Above: Jack’s Point golf course, Queenstown - © Shantanu Starick

New Zealand Golf Highlights

Over the years, I have received many requests for advice about golf vacations. One inquiry returns time after time: “If you could go anywhere in the world for a couple of weeks, where would it be?” New Zealand offers some of the most picturesque tees and fairways in the world, and it is a land where pace-of-play issues arise because golfers simply cannot stop gawking at the amazing scenery. It also boasts some of the most deftly designed courses of the modern era, with layouts that force golfers to use every club in their bags. And with so many sites to choose from, golf architects have been able to build courses on the choicest pieces of property. The layouts are never crowded, and the conditioning is first-rate.

Kauri Cliffs is an inspiring place to begin a New Zealand golf trip. Located in the Bay of Islands 170 miles north of Auckland, the par-72 layout was designed by Floridian David Harman. It opened in 2000 as the centerpiece of an elegant yet understated resort created by American hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson. Though not a true links, the course at Kauri Cliffs often plays like one as a result of its seaside setting and the way that players can run their approach shots onto most greens. The ever-present cattle and sheep on an adjoining property also remind me of golf in the Old World, as does the blustery wind. The finishing stretch of Nos. 14-17 at Kauri Cliffs is as challenging, visually compelling and enjoyable a sequence of golf holes as I have played. Kauri Cliffs is Pebble Beach without the hustle and the hordes, at a fraction of the cost.

Lake Taupo lies 170 miles southeast of Auckland. The area is world-renowned for its trout fishing, but since December 2007, the region has had another claim to fame. Kinloch Golf Club is the only Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in New Zealand, and many experts consider it to be one of the Golden Bear’s finest works. Kinloch is built on land that appears perfectly suited for golf, with natural bunkers and wicked undulations on fairways and greens. The par-72 course is unusual in that it has five par 5s and five par 3s. And in look and feel, it evokes the inland links-style layouts of the great Sand Hills courses in Nebraska.

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