May 26, 2014
I was excited that I could include two rounds of golf in my business trip to New Zealand. I had been in Hamilton for a three day show. After the show concluded Sunday afternoon, I visited the set of Hobbiton and then hopped on a flight from Hamilton to the southern city (on the North Island) of Napier.
Let me advise I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Air New Zealand. There was no security to speak of in Hamilton Airport. I dropped my bags off at the counter, proceeded to the waiting area, and then when the plane was ready, walked across the tarmac and boarded the plane. There were no dehumanizing TSA pat downs or body scanners. No one was treated like a terrorist. Spouses and children walked their loved one to the tarmac door and kissed and hugged good by. When you reach your destination, all suitcases are wheeled out on a wagon looking thing and you pick your bags up adn just leave. There is no true baggage claim like large airports elsewhere. It reminded me of flying in the U.S. in the 80s. It was a very welcome change.
We were in a fairly small plane, with two rows on each side of the plane (I think it had 44 seats). We were scheduled to fly to Wellington on the southern tip of the north island and then I was to catch a connection to Napier. However, upon approaching Wellington, the weather turned horribly rotten. The plane was thrown around in one of the worse storms I have experienced while flying, and the plane diverted to Palmerston North. I was worried since my tee time was 9 am the next morning. All the rental car places were closed at the Palmerston North airport and I had no other way to get to Napier. I also only had the one day in Napier to play Cape Kidnappers before I was scheduled to leave for Kauri Cliffs. Fortune (and the golf gods) smiled upon my trip and Air New Zealand prepared the same plane I had just taken from Hamilton and flew me and another lady to Napier from Palmerston North. It probably had more to do with needing the plane in Napier the next morning for a flight, but that kind of service deserves to be recognized. So, I arrived in Napier at around 10 pm, picked up the rental car, and checked-in to my hotel. I fell asleep straight away with much anticipation of my 9 am round the following morning.
The golf resort is located in Hawke's Bay, the city next to Napier. It is about a 20 minute drive or so from downtown Napier. The drive up to the course entrance is next to the ocean, with tall cliffs the entire drive. I had read about it in Fifty Places to Play Golf Before You Die,and have seen some amazing photos of Cape Kidnappers, with the back nine stretching out and down several "fingers" of jutting cliffs that protrude out into the South Pacific Ocean, with Hawke Bay also prominently on display.
The entrance to the resort is easy to miss. There were no signs that I could find and there is a locked, automatic gate with a call box next to the road. After advising my name and tee time, the voice welcomed me, and while the gate was opening for me, the voice advised it would take 15 minutes or so to arrive at the clubhouse where I would be greeted. I entered and started the long, meandering, thrilling drive to the clubhouse.
|They aren't joking. Slow down when you drive.|
To get to the clubhouse, you have to drive through what appears to be a cow and sheep farm, as well as a heavily wooded area. When driving to the clubhouse, you definitely want to drive slower than normal as there are no fences and the livestock pretty much runs free across the roads at any point during the drive. It is also a long and winding road upwards as the cliffs grow the closer you get to the clubhouse.
|The narrow drive up.|
|The clubhouse at Cape Kidnappers.|
|Looking back towards the entrance from the restaurant.|
|A look into the right side of the restaurant.|
|A look into the left side of restaurant and the bar.|
I stretched and warmed up on the practice range. You hit towards the edge of a cliff that drops to the ocean below. The ocean goes on as far as the eyes can see and it is one of the best views I have ever had at a practice facility (at least until I visited Kauri Cliffs a few days later).
|A look down the practice range from the tee boxes.|
Cape Kidnappers utilizes five tee boxes. From back to front they are blue, white, green, red, and yellow. As the blue are more than 7100 yards, I opted to play from the white tees at 6686 yards and is what I will be referring to when describing the holes below. The club has scorecards and sprinkler head markers in both meters and yards which made for a much easier day to judge distances.
The first hole is a par 4 that plays to 415 yards. It is a dogleg right, that has a valley at the turn of the dogleg. There is more landing area to the left side of the fairway to assist with this. If you hit the drive down the right side, there is a good chance it will run downhill and out of bounds.
|A view down the fairway from the 1st tee box.|
|A look into the 1st green from the turn of the dogleg.|
|A look into the 1st green from 170 yards out.|
|A look back down the fairway from behind the 1st green.|
The second hole is a 530 yard, par 5 that plays fairly long and straight. After driving across a small ditch, the fairway runs alongside a large grouping of cows. There are some sand traps located about 180 yards down the right side of the fairway. After you pass those, there isn't much of a challenge until you arrive at the green.
|A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee box.|
|A look into the 2nd green from 40 yards out.|
The third hole is where the course really starts to show off its uniqueness. I unfortunately didn't take a photo of the view to the left but there is a large cliff over there. Looking into the green, you can see where the land starts to conform to the will of the cliffs. This is also where you get your first glimpse of the ocean as it peaks out to the left side of the green.
It's only 155 yards from the whites, or 215 from the tips, but if the wind is gusting, this makes for a difficult shot. Luckily, the wind wouldn't kick up for me until another couple of holes.
|A look into the 3rd green from the tee box.|
The 4th, a 512 yard par 5, is a very tough tee shot. It is a blind tee shot over a valley. There is a pole on top of the hill that offers guidance of where to aim.
|A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the top of the hill.|
|A close look at the two-tiered, 4th green.|
|A look at the trap guarding the front of the 4th green.|
|A look down the fairway from the 5th tee box.|
The drive is across a cliff that cuts the fairway in half. There is a large landing area to the right that leads down and to the left, following the lay of the land.
|A look down the cliff from the left side of the 5th tee box.|
|A look into the green from 180 yards out.|
|A closer look at the type of traps that line the 5th fairway.|
|A look into the 5th green from 100 yards out.|
|A look into the green from the 6th tee box.|
The ocean helps frame the green, much like the 5th hole. Looking back and to the left from the tee box, you are able to see more than one of the cliffs in the distance.
|The view to the left of the 6th tee box.|
The 7th is a par 4 that plays 420 yards and turns back inland away from the cliffs. It is a sizable drive over a ravine. The fairway sloping back toward the ravine makes it a more difficult shot for shorter hitters as the ball will likely roll all the way back down if it doesn't clear the hill on the drive.
|A look down the fairway from the 7th tee box.|
|A look into the 7th green from 150 yards out.|
Once again, the shot to the par 3, 172 yard, eighth hole is across a ravine that eats golf balls that are never seen again. The wind was blowing directly into my face at 30 mph, and the greens were slick and the ball wouldn't stay on the green. After losing two balls, one into the ravine and the other rolling down off the green and back down the hill, I finally took my 3 wood and hit it past the green and on the hill behind it. With the conditions of the day, this is one of the toughest holes I have played anywhere in the world.
|A look into the green from the 8th tee box.|
|The bridge that traverses the ravine on both the 8th and 9th holes.|
The 9th hole is a 385 yard par 4 that plays back towards the ocean and clubhouse. The ravine you hit across at the 8th cuts completely across this fairway as well. Fortunately, there is a large landing area to play your ball right or left, whichever you prefer.
|A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.|
|A look into the 9th green from 170 yards out.|
|A look into the 9th green from 120 yards out.|
The 10th is a 435 yard par 4 that runs parallel to the practice range. It runs slightly downhill the entire way with the ocean in magnificent view across your field of vision. It plays generally straight until the last 50 yards or so of the hole.
|A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.|
|A look into the 10th green from 120 yards out.|
After finishing 10, you leave your bag at the path and take the club(s) you will need. You walk down to the tee boxes located at the edge of the next cliff and hit back inland towards the green.
|A look into the green from the 11th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.|
|A look into the 12th green from 150 yards out.|
The par 3, 13th hole plays along the edge of the cliffs and parallel to the ocean. It is 125 yards to the green. As you are playing across a ravine, and with strong winds, this is a tricky shot. Hit the ball too high and it flies down the cliffs toward the ocean. Hit the ball too low and it doesn't clear the hill, again rolling down the cliff towards the ocean.
|A look into the green from the 13th tee box.|
|A look behind the 13th tee box down the cliffs.|
|A view of the green from the right side while standing on the cart path looking towards the ocean|
The 14th is a fairly short par 4, playing to 338 yards. Your drive crosses a very steep ravine onto a rather flat fairway that turns slightly right towards the green.
|The bridge used to cross the ravine to travel from tee box to fairway.|
|A look into the 14th green from 80 yards out.|
The 15th hole is the last that plays towards the edge of the cliffs. It is a mammoth 600 yard par 5 (650 yards from the tips)! It is also the number one rated handicap hole on the course. It is a long, straight, (long, straight - used for effect), and again a long hole until you reach the green. There are a few dips and bumps along the right. There are steep cliffs along the left with amazing views of the ocean. However, the aerial shots make this hole look so much better from a thousand feet up than standing on the fairway itself.
|A view down the fairway after a 245 yard drive. There is still a long way to go!|
There are also signs and a fence posted along this fairway. Two steps past that fence and it is a 400 foot drop to the ocean below.
|Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!|
|A view to the left of the 15th fairway.|
|The stairs that lead up to the 16th tee box.|
The 16th is a par 5, 490 yard hole. It also has the best view of any tee box on the course. After a lengthy climb up stairs set into the side of the hill, you arrive at another one of those views that takes your breath away and leaves you staring out in wonder at the awesomeness of nature.
|A look to the right while standing on the 16th tee box.|
|A look to the left while standing on the 16th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 16th tee box.|
It's a long drive to reach the fairway (approximately 230 yards), but it is also an extremely elevated tee box. Driving to the fairway should be no problem unless you tend to slice. Off to the right is another ravine just waiting for a sacrifice to the golf gods.
Once you hit across the wide open space, you find a gradual uphill fairway that leads to a green protected by numerous downhill slopes that try to lead the ball into the various traps surrounding the green.
|A look into the 16th green from 100 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.|
|A look into the 17th green from 150 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.|
|A look into the green from 175 yards out.|
|A look into the green from 100 yards out.|