Hemispheres (United Airline)
"Fairways & Greens - LODGE BROTHERS"

February 2003

By AG Pollard Jnr
Hemispheres (United Airline)
Kauri Cliffs
“Many of today’s popular golf resorts pack so many other activities and events under one roof that a dedicated duffer feels like an afterthought. Not to worry. Golf purists are now flocking to a smart new trend – the links lodge.”

Around the start of the 20th Century, the uniquely American golf resort was born. Developed hand-in-hand with the burgeoning system of railroads (that carried customers almost to a resort’s front door), there blossomed such behemoth hotels as the Greenbrier and the Homestead, the Carolina Inn at Pinehurst, the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and the Del Monte Inn at Monterey, California. Most of those grand old chestnuts are still around and doing quite well, but such resorts have to try to be all things to all people. In addition to golf of a hight standard, there must be tennis and a spa and shopping and fine dining and hiking and jogging trails and children’s activities and an exercise facility and a business center with fast Internet service. To fill up all the hundreds of guestrooms, these resorts must book huge business groups just to survive. Lost in the shuffle is the primary target group of golfers: the vacationing husband and wife or the small group of guys hoping to get away for a few days of R and R on the course. These poor people find themselves surrounded in the typical resort lobby by hundreds of members of the Left-Handed Actuarial Society of the Southwest, all wearing their “HELLO My Name Is… tags, who then book up the best course for a 10am shotgun start and party in the hospitality suite or hallways until 2am. Which is why real golfers – defined as people who don’t care about skeet shooting, fly-fishing, falconry, or learning to drive a Land Rover through a cross-country course are heading to another type of vacation place. There are enough of them now to qualify as a bona fide trend. Welcome to the Golf Lodge. The word lodge evokes rusticated charm: big, timber framed public rooms with fires roaring in stone hearths, and spare, pine-panelled bedrooms decorated with handmade quilts. But the granddaddy of golf lodges, The Lodge At pebble Beach, is hardly rustic or spare, with its grandly decorated lobby where high tea is served daily in front of the huge windows overlooking the famed 18th green and Stillwater Cove, and where the movie people posture as only movie people can. That’s all great, but those who favour golf lodges don’t really care about high tea or posturing movie people. They want to play 36 holes a day, have a good steak and a cold beer, go to bed early, and do it all over again the next day. Thus, they head to a place like the Lodge at Sea Island. This new 40-room lodge was the brainchild of Bill Jones III, the third generation owner of the Cloister resort hotel on the Georgia coast. The Cloister has been a favourite getaway for generations of Southern aristocracy, where coats and ties are required for dinner and children are given ballroom dancing classes and lessons in how to use the fish fork. Those who favour golf lodges don’t really care about high tea. They want to play 36 holes a day, have a good steak and a cold beer, go to bed early, and do it all over again the next day. Knowing that real golfers want no truck with such things, once Jones renovated his golf courses-four mismatched nines at the Sea Island Golf club, located on St. Simons Island about five miles from the resort proper – he built the fabulous golf lodge overlooking the fairways. The lodge contains a men’s locker facility-more than 10,000 square feet-as plush as many private clubs. (The women’s lockers are no less plush but slightly smaller, inasmuch as women do not feel the same compulsion, after a round of golf, to sit around in their underwear drinking bourbon and watching football.) Colt & Alison’s is the name of the steak house at the lodge, and upstairs the rooms and suites are decorated in antiques, the Irish linens have a thread count up in the stratosphere, and a private butler is assigned to look after the needs of guests. Because the poor butler usually has little more to do than fetch a bucket of ice and press my newspaper, I like to pop out of my room at 2 in the morning and ask him (a) if he can get me a road map of San Francisco, (b) if he knows the atomic weight of selenium, and (c) who won the Open Championship in 1941 (a trick question, since it was cancelled).

Out on the Oregon coast, there are no private butlers at the Lodge at Bandon Dunes. This place is the Spartan version of the golf lodge, in a setting that is as purely about golf as any place on the planet. The sprawling, cedar shake covered, begabled lodge dominates the dune-strewn terrain on which lie two authentic links courses. Not U>S> copies of links courses, with Bermude greens and faux sod bunkers, but two real, live, honest-to-god links courses with all the bumpy, unfair-bounces fairways, golf ball-collecting bunkers, windswept, rain-squalled heather, and gorse-bounded, walking only, wonderfully enthralling golf usually found solely on the UK side of the pond.

Inside this lodge, there’s a roomy cocktail lounge and a pretty good copy of a pub, a nice restaurant with an excellent wine list, and about 15 rooms that are the antithesis of fussy resort accommodations. I don’t think they even offer a minibar. But after 36 holes, four lagers, one roasted elk steak with shiitake mushrooms and balsamic reduction, and an insouciant Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, what else, really, does one need?

Golf Lodges are springing up everywhere these days. The lodge at Torrey pines in La Jolla, California, with 175 rooms, a spa, and a menu of non-golf activities, comes close to being more of a resort than a lodge. But you get guaranteed tee times at the two oceanfront public courses across the street at Torrey Pines, including the South, which will host the 2008 U.S. Open.

In New Zealand, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs fits all the specifications for a golf lodge: rustic elegance, roomy and comfortable bedrooms tucked away in separate cottages, a superb restaurant, and a new golf course that’s been compared favourable to Pebble Beach, draped atop a series of oceanfront cliffs near the Bay of Islands. Even Scotland’s Westin Turnberry Resort, a classic hotel of Edwardian elegance perched on a bluff overlooking links and sea, has recently built some comfy and nondrafty lodge and cottage rooms down by the golf course, perfect, as they say, for families, small groups, and golfers who don’t want to tromp through a froufrou lobby on their way to the first tee.

I’m not saying that full-service golf resorts are doomed. There will likely always be a market for those who wish to combine a round of golf with a loffah scrub down involving essence of hibiscus, seaweed, and algae. But for those of us looking for golf, more golf, red meat, and beer, it’s good to know we have a place to lodge our vote.

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Golf Shop Tel: +64 9 407 0060
Email: info@kauricliffs.com
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