- 446 Clifton Road, Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay, 4180, New Zealand
- Lodge 64 6 875 1900 Pro Shop: 64 6 873 1018
New Zealand offers so many beautiful locations to visit and this, I can confidently say, is one of its jewels. Set on luxurious farmland overlooking Hawke’s Bay on the North Island, Cape Kidnappers offers an unforgettable luxury golf experience, especially for couples.
Renowned American golf architect Tom Doak embraced the rugged coastal features to provide a true challenge for both the amateur and professional golfer. Immaculately groomed fairways lay between deep ravines and bluffs. From the air, the fairways look like long green fingers that extend right to the edge of 140-meter (460-foot) cliffs above the Pacific on the back nine.
There is a real sense of being far away in the country-side as you play. Sheep and cattle roam the paddocks surrounding the course. Gannets soar above the cliff tops and their nearby nesting area – Cape Kidnappers plays host to one of New Zealand’s largest mainland colonies of the bird, which migrate for breeding between September and May.
Cape Kidnappers features 2428 hectares (6000 acres) of spectacular rolling hills, pasture, pine forest and coastline cliffs. I reached for my camera as many times as for my driver.
The course is regularly included in the world’s top 100 courses by the golf press (in 2016, Golf Digest ranked it 16 and Golf Magazine, No. 40 in 2015) and it is easy to see why. The links-style layout makes the most of the natural setting, with holes defended by elevation changes as well as well-placed bunkers. Tall fescue grasses flank the fairways or ravines that are well and truly out of bounds.
American billionaire Julian Robertson clearly fell in love with New Zealand before building three luxury lodges there – The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs in Northland and Matakauri in Queenstown. And you don’t have to love golf to be overwhelmed with the five-star experience at Cape Kidnappers – the food, service and accommodation are outstanding.
The challenges: Whilst the lush fairways seem wide open, you’ll do well to avoid well-placed bunkers off the tee and approaching the greens, especially if the wind picks up. Tall fescue grasses will swallow balls.
When to play: Year-round. Warmer months attract the most players between October to April plus a higher green fee and accommodation costs. I’d be tempted to rug up and take the challenge on between May and September. There are some calm, warm days to be had during this period as well, according to Jon McCord, Cape Kidnapper’s Head Professional.
Yardage: 7119 yards, 6510 meters
Best hole: Adam Scott* is said to love the ‘Pirates Plank‘, the 594-meter, par-5 15th for its stunning beauty and tough lay up as the fairway to the green narrows. There is a 140-meter (459-foot) cliff on the left and a 20-meter (66-foot) drop on the right side of the fairway. Miss your approach left and it sails into the Pacific Ocean. My favorite hole is “Widow’s Walk”, the par-five 16th hole, mainly because of the crow’s nest-like tee box, which sits far up on the cliff top. Almost vertigo inducing, it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before in golf and has a truly breath-taking view of the cliffs and the Pacific, and the course itself on the other side.
The designer says:
“The surface is firm and fast, the conditions can be windy, and the player who can control his trajectory will be master of the course. If you stray on your approaches, you’ll actually hope to get caught up in bunkers hanging off the green’s edge, some of them deeper than you’ve ever seen before. At the sixth and fifteenth holes, it’s possible to pull your approach off the very end of the earth, though it will take nearly ten seconds of hang time for your ball to reach the ocean below.”
Tom Doak *
The resort experience:
In peak season, some 50 staff members cater for up to 56 guests at The Farm, which gives you an idea of the care given. I remember the personal and warm reception by The Farm’s manager. One of my favorite spots was the solar-heated pool and spa where you can enjoy a stunning view of Hawk’s Bay as you bathe.
Dine and wine: Gentlemen require a jacket for dinner in the Lodge, but don’t panic if you left yours at home – they’ll lend you one that fits. This rates as one of the finest dining experiences of my life. The evening starts with pre-dinner drinks, served with hot and cold canapes. Then each course is paired with a wine, many from the local Hawk’s Bay vineyards. The menu changes daily but features New Zealand beef and lamb, local seafood and vegetables grown in The Farm’s own garden.
The accommodation: The Farm’s suites and cottages offer five-star luxury and all the creature comforts you could want (including cookies and fruit). The Ridge Suite is one of the most smartly designed apartments my wife and I have stayed in. For example, 101-centimeter plasma television is concealed behind a painting, like a safe. It’s both cozy and spacious, and features a giant bathtub to soak in.
Other activities: Enjoy the great outdoors with some clay target shooting. An instructor will guide you through the technique of how to take aim and pick off the targets as they are launched out across the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of walks to enjoy the picturesque scenery, including one to Kanuka Block, or take a mountain bike out to explore the trails across the 2428-hectare (6000-acre) property. Otherwise you can go on a guided horse ride or be taken on a Can-am all-terrain vehicle tour.
After that, unwind in the The Lodge’s Spa, which features facials, massage, foot reflexology, pedicures, body wraps, hair care and manicures. Perfect.
* Source: www.capekidnappers.com/PicsHotel/CapeKidnappers/Brochure/2015/GAFeb15_024.pdf