- 139 Tepene Tablelands Road, Matauri Bay 0478, Northland, New Zealand
- 64 9 407 0010
You know you’ve reached a certain level of opulence when the place you are staying at offers a helicopter transfer in its own private aircraft. Fly or drive to Kauri Cliffs from Auckland and you will be rewarded with one of the most scenic and interesting golf courses in New Zealand. The resort is owned by American billionaire Julian Robertson and is a sister property to his other luxury lodges, Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay and Matakauri in Queenstown.
Kauri Cliffs is set on the high rolling hills and clifftops overlooking the blue water of the Pacific Ocean at Matauri Bay in the north-east of New Zealand’s North Island. The course was designed and built by the late American architect David Harman in 2000 and was more recently renovated by Rees Jones who made the 5th hole a short drop-shot par 3, with a green flanked by five bunkers.
The front nine winds its way down lush rolling hills to cliff tops overlooking the ocean, hitting over gullies as you go. It’s stunning coastal scenery. The first part of the back nine sees you descend into valley farmland, hitting over marshes and avoiding trees before the fairways climb the escarpment again. I was happy to belt a 3-wood onto the green 471-meter (515-foot) hole 17 called ‘Rainbow’.
Kauri Cliffs was ranked 49th in Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Courses 2016-17, and has hosted the Kiwi Challenge, a PGA Tour Challenge event, in 2008 and 2009.
Most people fly into Kerikeri and get a transfer but it is possible to take a scenic and windy highway north from Auckland (a four-hour drive). It’s a picturesque farmland setting with some truly challenging holes, especially when the prevailing wind picks up from the south-west.
Control the ball off the tee and you can score well here. Most of the course follows a links-style and there is plenty of room to use your driver.
After taking on the Kauri Cliffs professional golfers Cameron Barnes and Sebastiano Galeppini, I was soundly beaten on both the back and front nine. But it didn’t matter – it was such a beautiful spot to play and enjoy some challenging holes, hitting over canyons, lakes and great elevation changes. I took almost as many photos as putts.
The highest holes on the golf course on the back nine offer a great vantage point to see of Cape Brett and the Cavalli Islands. Kauri Cliffs is a working farm so you’ll enjoy farmland views on the 6000-acre (2428 hectare) property, which maintains some 2000 ewes and 4000 lambs along with up to 1000 head of cattle.
The challenges: The undulating greens are fast but consistent. I rolled back off the 18th green with the wind after a decent bunker shot. Some nasty tall fescue will be a challenge to hit out of if you err passed the first cut. Carrying the ball over canyons (such as the 200-meter / 219-yard carry on hole 18), gullies, marshes and bunkers is all part of the fun.
When to play: Year-round.
Yardage: 7139 yards, 6528 meters
Best hole: From the championship tee on hole No. 7, ‘Cavalli’, you’ll be hitting over a deep gulley that falls away into the Pacific Ocean on this Par 3. It’s 201 meters (220 yards) to the green with the wind often moving the ball back towards the sea. The green has two bunkers in front and one on the right side. Enjoy the view of Pink Beach and the Cavalli Islands from the tee.
The resort experience:
You can expect absolute luxury here. The Lodge, where dinner and breakfast are served, has a stunning outlook over the golf course to Matauri Bay. You can choose to eat outside and enjoy this 180-degree panorama or inside in the lounge, card or dining rooms. The Lodge is luxuriously decorated without being opulent. It looks like a generous country homestead on the outside – but this one has a pro shop downstairs.
The accommodation is separate and feels secluded as you move down a path surrounded by totara forest. Cottages are split into two guest suites with a total of 22 suites available so it won’t ever feel overcrowded here.
It is easy to see why readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine (USA) voted Kauri Cliffs the No 1. Lodge/Resort in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Dine and wine: Gents require a jacket for dinner, but the staff will loan you one if needed. Drinks and appetizers are served in the sitting room.
There are six standard suites and 16 deluxe suites. They feature an open fireplace, generous-sized bedroom and ensuite bathroom with a giant tub and twin vanities. I can recommend soaking in the tub after a solid round of golf. The balcony is a great place to relax and take in the view. The bed and pillows are amongst the most comfortable I’ve slept on. The deluxe suites only get larger and more splendid. There’s also a two-bedroom Owner’s Cottage available when Mr Robertson is not visiting.
There is an assortment of fun outdoor activities during the summer. On Monday, you can take a guided walk to see native birdlife on the farm. Tuesday, participate in a putting competition with the golf pros as you drink cocktails. Wednesday features a pre-dinner haka by Kerikeri’s Kapa Haka. On Thursday, you can take a morning tour of the farm. Then Friday, the Lodge staff will transport you down to Pink Beach for a swim and dinner that will feature lamb, grilled seafood and local produce, including wine and cheese. Picnic hampers can be arranged for a private outing to one of the secluded beaches, too. Guests can also go fishing, mountain biking, surfing or play tennis.
The Spa’s signature treatments include a Kiwi Mud Wrap with thermal mud cocoon, facial and scalp massage or Manuka Honey Healing Cocoon, which uses local honey for the scrub. You’ll forget about any double bogies in here.