The Takeaway: A wonderful compliment to its sister property Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs is even more scenic but not quite as compelling from an architecture standpoint; particularly with the non-coastal holes. The front nine has large elevation changes to contend with while finishing stretch of holes are absolute jaw droppers. Grade A
Designer: David Harman in 2000
Cost: $200 NZD - $560 NZD Click for current rates
Phone Number: +64 9 407 0060
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Kauri Cliffs Golf Course's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 139 Tepene Tablelands Road, Matauri Bay, Northland 0478 – NEW ZEALAND
What to Expect: Located near the top of New Zealand's northern island nearly four hours north of Auckland, Kauri Cliffs enjoys one of the most scenic and dramatic sites the golf world has ever known. Perched above the Pacific Ocean with views of the Cavalli Islands to the north and sandy Takou Bay to the south, players will never grow tired of the eye candy surrounding Kauri Cliffs. The drama starts early with the most stunning driving range I've ever been on boasting expansive views stretching ahead of you including a bird's eye view of waves crashing on the beach. The front nine starts with a pair of downhill par fours followed by a short dogleg right before getting to one of the best par fives in the Southern Hemisphere at the 4th. The 5th used to play from tees 90 degrees to the right of where the boxes currently sit and required a long uphill carry over jungle to reach safety, however Rees Jones changed it to a short drop shot since it played too similar in length, direction, and strategy to the impressive 7th hole. The back nine starts with a severely downhill tee shot before the course goes through the forgettable marsh holes that do little for the course other than provide a transition back to the high ground where the climatic finish awaits. You'll be glad you can use a digital camera rather than develop film for the 14th - 17th holes because you are going to give your camera a workout as you soak in the downhill cliffside holes. That finishing stretch is what people pay Kauri Cliffs' high end green fees to play and most won't walk away disappointed. With less than 5,000 rounds played annually at the Cliffs, you can always count on the course being in great shape and never being pushed by the group behind you. The severe elevation changes make playing Kauri in a cart the logical choice for virtually every visitor to the course and if I were to draw a comparison to another track I would identify the Jack Nicklaus designed Manele course on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. In the end, Kauri Cliffs is all about the visuals with plenty of water views and oodles of downhill shots. It doesn't offer as compelling of architecture as other top tier courses on New Zealand, but it does offer plenty of fun.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 7th Hole – 220 Yard Par 3 – A stunning one-shotter that plays on a cliff edge along the Pacific Ocean, the 7th is equally brute to its beauty. The tee shot plays uphill over a jungle ravine to a green fronted by a pair of bunkers which at first may appear to be penalizing, but in reality act as catch basins to prevent balls from ricocheting into ravine. There is plenty of room to miss long but a lost ball awaiting those that come up short, so take plenty of club to accommodate for the uphill terrain and the cross wind that often knocks shots down. The 5th hole used to play strikingly similar to this hole but didn’t have the ocean to compliment the setting which allows the 7th to take center stage as Kauri Cliffs’ signature hole.
Best Par 3: 14th Hole – 230 Yards – The 14th begins one of golf’s most dramatic finishing stretches as the next four holes are laid out on the cliff edge above the Pacific Ocean with the staggeringly blue water being on the player’s left enroute to the home hole. The tee shot plays a club less downhill to a green flanked on the right by a pair of bunkers while the left side tumbles off down a ravine. If you fear the bunkers and play to the left side of the green the putting surface will reward you with a slope that will work balls back towards the middle of the green in the front third while opening up to a flatter portion beyond that. It is a large target to hit so there should be little intimidation felt on the tee box and can yield a nice birdie attempt if you can manage the subtleties in the green.
Best Par 4: 17th Hole – 472 Yards – The final cliffside hole at Kauri is the lengthy 17th which offers a dramatic downhill tee shot and mesmerizing views enroute to the green that sits nearly 100 feet below the tee box. There aren't any fairway bunkers to utilize as aiming points but there is a distinct hump on the left side that you can utilize as a mark. Going left of the hump is the bold line that requires more length to clear but will yield a shorter approach shot into the green while the safe play is right of the hump where more fairway and forgiveness awaits. A trio of bunkers surrounds the green but leaves an opening in the front right portion which begs players to bring their approach shot in on that line. The bunkers left of the green will catch balls from tumbling down the ravine, but missing long doesn't afford the same luxury. This is a beautiful hole with one of the more exciting tee shots on the course, so soak it up because your round is nearly over.
Best Par 5: 4th Hole – 558 Yards – Easily the best par five at Kauri Cliffs and one of the most revered three-shotters in the Southern Hemisphere, the 4th is where Kauri starts kicking things up a notch. The tee shot plays from a suppressed box tucked into the side of a ravine with a wide fairway bunker on the right and a pair of circular bunkers on the left. A 250 yard tee ball will carry the bunker on the right while a 300 yard poke will tumble into the sand on the left. A baby cut off the bunkers on the left to the fairway that slopes right will find the ideal location in the short grass to set up the second shot. If you are going for it in two then you are going to need to call on that cut shot again as the ravine carves in from the right and tightens the opening to the green, but a ball that starts at the bunker on the left can cut onto the green or stay straight and get a kick from the fairway towards the putting surface. A tier in the putting surface creates an intriguing pin position in the front right corner while pins in the back third are dangerous to attack because of the steep falloff on the backside. The view downhill to the green from the fairway with waves crashing on the beach beyond is one of the finest views Kauri Cliffs serves up; and it serves up plenty.
Birdie Time: 16th Hole – 367 Yard Par 4 – Named “Temptation” due to the high risk/reward design that begs players to take their chances at driving the green, the 16th is a match play delight. The fairway doglegs left with the terrain tumbling even harder from right to left that will feed balls toward the green when tee shots find the short grass. The safe line off the tee is just right of the lone tree on the far side of the fairway which lines up with the first of the six bunkers that protect the corner of the dogleg. The bold play is a sweeping draw that follows the shape of the fairway and catches the slope that generously feeds balls onto the green and yields an elusive eagle putt. The day I played I took driver straight at the green and flew it over with a generous helping wind. I decided to tee up a 3 wood on the same line which resulted in landing on the green before skipping off the back. It is a wildly tempting hole to engage your skills on and an absolute blast every time you play; especially when you pick up a birdie.
Bogey Beware: 15th Hole – 544 Yard Par 5 – The final par five on the course features one of the most challenging drives at Kauri Cliffs as a forest of trees pinches the driving zone on the right while a ravine frames the left. With nowhere to bail out, players must stripe one down the middle to avoid a potentially hazardous situation to deal with on the second shot. As players begin their journey towards the green they will find a bunker perched on the right side in the layup zone well short of the green which can guide players to flirt with the ravine on the left. The fairway makes a last second turn left which perches the green on the furthest left point of the hole in a risk/reward design that dares players to contend with the deadly left side whenever they attack the putting surface. With a challenging tee shot paired with trouble the whole way to the green, bogies come in bunches on the 15th, but take a moment to forget about your score and take in the stunning view of the Cavalli Islands peppering the blue waves beyond the green.