on the course, but a flotilla of mowers out in formation on a daily basis?
The criss cross patterns on the fairways, and the purity of the putting surfaces are ample evidence of the effort made to keep this facility in A1 condition.
Even hitting a few balls on the driving range is an experience with fabulous views to The Bay of Islands as a backdrop.
The course itself is quite entertaining, and has enough interest to make you want to return.
But in my view it is not a great course per se.
It is however a great experience, with good golf, great views, and if you can afford to stay and dine - a wonderful ambient hospitality.
The course starts off by heading down to the cliff tops, so the first 4 holes are basically downhill.
The most interesting of these is the short par 4 third hole. It has a single tree guarding the front of the green and a steep drop off at the back off the green - don’t go there!
Hole 5 is the first of a couple of heroic clifftop par 3’s. It grabs your attention with a tee shot over the gully, but is only a warm up for the drama of the longer, more dramatic seventh hole.
The last two holes of the nine take you steeply uphill back to the clubhouse, and are nice holes without being wonderful.
You should be thankful you are not walking the course!
For me the start of the back nine is the highlight of the course. You may find that a big statement as holes 10, 11 & 12 are sited in swampland without any of the spectacular views. These holes require decision as to line and length, with strategic bunkering and swampland in play on all shots.
I think these are terrific golf holes…
Hole 13 leads us back to the cliff tops where the postcard holes are lined up one after the other. The fourteenth hole is another back bracingly long par 3 with big drops to the left and short. Fifteen is an exposed par 5 which wraps around the cliffs and has views that make it difficult to concentrate.
The sixteenth hole is perhaps more interesting tactically, and it is a gorgeous looking hole. On the tee it looks like a drivable cape style hole with cliffs dropping off on the left all the way to the hole.
With the ocean backdrop the entire vista is accentuated by a succession of bunkers all the way down the inside of the dogleg. It looks amazing!
It would be even better in my opinion if the hole was realistically reachable, but as it is every thinking golfer will play safe and lay up leaving a short iron approach. The chances of actually hitting the green as opposed to losing a ball are just too slim….
The closing two holes are back to back par 5’s. The seventeenth running along an exposed ridge with wonderful views, and the closing hole a steep uphill climb to a sharply contoured green.
Kauri Cliffs is a must play golfing destination. You will want to put this on your bucket list and play it at least once in your life, more often if you can afford the price tag. And it is just a wonderful place to stay, if a tad expensive!
The Travelling Golfer