In a past professional life I had run a workshop at Cape Kidnappers on the psychology of golf and at the time had never seen a golf course like it – so you could say I was a touch excited knowing I was playing Cape Kidnappers today.
Cape Kidnappers is located in the beautiful orchard and wine region of Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
The Cape Kidnappers experience starts with a scene out of Jurassic Park. From the opening of the double gates at the bottom you take a long uphill journey along a dry creek bed as it weaves it’s way through forest, native bush and prairie grass. The view that greets you when you reach the top of the hill is breath taking.
“If Cape Kidnappers were a book it would be described as an epic” explains course designer Tom Doak.
The Cape figures in Maori mythology and its name immortalizes the first visit by Captain Cook in 1770.
Everything here is on a grand scale and having such an incredible canvas to build a golf course on it must have been a real challenge for Doak to try and match it with a high quality golf course – this he managed to do.
Cape Kidnappers is not a true links terrain: instead the land tilts towards the sea as a series of ridges jutting out toward the edge of the cliffs. Yet the play is seaside golf at it’s finest.
The front nine starts off heading up into the working farm on the property, with the par 5 2nd playing up to the original farm buildings – by the 3rd hole you are heading back to sea, perched on top of the cliffs.
Most of the back nine is played on cliff top fingerlings, until you head back inland, up towards the clubhouse, designed to look like a barn from the 16th.
Hole 12 is called “Infinity” because the back of the green appears to disappear into the ocean and requires real commitment to the shot – my mind plays tricks with me on my approach shot with visions of my balling flying the green and plummeting into the ocean 140 metres below. True to Doak’s form I needn’t have worried as the thirteenth tee sits just behind the green to protect any wayward approach shots. Although I never would have known that from 150 metres out!
Bunkers are prominent at Cape Kidnappers but rarely do they have any impact on the golf – on the 13th and 15th holes the green side bunkers are actually placed on the edge of the cliffs — I suspect more to stop a ball flying off the cliff than to protect the hole.
My favourite hole is the 16th – from the cliff top tee the prevailing northerly winds rise up from the ocean below and create an updraft against the cliff – most golfers tee a ball off into the ocean 11 seconds freefall below. As you are teeing off your actual shot it is very common for seagulls or the world famous Cape Kidnapper gannets to be hovering on the breeze above your head.
The fairways are pure and carpet like and being on the edge of the cliffs I am sure the conditions can get windy – although I was lucky to have perfect blue skies and a very light wind – so the player who can control their trajectory will have a great day on the course.
If you manage to drag yourself away from the golf course, there is so much more to do at Cape Kidnappers.
You can stay at the Luxury Lodge with a food and wine experience to die for.
Or pamper yourself in the Day Spa.
Or if you feeling a little more adventurous then I would highly recommend the Kiwi walk, where you get to track, find and hold the endangered Kiwi birds on the property – this is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Or you can hop on a 4×4 motorbike and take a tour of the property, checking out the world’s largest land based Gannet colony, go sightseeing at Black Reef and spot the Shark’s tooth or ride the 8km inland river bed, past traditional Maori Pa (or burial) sites and discover 5 million year old fossils along the way.
The only downside to me was that on this particular day I played it by myself. Cape Kidnappers is a bucket list golf course, ranked by Golf Digest as the 22nd best golf course in the world so bring someone to share it with and bring a camera because with a setting like this you will never play golf somewhere like this again.
Written by Andrew Mirror” McCombe www.golfgetaway.com.au
For more information visit www.capekidnappers.com