- 261 Kinloch Road, Taupo 3377, New Zealand
- 64 7 377 8482
Jack Nicklaus designed this course in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2016 that a luxurious resort was completed to take full advantage of a remarkable location overlooking Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest freshwater lake in Central North Island. Although it looks like a classic Scottish or Irish links course in between green hilltops, Nicklaus has merged elements of links-style and parkland design to produce a beautiful and fun challenge for golfers. In typical fashion, The Golden Bear has used dozens of bunkers flanking the fairways and in front of greens. I counted twelve bunkers on the par-4 first hole and managed to land in two of them for a double bogie. If your errant shot doesn’t make it into a sand trap, then your ball could be in the long fescue.
“Opt for accuracy from the tee, not length,” said Kinloch Club Golf Director Tom Long. “Don’t attempt a ‘superman’ recovery shot following an errant shot – rather get the ball back in play and take your medicine.”
Significant elevation changes throughout the course mix up the approach shots, and provide some great views off tee blocks. The approach shot on hole 9 must climb a large hill with a bunker just in front of the green. Hole 10 then starts with a spectacular view over Lake Taupo. The par-5 16th offers a variety of approaches with a fairway split three ways and a valley that long hitters can carry over in two well-struck shots – a birdie opportunity that I welcomed. In general, however, you are punished for attacking the course. A sign in the clubhouse warns golfers just that: “If you fight this golf course, it will beat you!”
There are 172 bunkers along the fairways and greens. The greens are protected from the front so you’ll have to take the aerial route on approach. As a rule, use one club up as there is more room at the back of the greens than the front. You’ll be hitting over water on the par-3 third hole and around a lake on the 18th. The greens can be undulating and two-tiered but are not particularly threatening especially after those on 2,14 and 16 were redone during a renovation.
When to play: Year-round, Tuesday to Sunday, although it can get rather chilly on winter mornings in July and August.
Yardage: 7363 yards, 6734 meters
Best hole: The 18th hole plays away from Lake Taupo and towards the impressive resort building. The fairway on the par 5 doglegs to the right before wrapping around a lake on the left-hand side. Players are invited to shoot over water on approach to make a birdie.
The designer says: “It’s a heck of a test. Aesthetically it fits right into the landscape, the bunkers have great shape.” Jack Nicklaus *
The resort experience:
The Lodge at Kinloch is built on a hill overlooking the back-nine holes of the Nicklaus course and Lake Taupo. The main building is striking in its modern design, which has castle-like elements including a gangway entrance and central courtyard. But the interior decoration offers some softness, with fox furs, goat furs, leather chairs and sofas. The Dining Room, the Great Room, Bar and Den make full use of the views while the Spa and Wellness Centre can be found one level below. There is a feeling you’re in an exclusive place as your host offers pre-dinner drinks and you meet the other guests. Set in 254 hectares (628 acres) of peaceful land, you are also away from it all here.
Dine and wine: Some of the finest cuisine I’ve consumed in New Zealand was dinner (spinach and tomato soup, a delicious salmon plate and perfectly cooked beef main) and breakfast (delectable fruit plate before a hearty mix of sausages, scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon) at the gourmet restaurant. I enjoyed the panoramic views of the lake and course as I tucked into these dishes, which have been prepared using produce from the 2000-hectare (4942-acre) home owners’ estate. Each course is matched with fine New Zealand wine.
There are 10 two-bedroom villas, eight with duel keys so that they can be split into separate one-bedroom villas. Once you get past the giant doors, you’ll find absolute luxury inside. Rest in front of the fireplace or take in the views of Lake Taupo on the terrace. Modern design and creature comforts are included such as the heated towel rails and bathroom tiles, and an enormous standalone bathtub. The comfortable king-size beds can be split into twins. One-bedroom villas have a full kitchen and courtyard for outside dining. Two-bedroom villas include two furnished terraces, laundry facilities and two bathrooms.
New Zealand has some of the best fly-fishing in the world so I’ll be wetting a dry fly the next time I’m in the Lake Taupo region. The resort provides trout fishing guides that take you to secluded spots by road or helicopter. They’ll help with fly selection and spotting big browns and lovely rainbows. The Lodge’s chef can cook up your prize trout once you return. All fishing equipment and a gourmet picnic lunch with drinks can be organized.
As well as the spa and tennis at the resort, you can go bungee-jumping into the nearby Waikato River, take a jet boat to Huka Falls, set out mountain biking, enjoy a scenic helicopter flight or skydive next to Lake Taupo. As Nicklaus said: “You’re in the middle of everything; the best fishing, hunting, water sports, skiing, the wilderness and mountains.”*
* Source: www.thekinlochclub.com/kinloch-golf-course