Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, NZ

The golf course at Kauri Cliffs is a wonder in the world of modern golf courses. Perched on top of a small mountain the clubhouse allows expansive views of the entire front nine and the Matauri Bay. When walking (not suggested) this golf course one senses a true cross country golfing experience. The front nine straddles and climbs the sides of former cattle pastures before getting you out to the cliffs edge for the spectacular seventh hole, a tough par 3 across a chasm. The back nine begins by climbing down into a valley which shares holes 10, 11, and 12. Hole 13, Tablelands climbs out to a ridge and the sense of the ocean becomes stronger. No where in the world have I seen such dramatic cliffside golf starting on the fourteenth hole! Golfers are then treated to uninhibited and inspiring views of the Cavalli islands and the surrounding bay for four spectacular golf holes before again climbing back home to the clubhouse. The views are good and the golf is great. Somehow architect David Harmon was able to create a place for these golf holes among heaving pastures, high ridges and rolling cliffs along the ocean. I was left in awe of the grand scale of this course and left with a great satisfaction to have seen this amazing property.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Summer Series: Mackenzie

In June I drove with a friend down the Oregon coast into California on a mission, sent by the ghost of Mackenzie to see the excalibur of golf courses, golf's holy grail, Cypress Point. Simply driving the windy 17mile drive through the misty morning in Monterrey was enough to raise goosebumps. The entrance is unassuming, a small wooden sign, Cypress Point Club, members only. I was thrilled just to be standing in the parking lot! There is actually a photo recording the breadth of my smile in said parking lot, it was even broader as I stood on the 16th green tending the pin.

Cypress point is said to be Mackenzie's masterpiece, a golf course on land the designer said was unmatched in its beauty and variety. I have never seen such a natural place so meticulously looked after. The roots of this property are clearly seen in the crashing waters, sandy dunes, and colorful bushes. Like a fine piece of artwork hanging in a museum, the design of Cypress Point is framed in a wild and dynamic environment.
There is a pleasant rhythm to the walk around the golf course as the feeling of excellence never fades. The bunker edges are neat and fluffy with lone strands of fescue waving in the sea breeze and the greens are flawless.
I fear there is little I can add to the discussion of this incredible combination of wild beauty and sound golf design. My only hope is that my words and pictures can open a window of experience for anyone who is curious to witness heaven on earth.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Oreti Sands Links, Invercargill, New Zealand

The "World's Southern-most 18 Hole Golf Links", it says it right on the front of the scorecard! I believe this only means that I have come a long way from Staten Island to play some golf. Well, I didn't come all this way to lay up, right? I went straight for the back tees. This mistake cost me more golf balls than I was prepared to lose.

The combination of a strong wind and a unique layout required more orientation than I expected. The front nine twists its way through some wild low-land sand dunes, covered in shining thick native grasses. Oreti boasts a varied and unique topography but lacks in firm links conditions to take advantage of the playing strategies.

The second nine opens up into a large meadow and back out to some large trees, finishing among a small audience of sand dunes, unwinding a testing round of golf. Overall Oreti offered an exciting round as I discovered each hole and is worth a look if you ever make it this far for a round of golf.

Tokanui Golf Club, Fortrose, New Zealand

Following my spectacular links experience in Dunedin I was hungry for more! This next stop in New Zealand is arguably the most southern golfing links in the land. Tokanui Golf Club is a rumpled and rugged 9-hole sheep track, forty minutes outside of Invercargill. This 9-holer couldn't feel any more remote. Having hugged the coast in my car through the Catlin mountain range I pulled up to the golf course over a gravelled one car bridge, passing several scallop farmers, in full waders, up to their chests in the bay. Erol the lone green keeper advised me to take full relief from any tractor ruts in the fairways, I played the ball down however, I felt it to be in the spirit of the day. The golf was fun, but getting here was half the adventure.