Te Awanga, New Zealand
Eighth hole, 180 yards, Backstop; Given the ravines et al, the par three holes were always going to play an important part in having the routing flow seamlessly and it is no surprise that the course features five of them. Here is another case whereby a one shotter was used to cross a gully. Situated well away from the water, the eighth is not a mongrel like the twelfth at Pebble Beach whereby the golfer is just waiting to get back to the good stuff. Instead, it is another example of an inland hole that is full of charm and playing merit to the point where Doak considers it perhaps his favorite one shotter on the course.
Ninth hole, 405 yards, Dip; Not unlike the tenth at Shinnecock Hills, the golfer needs to make the decision from the tee how best to play the hole: Hit a driver over the crest of a hill and down into valley, leaving a sixty yard albiet blind pitch or lay back off the tee and have a full view of one of the best greens on the course but accept an approach from 140 yards. The hole functions great today and is another example of skillful dirt work as ten feet of earth was pulled off the front of the green and used to fill in and soften the valley below.
Tenth hole, 475 yards, Seaward Ho; Though the front is set across exhilarating land for golf, the back possesses the holes that golfers frequently see featured in aerial photographs as six of its holes are located along the famous ‘fingers’ of land that make Cape Kidnappers distinct from any site in world golf. The backdrops to the greens on the back nine changes from green to blue and the tenth is the first of three infinity greens.
Eleventh hole, 225 yards, Look Out; As he heads back to the tee, the first time visitor might take comfort that this one shotter heads away from the cliffs, surmising that it might be a bit of a breather. Nothing could be farther from the truth as a chasm reaches within a few yards along the left of the green, which is little more than a knob with fall-offs short and right as well.
Twelfth hole, 460 yards, Infinity; Doak and Hepner use words like ‘understated’ and ‘elegant’ when describing their work at Cape Kidnappers and yet, such words seem at odds with a course whose holes are both thrilling and dramatic! A perfect example of how both sets of words can apply comes here at the bunkerless twelfth. Great time and effort was spent by Doak and his team in massaging the land before the green and the green itself so that the hole plays just right. Yet, this doesn’t mean that they added bunkers or other man-made hazards. Rather, the challenge rests in their subtle contouring of the land and the tight short grass. The green’s slope from front to back provides for expansive views of the water behind (put another way, if Doak had built up the back of the green so that it sloped in a traditional manner from back to front, much less of the Pacific would be in sight). Crucially, this is another example whereby the fast and firm conditions offered by Steve Marsden and his crew are central to allowing the hole to play properly. Some approach shots take ten plus seconds to trickle along the tilt of the green before finding back left hole locations and the hole wouldn’t be nearly as fun to play if that wasn’t the case. The end result of the design combined with the firm playing conditions is that the approach is another example whereby the playing merit is the equal to the striking setting. Doak summarizes it well when he says, ‘We were deliberately subtle with our architecture as there was no way in the world to compete with the surrounding beauty.’
Thirteenth hole, 130 yards, Alex’s Ace; Though modest in length, none of the professionals in the 2009 Kiwi Challenge came close to a birdie either day. The domed green’s soft shoulders feed balls off all sides to the point where even accomplished golfers find the middle of the green to be a satisfactory result. As a result of the golf course construction slowdown caused by the events of September 11th, 2001, Doak’s most talented team members including Brian Schneider, Brian Slawnik and Eric Iverson all worked on this project and the result is evident in the graceful shaping that defines this green complex. Alex Robertson won’t discuss the hole’s name but his proud father is quick to point out that Alex had a hole in one here the day before the course officially opened by punching a low boring shot underneath the wind and into the hole for a tidy ‘one’.
Fourteenth hole, 350 yards, Pimple; Of all the variations on the Road Hole green complex, this may well be the best, coming as it does on a reachable par four hole. Downwind, long players can reach the green providing their skill is matched with the courage to drive it long down the side with the most trouble. Doak’s favorite courses like Crystal Downs, The Old Course at St. Andrews and Cypress Point have long shaped his affection for short par fours and this one is as good as any of them. Just as with the original at St. Andrews, to go over this green is doom as Adam Scott found to his chagrin during the 2008 Kiwi Challenge.