The Cut Magazine
"What a Wonderful World"
Chris Baldock
The Cut Magazine
Kauri Cliffs
Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus, Palmer, Ballesterous; St Andrews; Pebble Beach, Medinah, The Congressional, Turnberry … the competitors and the courses come straight out of golf’s hall of fame.

Now add Kiwi Michael Campbell and Kauri Cliffs to that revered list.

The common link, of course, is Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, a captivating, made for TV series that first graced our screens in the sixties and has re-established itself as a firm favourite since emerging from a 24 hour wilderness back in 1994.

For a few days last month, film crews, producers and presenters descended on 4000 acres of Northland that were first recognised as one of the most desirable venues in the world by the prestigious US Golf Digest, which in 2001 named Kauri Cliffs as its “best new international course”.

Campbell, sponsored by the resort, was paired with former Players Championship winner and Ryder Cup star Fred Couples for 18 holes of strokeplay golf in front of a crowd that approached 2000 and included Prime Minister Helen Clark, Russell Coutts and his America’s Cup-winning compatriot Brad Butterworth.

The deal to stage the match was tied up with Kauri Cliffs owner Julian Robertson, the Wall St multi-millionaire who is developing another super-course at Cape Kidnappers.
The location did not disappoint. In fact, it probably exceeded expectations. “I got taken for a helicopter ride this morning and I can honestly say this is by far the prettiest place I’ve eve seen,” said Couples as he prepared to test his improving form on Campbell for the not-unimpressive sum of $400,000 on offer as prize money.


I think for most people, amateur players particularly, coming here to play would be a real treat. The chalets are unbelievable, the food is great and the golf course is that much also.

According to Michael Pithey, General Manager of Gaylord Event Television (the company behind the series), a trip to New Zealand with a Shell crew had been planned for some time and was seen as a major winner with viewers on the Golf channel and ESPN back home.

We have been wanting to come to New Zealand for a while now, clearly it is more expensive than doing a show in our own backyard, he said. First, we look for a site fee, and Julian Robertson was very good about that, and then it comes down to what we can get from the local economy and what we can get locally, in terms of crews, hotels, cars and all that sort of stuff. New Zealand was tough, but not that tough once Julian became a piece of the puzzle. And Pithey was confident that the Kauri Cliffs match would be an instant hit with fans in the States used to a rich diet of all that is great and good in golf.

I think this show is going to have a tremendous impact on golfers primarily, but also the secondary viewer back home. He said. People there don’t know a lot about this country and it’s a beautiful, gorgeous place that Americans would fit right into. The secondary viewer will enjoy the golf, but other filming we have been doing around the country and it’s a beautiful, gorgeous place that Americans would fit right into. The secondary viewer will enjoy the golf, but other filming we have been doing around the country at places as far away as Queenstown and Milford Sound will just knock their socks off and I’m proud to be able to do that. The compliments were flowing thick and fast as Campbell and Couples, who admitted to being wary of the crosswinds blowing off the Pacific Ocean, practised in front of an enthralled gallery.

The silken tones of announcer Jack Whittaker, an icon of sport casting who also has the Olympics, baseball and horse racing on his DV, have been associated with the Wonderful World of Golf since the early days. For a long while, Whittaker was heard alongside the voice of the legendary Gene Sarazen, who provided the most insightful of summaries as the game’s best did their stuff for this unique show. Consequently, when he speaks, you listen and the following tribute would be music to Robertson’s ears. This, so far, is probably going to be the outstanding place we have been all over the place to South Africa, Europe and Canada among others… and that is part of the joy of doing the show. Without it, we would probably never have seen this place. James Walton, the show’s producer, was equally effusive having spent the best part of a week putting together the components that make the wonderful world series much more than golf show.


We will give the viewers of the show a real look at New Zealand as well as great golf course and, of course, the match, Walton explained. It’s also about showing things like the fact that Michael has his wife, father and uncle here along with some mates. So showing the people following the golfers is also a key.

Freddie and Michael have been here for a few days and one of the things we are also doing is taking Michael to the Maori village at Waitangi where they are going to do a ceremony for him. That sort of thing will really open American eyes, especially, into his heritage that they wouldn’t otherwise see in a golf show. And Walton’s verdict on his latest location surpassed even that of his colleagues. I have played a lot of places and with this series I have gone all over the world, but I would be hard pressed to tell my mates back home that I have seen better as a golf course. The fact it’s in this great country with such great people means that the more folk who get over here, it is just going to go up and up in the world rankings. Campbell was clearly thrilled to join the roll call of golfers who have graced the Shell programmes an impromptu haka to the delight of assembled guests.

I don’t know if he’s going to do it today before we tee off laughed Couples, but it was cool, pretty cool. And Campbell admitted: “it was kind of spontaneous, but my reason for doing it was I though I would scare him! I spoke to him afterwards, though, and I just think he was chuffed that I had gone to the trouble. As he headed toward the first hole, Campbell added Its one on one, so it’s a bit different to the usual tournament, but I’ve watched these programmes on television since I was a kid, so to be involved really is a great honour. Its been brilliant all round. I think most of the overseas visitors have enjoyed the whole aspect, not just being around Kauri Cliffs, but the culture and being in Kerikeri, Paihia and Waitangi. It’s great for the country to be exposed in this way. Golf’s a good way to do it.

The programme could finally hit New Zealand TV screens later in the year, but although we’re not allowed to reveal too much, there were no further Kiwi celebrations out on the course as Couples emerged triumphant. Theatre was only one real winner though: Kauri Cliffs…. A fact readily acknowledged by Robertson. Its been a real thrill for me he said. Its been marvellous to have two fantastic players here, particularly Michael, who I have come to know as an even better person than he is a golfer. But I’m also thrilled that people are going to get to see Kauri Cliffs because it really deserves to be up there with the best. That’s not because of anything we have done, but it’s the magnificent beauty of your country which permeates through every blade of grass on the course. Executives were already talking of a return to New Zealand before the last shot had been played in the Campbell-Couples contest. And with Robertson promising a nice surprise when his Cape Kidnappers resort opens at the beginning of next year, odds are that we could be enjoying a wonderful world reunion down in the Hawkes Bay.

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