In the 22nd year of our annual event - the Pullis McNutly Golf Tour - we ventured to the north island in New Zealand to play Cape Kidnappers, Kinloch, and Wairakei International.
Cape Kidnappers has a reputation world wide for it's spectacular setting and wonderful Tom Doak designed golf course.
It ranks as high as 27 in world rankings - indeed a lofty position given the competition around the globe.
And Wairakei International at Taupo (as part of their marketing) says that their course is rated in the top 20 courses in the world outside the USA. But of the 3 wonderful courses we played it was Kinloch that really grabbed my interest this time around. Our group of 23 playing Kinloch consisted of lads and ladies with handicaps ranging from 6 to 40.
I thought it was a very testing layout but the consensus of the group was that Kinloch was the favourite of the 3.
Kinloch is a Jack Nicklaus original design and opened officially in early 2008 after nearly 4 years of planning and construction.
The links style layout was built on pumice - a form of solidified foam which is formed with lava production - but you wouldn't know...
In golf design circles Jack Nicklaus courses are regarded as good but not great , lacking somewhat for flair and creativity . Many Nicklaus courses have the same look - with linear green and bunker settings as his signature look. Kinloch is decidedly different and to me looked more like a Doak course than a Nicklaus. This may well be because the two ( Doak & Nicklaus ) worked together on the design and construction of Sebonack on Long Island some years prior. Tom Doak would probably have provided more options for the high handicapper but the movement in the greens, the wild bunkering, the wonderful looping routing, and uniquely natural holes one after the other kept me wanting to see what was around the next corner. This was a new kind of Nicklaus course!
I don't think I have ever played a course where I have been asked the question on virtually every shot - there were always options and challenges to your vision, ball striking and clear thinking. It was probably the hardest course I have played, yet one of the most enjoyable.
And it is not just just our little group who thought it good - Bob Charles is the doyen of golf in NZ and has designed a number of the better courses. He played Kinloch recently and stated publicly that Kinloch is undeniably the best golf course in New Zealand. Not a bad rap!
Now I want to go back again....
FOOTNOTE from Ian Greenwood May 2014, mid-handicapper.
On recommendation from Peter, I ventured out to Kinloch and was not disappointed! This is a magnificent course and rates as one of the best courses I have played. Kinloch is a stunning links course. I love it when you arrive at the tee and have to say 'ok, which way am I hitting it?'! The clue was in the orientation of the tee markers and you definitely need to read the course notes. A good GPS with distances to bunkers, many of which are hidden, is a must. I only managed 2 pars on the day and, like Peter, I'm keen to get back there for another crack!