Matauri Bay, New Zealand
Thirteenth hole, 425/405 yards, Tablelands; Just as at Cape Kidnappers, the cliff side holes hog the notoriety and that will never change but it does mean that golfers will always be pleasantly surprised when they come across an inland hole of as high a quality as this one that they have never heard about. Its golf qualities are just as good as the cliff side holes though you may never see photographs of it elsewhere (other than here of course!). After finding the elevated level of the fairway with his tee ball, the golfer mulls over how best to approach the green that is set on an angle to the fairway. Guess wrong and come up short and the golfer likely will face a bunker shot from either of the two deepest greenside bunkers on the course.
Fourteenth hole, 230/175 yards, Waiaua Bay; Back in the 1950s and 1960s when the C.I.A. was a bastion for the best from the Ivy League schools, the first question applicants would be asked is what club does one use on the thirteenth tee at National Golf Links of America. Such a question was meant to sort quickly through who was made of the right stuff. The ‘right’ answer was supposedly a seven iron but the real right answer would have been to first ask back which direction and what strength was the wind blowing. Such is true here as it ask what club one hits here is meaningless as the fourteenth tee marks the highest spot on the course and as such, the full effects of the wind are felt on this tee. Having holed out at the thirteenth which borders farmland, the golfer makes the uphill walk toward to the fourteenth tee and the first time visitor is shocked when he crests the hill. With no hint being given from the prior hole, the glories of Kauri Cliffsâ€™ coastal setting come into full view. These next four holes are as well situated as any in golf and the diversity among them (a par three, a par five, a reachable par four, and a brute of par four) is top draw.
Fifteenth hole, 545/515 yards, Cookâ€™s Hook; Despite the breathtaking vista of Waiaua Bay below and the Cavalli Islands in the distance, the golfer is asked to concentrate and hit one of the most taxing tee shots of the day along the edge of a cliff wall covered in native vegetation. Anything hit left falls off the world, which is unfortunate as that can spoil the walk along the four hundred yard long fairway which provides the best opportunity on the course to slow down and fully appreciate just where one is. Even the most jaded traveler will marvel taking in the uninterrupted 180 degree views of nothing but nature at her pristine finest. Never has the person been so glad as to be a golfer as without the game, he would unlikely find himself in such an environment. The spirit rejoices and the mind swirls, perhaps thinking of Zane Grey and the great marlins and swordfish in the waters below or of taking an excursion to the hole in the rock at Cape Brett in the distance. The bottom line: The mind happily boggles as to where the body is.
Sixteenth hole, 365/355 yards, Temptation; Some resorts stick with the same architect such as Pinehurst Resort and Tom Fazio and Kohler and Pete Dye. This is patently not the case at Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers as David Harmonâ€™s and Tom Doakâ€™s architectural styles could not be more diverse. One way that manifest itself is in the bunker construction. As seen in Cape Kidnappers’ profile found on this web site, the bunkers were cut into landforms and are generally below the natural grade of the land. As seen above, Harmonâ€™s bunkers stick up more and hide the sixteenth fairway as it doglegs left and tumbles toward the sea. Some players prefer Doakâ€™s style while others like Harmonâ€™s more – and that is great. After all, most guests fly a long way to play both courses and to have them be same-same would be ludicrous. Remember: Pebble Beach and Bandon are the two most profitable golf resorts in the world and they both feature disparate forms of architecture, much to everyone’s ongoing delight.
Seventeenth hole, 470/440 yards, Rainbow; Several of the world’s greatest holes play from an elevated tee to a fairway set on an angle. Two prime examples are the fifth at Royal Portrush and the sixth on the West Course at Royal Melbourne. A similar opportunity was presented in spades here and Harman seized the moment to create what many consider to be the best hole on the course. Unlike the holes at Portrush and Royal Melbourne, if ever a golfer wishes that his natural shape shot is a draw, it is standing on this elevated tee as he loves nothing more than to turn over his tee ball and watch it follow the shape of the fairway and bound along.
As with other famous courses beside large bodies of water such as Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straits, and Tralee, there is a sense of regret when one leaves the water and the last hole for each nine heads back to the clubhouse. Same is true here but here at least the tee shots have to clear a ravine and the golfer remains fully engaged. Yes, the valley wall on the far side is too abrupt to constitute great golf but the reward is the views afforded from the clubhouse’s porch.
In addition to leaving behind Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, Mr. and Mrs. Robertson are donating their art collection to the Auckland Museum upon their passing away. There is no telling how being exposed to Van Gogh or Rembrandt or Monet will influence the youth of New Zealand. However, what is undeniable is that by sharing these works of art in a public setting, their impact will be all the greater. The same is true with the resorts of Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers as they bring people to these two special places whereby guests are immersed in the best that nature has to offer. Where else can you go on a night tour for kiwis or see Tane Mahuta (the world’s largest Kauri tree) or go see the largest gannet colony? As Darwin and MacKenzie would argue, these properties and their impact on the human spirit are just as strong as the works of art on canvas.
There is one difference though. Unlike the century old pieces of art of which the Robertsons have been good stewards, the Robertsons drove from scratch the creation of the two works of art at Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers. Sir Edmund Hillary was the last ambassador of goodwill to this extent that New Zealand has seen and the country will be forever grateful for the Robertson’s lasting legacies.