Though I might be stating the obvious, I will begin this newsletter with the following statement¡Golf is an amazing world. With man's fingertip access to intelligence, machinery, and computer power, the art of golf course architecture has reached a level only transcended by the human imagination. Yet, the illusion of man's creation holds only a flicker to the flame of magic and grandeur that Mother Nature unveils. Though I have previously declared other venues as spectacular, staggering, and breathtaking, I have yet to admit to the rivalry of a Pebble Beach, or even better, Cypress Point. But, that I must do.
Kauri Cliffs Harmanizes in both mind and spirit as one of the most awe-inspiring golf destinations in the world. It's physique busts it into the 5 most aesthetic seaside courses known to mankind. Nestled high above the Pacific Ocean in the upper corner of the North Island, Kauri Cliffs is an hour helicopter ride from Auckland, or if time allows, a 4-hour car ride through rural countryside and small villages.
Though an aerial view provides panoramic vision of New Zealand landscape, travel by road soaks your soul with local flavour. Regardless of mode of travel, an understated entrance to Kauri Cliffs leaves you questioning the purpose of your trip; just until you arrive at the front door. Miles from planes, trains, and automobiles, the "Great House," or more properly the "Clubhouse" sits atop a piece of tranquility overlooking serenity, which is where my journey begins.
Hundreds of miles of ocean blue, capped with white dressing. Hues of green spread like a velvet blanket over the hills and valleys of pristine nature. New objects of white stacked perfection. Quite the view from the driving range¡only!
Though my practice time was short-lived due to a rapidly approaching storm, I was able to enrich my spirit with a few "warm-up" shots before heading to the first tee. A short, straightaway par 4 immediately sent us into the wild, away from any manmade structure. As I enjoyed the ease of a few twists and turns, jogs and strolls, I sensed that something was about to lure me into the bowels of this land of link. Then, as expected but not prepared for, Cruela de Vil's chamber of torture appeared at the par 3, 5th. Swinging against the wind with all my might, and with all I had, a 200++ yard shot barely cleared the ditch and just scraped over the edge of the front bunker. Echoing my own plea, I raised my eyes and moved headlong against the wind up to the 6th, a straight uphill, par 4.Upon reaching the green, my eyes, watered from rain and wind, cleared for the first glimpse of the Bay of Islands. Was it a tear, or still rain that dampened my cheek? Pressing on, par 3, 7th; par 5 8th; and par 4, 9th led me back to the clubhouse. The storm was circling with really no end in sight, but that view¡off to the back side we go.
The 10th tee fits snugly beneath the decks of cottages 2 and 3 before slipping down to the valley floor. From the fairway, I remember looking back with amazement. The attention to detail, the textures, the colours¡Vermeer on golf! Holes 10-13 spread end over end before rapidly climbing to the par 3, 14th. Rising to the tee, no rain insight, a wetness once again dampened my cheeks. In all my life, golf and otherwise, I have never felt so much peace. Beauty, both man and nature, stand in Harmany applauding one another. My steps got slower, my heart softer, and my hands trembled with delight. A few more paces to the 15th. Setting up along jagged cliffs, the tee angles out over a menacing gorge before lending way to a generous fairway. With a second gorge in the distance, the picturesque green screams at you to "Make it's day!" Visions of hitting this masterpiece in two dance in your head¡lucky for me there was another place to escape once other visions appeared! Onto the 16th, their signature hole, and a conundrum of sorts. Visually deceptive, but strategically on que. With a gorge to sea view on the left, my driver, naturally, steered itself to one of the many bunkers aligning the right. Down the hill to a beautifully tucked green, a backdrop of blending blue. I must admit due to emotional overload, my round from here is a blur. I do remember that 17 was a nice par 4, and the 18th pushed directly uphill to the clubhouse. Journeys such as these must have a beginning, but truly there are no ends, for months later my heart is still pounding and my soul remains singing.
Favorite hole: 15 and 16 - the 16th is recognised as the signature hole, and truly is dramatic. But, the 15th reminds me of the 18th at Sea Pines Plantation's Harbortown (South Carolina)¡sans real estate.