New Zealand is in the midst of a golf boom: new courses are being built, existing courses restored and airport carousels are abuzz with one golf bag after another – but breathtaking Kauri Cliffs was here well before the masses.
With the likes of Tara Iti and Tea Arai Links driving new interest and energy in New Zealand’s golfing landscape, clubs across the country are moving quickly to improve and expand their offering in order to capitalise. Despite its smorgasbord of stunning landscapes peppered with lakes, mountains and pristine coastlines, New Zealand, perhaps surprisingly, hasn’t always featured at the top of golfer’s bucket lists. However, when Kauri Cliffs opened in 2000, the world sat up and took notice.
KAURI HAS THE WOW FACTOR
Sitting on the Eastern edge of New Zealand’s north island, overlooking Takou Bay, Kauri Cliffs stops you in your tracks right from the off. Fifteen holes are within sight of the Pacific Ocean, six of them run alongside cliffs which drop dramatically to the sea. It isn’t hard to see why US Ryder Cup player Brandt Snedeker described this place as “Pebble Beach on steroids.”
As you stand in front of the white clubhouse, perched at the top of the property, the captivating beauty of the place speaks for itself. There is no attempt to build suspense, or hide what is to come, Kauri Cliffs’ unavoidable wow-factor is there from the off.
With the picturesque Cavalli Islands providing the backdrop, the rugged Kiwi landscape contrasts wonderfully with the blade perfect manicured fairways and greens. The owner, Julian Robertson, knew he had found something special when he got the call about this premium piece of land, which would become New Zealand’s first attempt at a word-class golf resort.
WORLD CLASS RETREAT
Today, Kauri Cliffs is not only a breathtaking golf course but a 22-suite luxury lodge which has won almost every major travel award around the world since it opened. Three hours north of Auckland, every detail has been carefully thought through and then beautifully executed. They say you only get one chance to make a first impression – well Kauri Cliffs golf course had made one to last a lifetime – the sensory overload had thrown me in a blender before a ball had been struck. But boy did it feel good.
As Robertson’s love for the Land of the Long White Cloud deepened, he followed the success of Kauri by opening a sister course – Cape Kidnappers – five hours south of Auckland. There are similarities in the way the courses are laid out: both traverse dramatic, rolling terrain, both navigate plunging ravines and stretches of marshland, before pulling you out to the edge of the world along the clifftops. Both are a walk I would happily take without my golf clubs on my back.
KAURI’S GLORIOUS DISTRACTION
Kauri Cliffs golf course takes you on a journey, it challenges you and delivers wonderful isolation and intrigue. The late David Harman, who tragically passed at the age of 51 less than two years after the opening of the course he did such a wonderful job designing, has created a course which seamlessly fits the land it occupies. Greens are cut into hillsides, embankments provide thrilling kickers, bunkers cling to the end of the world and infinity greens are perched precariously atop cliffs. Kauri’s magic comes, to a large degree, in the timing of its awe-inspiring moments which make you think, smile and sets your pulse racing.
The par-3 7th demands a long carry over a ravine with nothing but the Pacific to your right: the view makes you smile, the undulating green complex and strategic bunkering makes you think, and the realisation you may never see that ball again certainly gets the blood pumping. Kauri’s 16th green might just be New Zealand golf’s most photogenic spot, with endless views across the iconic Bay of Islands – there are few holes anywhere on the planet which can compete. I’m blaming this stunning distraction for three putts beautifully spent. These two moments are enough in themselves to mark this out as an elite golf destination but they are not alone. There are countless times during my round which evoke these feelings in me, each one enhancing my understanding of Kauri Cliffs’ allure. It’s a magical place to walk, sit and breathe and an exhilarating canvas.
In order to find success here, a player would do well to emulate the qualities that brought Kauri Cliffs Golf Course into being: be bold, take risks, hit shots which others don’t see. It won’t always be smooth sailing as balls soar off cliffs and down crevices, but I can guarantee that every grimace will be outnumbered ten fold, by smiles. Why? Well, Kauri Cliffs is the type of golf course where bad swings are consigned to the past in a heartbeat – they simply fade into the endless deep blue of the Pacific Ocean.
KAURI CLIFFS A KIWI PIONEER
Kauri Cliffs is no longer the new kid on the block – others have now followed the trail blazed by Julian Robertson, gradually nudging Kauri Cliffs golf course down the New Zealand rankings. And yet without this place, many of these new courses would not have existed at all. And that should never be forgotten. In business we speak of the risk-reward balance of being a first mover versus a first follower and the simple fact that before every boom there is a pioneer willing to go where others don’t.
In the case of New Zealand golf, Julian Robertson was the catalyst, David Harman created the spark and Kauri Cliffs emerged as the flame which set our golfing landscape on fire. Kauri Cliffs is not just a phenomenal golf course and place to spend time, it’s a symbol of ingenuity and vision, a case study in being bold and, by doing so, change a country’s relationship with the rest of the golfing world. John F Kennedy once said a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ – Kauri Cliffs golf course has done just that and it will inspire awe for generations to come.
KAURI CLIFFS GOLF COURSE SCORECARD
KAURI CLIFFS GOLF DETAILS
*The par-72 Tiger course measures 7,151 yards
*Tee times available to book online. Click here
139 Tepene Tablelands Road