A drumroll, please, for Kauri Cliffs, Golf Digest's Best New International Golf Course of 2001. It may be located in northeastern New Zealand, hugging the crests of coastal bluffs above the Pacific Ocean, but it has a thoroughly American feel.
Kauri Cliffs is owned by Wall Street multimillionaire and former hedge-fund guru Julian Robertson, who bought a 4,000 acre New Zealand cattle ranch years ago and recently decided to create a destination resort on part of it. The course was designed by David Harman of Orlando, who built courses for Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer before forming his own design firm in the 1990s.
Unlike some designers given a once-in-a-lifetime site, Harman succeeded in blending the course into the magnificent scenery. There are no massive mounds or outlandish waterscapes to divert attention away from the natural splendor. The broad fairways follow the curvature of the land, greens are mere extensions of fairways, and bunkers are modest in size and number. Six holes edge oceanside cliffs, and others conclude on inland promontories. Only three holes in a canyon don't offer panoramic views, but they may be the best holes on the course.
To the dismay of some Kiwis, Kauri Cliffs could well become and American hangout. Locals had better play it now. This course looks to be a must-play destination.