Damn that view. How is a golfer, especially one like me who is not so adept at sinking a little white ball into an equally small hole, supposed to keep her eye on the game when all around is so confoundedly beautiful? How can you concentrate on your swing, the rough and those blasted bunkers when the fairway is a dazzling panorama of sparkling sea, rugged cliffs, powder-sand beaches and shimmering islands. Make no mistake. A round of golf at The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs – overlooking New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Islands in the far north of North Island – is almost certain to play havoc with your handicap. Just when you think you’ve got a grip on this challenging course, along comes another breathtaking view to put you completely off your game.
Thankfully, life is a little less stressful back at the lodge. The imposing two-storey timber building, modelled on the 19th century mission houses seen in this delightful Northland area, has generous verandas and sitting rooms with chairs and sofas to sink into at every turn, perfect for relaxing and gazing out across the golf course to the dreamily blue Pacific. The property is the second home of Americans Julian and Josie Robertson, who have combined a love of golf with a passion for New Zealand. The Robertson’s have married their personal concept of airy spaces with a casual look that is elegant in every detail with the skills of interior designer Virginia Fisher, whose distinctive style will be familiar to those who have stayed at the iconic Huka Lodge.
Here at Kauri Cliffs, Fisher has featured metal finishes such as acid-etched frames for the 80 or so mirrors, heavy rustic chandeliers and iron, bronze and aged-zinc finishes to counterbalance the split totara wood floors, textured furniture fabrics and the garden-fresh flowers. The upper part of the lodge is very relaxing and deliberately free of golf memorabilia so non-golfers won’t feel overwhelmed. And there’s no need to fear total immersion in golf-speak at dinner either as dining is at separate tables with personal butler service. Downstairs, however, serious golf kicks in. Golf director Dwight Segall, snaffled from the prestigious New York Golf Club, presides over Kauri Cliffs’ incredible par-72 championship course designed by David Harman. The course is described as long, challenging, scenic and a place where the rough is very rough – adept at swallowing balls. Trust me.
Above the golf course, a heated horizon pool and spa is a glorious place to float and listen to the skylarks. The pool is conveniently situated between the lodge and the 16 guest rooms in eight duplex cottages set in an area of native forest apart from the lodge but within easy walking distance – or a golf buggy ride if you prefer. Virginia Fisher’s interior decorating skills give the simple but comfortable guest rooms – each with a deluxe bathroom and dressing room – the appearance of colonial worker’s cottages, reflecting the far north of New Zealand with native timber weatherboards, French doors and breezy verandas. Chairs and ottomans woven from water hyacinth give a modern edge to the wicker favoured in the colonial era and camel, grey and beige tones have been used so as not to compete with the spectacular scenery. American quilts and locally handmade merino wool throws add layers of comfort and each room has a gas fire which springs to like at the flick of a switch as well as underfloor heating for the chill winter months.