Kauri Cliffs is one of the two Julian Robertson Golf Courses in New Zealand, and along with it’s sister course, Cape Kidnappers, is consistently ranked within the top courses in the World. 3 and a half hours North of Auckland, or a 45 minute flight away, Kauri Cliffs is at the peak of luxurious New Zealand golf as one of the 6 Relais and Chateaux properties in New Zealand (2 of the other 5 are Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri Lodge, sister properties of Kauri Cliffs). If you are just coming to play golf, or if you are fortunate to be able to stay a night or 2, you are in for one hell of a treat.
You first arrive at the gates and call up the Pro Shop, and then drive down the picturesque driveway to the beautiful lodge where one or two of the pros invites you to leave the car running and go and check in at the Pro’s Shop. Whilst you head down and are checking in, the same pros come round and bring your cart with your clubs stacked on the back and your car parked safely in the car park leaving you to concentrate solely on the next 18 (and not forgetting the 19th!) holes.
Kauri Cliffs must have one of the most picturesque driving ranges in the world and of course you can hit as many balls as you like. The practice facilities are superb, as one would expect, and it can be easy to forget that you have 18 holes to play. Then it’s on to the first tee.
The first few holes are a gentle start with the first hole replicating that fantastic view you had 5 minutes ago on the driving range. A good drive on this straight par 4 leaves you with a short iron into the green with danger only on the left hand side. The second hole curves around the back of the driving range and can be made an easier hole with a well placed drive on the right hand side of the fairway. After the short 3rd, comes the impressive Par 5 4th hole – a true risk and reward hole. For those longer hitters that go for the green, it won’t be difficult to notice the thick gorse and drop off for anything right of target – a fantastic hole.
The 5th, a long Par 3, particularly if the wind is in your face can be daunting as you go over a big drop is followed by the long uphill 6th with carry over a ravine to an undulating green that plays at least 2 to 3 clubs longer than the yardage. Then the 7th – oh, the 7th hole. A Par 3 that you can practically jump into the water from – and your ball may go there if you’re not that accurate. As with the 5th, a long iron or hybrid will be needed to get to the green here. The 8th and 9th both play uphill, and the view of the lodge as you play up the 9th may take your mind off the job at hand as you dream about the sandwich and beer to look forward to.
After your sustainance break, the 10th from an elevated tee can be drivable if the wind is behind, but is well guarded by 4 deepish bunkers. The 11th, features an approach to a green surrounded by marsh and water from 3 angles. After the 12th and 13th holes, you get to the Par 3 14th when the glory of the Pacific Ocean and the Cavalli Islands come into view. It can take an hour to play this Par 3 as you take hundreds of pictures and why wouldn’t you!
The Par 5 15th is a beast – trees on the right and the ocean on your left, it is easily the most difficult tee shot on the course. A driver isn’t the wisest choice and we can vouch for that, with 2 lost balls – 1 left and then one right! The downhill dogleg shortens the approach so those more aggressive players can have a bash with their second, but once you’ve found safety from your drive a 5 should be easy to get if you choose to lay up.
The 16th is called Temptation, and for a good reason – it plays 350 yards, all downhill and the bigger drivers can have a dart for the green. However, if you’re not accurate, you’d hope to land in the bunker, because you’d better hit another as it can be murder finding your ball in the long rough. The 17th, another long par 4 from an elevated tee gives you the impression that it’s shorter than it is. The 18th is a long uphill Par 5, similar to the 9th and leads you back to the clubhouse where you finally say thank you to the course for entertaining you for the past 5 hours.
The course is our favourite New Zealand golf course – the views are fantastic, it’s challenging but you can score well, the condition is always fantastic and the service is great. What more can we say?