Cape Kidnappers Golf Course in New Zealand
Young guns battled gale winds at the Cape Kidnappers Kiwi Challenge this last November. Four of golf's most charismatic, young PGA TOUR contenders––Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair––scrambled to stay on the greens in the 50-mile-an-hour winds off the ocean on one of the world's greatest golf courses, Cape Kidnappers on New Zealand's North Island. The opening round of the two-day event was suspended due to high winds, which repeatedly moved the balls around, even after they landed on the fairways (on the practice range, hitting into the wind, "spiderman" Villegas watched his 5-wood shots actually fly back over his head). Anthony Kim only needed a bogey on the first playoff hole to defeat Sean O'Hair and collect $1 million.
Tom Doak-designed Cape Kidnappers lies on a series of rugged bluffs above the sea. Doak said, "If it were any bigger or any more dramatic, it would probably be cordoned off as a national park. It's an overwhelming experience to stand up on the cliffs, 140 meters above sea level, and look out across the waves far below in Hawke's Bay. Not true links terrain, with the wrinkles of sand dunes, instead the land tilts toward the sea as a series of ridges jutting out toward the edge of the cliffs. Yet, the play is seaside golf at its finest. The surface is firm and fast, the conditions can be windy, and the player who can control his trajectory will be master of the course. You'll hit shots over the tops of the tea trees, and play along the edges of deep ravines. If you stray on your approaches, you'll actually hope to get caught up in bunkers hanging off the green's edge, some of them deeper than you've ever seen before. Three times, you'll have to make the perilous leap from the end of one ridge to the end of the next. And at the 6th and 15th holes it's possible to pull your approach off the very end of the earth, though it will take nearly ten seconds of hang time for your ball to reach the ocean below.
A luxury-level Relais & Chateau property, 20 cottages at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers are adjacent to the golf course on a 5,000-acre sheep and cattle ranch. The Farm ranked among Travel + Leisure's "World's Top 100 Hotels".
Founder/editor of BestGolfResortsofTheWorld.com, Karen Misuraca is a travel and golf writer from the California Wine Country. She follows the little white ball around the world and blogs about International Golf Travel at www.examiner.com.