In the Land of the Kiwis
Two golf courses in New Zealand join the ranks of the world's greatest layouts
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005
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Doak designed a golf course that comes in two parts. The first is the farmland nine, playing mostly away from the sea and into a working area of the farm. Behind the second green sits a complex of red farm buildings. It's not until the 10th hole that Doak takes a player to the end of the earth, almost literally. The 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th holes have greens suspended above the bay, atop those 500-foot cliffs. Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser, who played both Robertson courses last December, calls Cape Kidnappers "an aerie for golfers."
The 15th hole is a straightaway par 5 that runs out to the edge of a cliff, the fairway seemingly no wider than an aircraft carrier. The 16th hole is a short par 5 in the opposite direction; it's a par 5 because Josie Robertson wanted all players to experience the view from what was the back tee of the par 4 that Doak designed originally. "My wife thought it was a shame that only good players got back to that tee to see that view," says Robertson. "By making it a short par 5, it meant that all players could go back there and be right out there on the cliff. That was a wonderful thing to do."
A lodge for on-site accommodations is in the works for Cape Kidnappers, but there are several lovely B & B properties in the Hawke's Bay area. There are spots in Hawke's Bay, with its many vineyards and orchards, where visions of Sonoma County, California, come to mind. The Robertsons have an interest in the Te Awa Winery, which produces a wide range of wines, including a Chardonnay, and a lovely Merlot. The city of Napier, where the airport is located, is a small Art Deco—style town. The city and the surrounding wineries have an abundance of good restaurants, and after a morning round of golf at Cape Kidnappers, lunch at Te Awa and dinner at the Craggy Range Winery would complete a fulfilling day.
The Robertsons have worked diligently to respect the native culture and conscience of New Zealand. "We don't want to impose ourselves," says Robertson. "We are caretakers here and we know how fortunate we are to have it."
New Zealander Michael Campbell (see sidebar, page 106), the surprise winner of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst last June, represents Kauri Cliffs for the Robertsons. "I think what [Julian Robertson's] done for New Zealand golf has been phenomenal," says Campbell. "When I heard about this Kauri Cliffs, somebody told me I had to go see it. I was totally in awe. I didn't meet Julian that first time. I went back two months later and that's when I met him and we got a relationship done. What he's done is to really expose the world to New Zealand golf with these two fantastic golf courses. It takes money and financing; he's been able to do that. It's been great that he's been able to do that in my country."
New Zealand is almost 9,000 miles from the East Coast of the United States. It take 20 hours in the air, and a full 24 hours door-to-door to get there. But if you are in search of the game's highest drama, then Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs give Oscar-winning performances. Get your ticket.
Jeff Williams is the golf columnist for Cigar Aficionado.
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