Review for Cape Kidnappers

Reviewer Score:


I played Cape Kidnappers in February 2019 and was able to play it twice the same day. I experienced all sorts of weather in the two rounds.

I read some of the other reviews and I understand some of the criticism as a resort course with a very different front nine to the back nine. I can understand some of it but I do think Cape Kidnappers is worthy of being discussed as a top 100 golf course in the world. It is not in my top 100 but that does not mean it does not belong in the discussion.

Given the land at the end of the long drive, I think Tom Doak did an excellent routing through his use of the various canyons and cliff side plateaus. The views towards the middle through 16th tee can be distracting and I normally do not consider views to be part of a golf course, however, here they must be considered as they are an integral part of the course.

I did not experience any slow play. We played the first round in a cart in 3 hours and the second round in 2.5 hours (second round was a twosome). That provided more than enough time to remember the course and think about its difficulties and strategy while even pausing for views on the second round.

The first is a straight forward par four of 440/390 with an interesting slightly elevated green that is well bunkered in front and you cannot miss left as you could end up out of bounds. That is a common theme on this golf course as there are green complexes that if the green is not hit, you must miss on one side or the ball will either end up lost or very far away with a blind recovery shot.

The second, a mid length par five was for me one of the weaker holes on the golf course, a gentle dogleg right.

The third, a par 3 of 215/155 over a chasm to a green with steep fall offs front and left I felt played too short from the 155 yards given the size of the green.

The fourth, a par 5 with a somewhat blind tee shot over a chasm I felt was pretty good the first round, but once I figured out for the second round where to hit the tee shot it felt a little less special. The green is elevated but as long as you stay left you avoid all of the trouble.

The fifth was the first really nice hole, a mid length par 4 with a green with a big fall off front left. We played it into a wind both rounds which made it play much longer. The play on this green is to miss long but not too long given the tilt of the green.

The sixth is the first par 3 of longer length, 225/190 over a chasm. Once again, the miss is to the right despite the bunker there and you cannot be short. A ball missed left is likely lost. This is a true risk-reward hole.

I liked the seventh, playing into a saddle and then down to a green that must be hit or missed left. Missed to the right and you have either a lost ball or a very long walk down a steep hill to find your ball with limited chance of recovery.

The eighth is a mid length par 3 of 182/172 that once again crosses a chasm. It is another risk/reward par 3.

I loved the strategy of the ninth hole, a par 4 of 403/385 asking you whether you wanted to try to hit a driver down the hill to leave a shorter shot or lay back and have a 140-160 yards shot into this green situated into the hillside with trees left and big dips fronting the green.

The tenth is a longer par 4 of 470/410 to a wide fairway but the first of three infinity greens. There is a nasty fall off and a nasty bunker to the left of this green. The bunker comes right to the edge of the green. It is a superbly designed hole.

The eleventh is a long par 3 of 225/200 over another chasm where the chasm comes right to the edge on the left side. Yet again another risk reward par 3 but somehow it feels different to the other two in both look and the way you decide to play it.

I could argue the twelfth is the best hole on the golf course with another wide fairway on this long par 4 of 460/430 yards to another infinity green that slopes right to left and front to back with a swale taking balls down to the back left. This is an enormous dip in the land front left of the green. This hole has an amazing view designed to distract you. It's about perfect for the land.

The thirteenth plays south and is a short par 3 of about 130 yards. It is well protected and allows you to catch your breath to a hole that funnels everything to the middle of the green.

The fourteenth hole is an excellent short par 4 over a chasm that will tempt the longer hitters but you can't go right or long. I think this hole favors a shorter hitter who does not try to take it on. There is a deep pot bunker in the fairway that must be avoided.

The fifteenth starts back to back par fives. In my first round the wind was not howling, well over 40 mph with gusts. I lost my tee shot to the right, I lost my dropped third shot to the right, and and I lost my next dropped shot to the right. On all three shots I aimed more and more to the left, even over the fence. When finally at the green my caddie walked just off the front of the green on the left front (facing the green) and threw a ball as high as he could straight up and it blew off the other side of the green and we did not find it such was the strength of the wind. On the next hole, the par 5 sixteenth, playing back the other way I lost my tee shot left despite aiming over the trees on the right. At that point with only two balls left, I dropped a ball and used my putter the rest of the way on sixteen. On the second round there was no wind and I made birdie and par.

As to the fifteenth is a very long par 5 of 650/551 and you must hit the fairway on both the tee shot and second shot. You cannot go long, left or right or it is a lost ball. The green is one of the flatter ones on the course and is the final infinity green. It is a strong hole if there is any wind.

The sixteenth plays from an elevated tee and once again the fairway must be hit as it is a lost ball either left or right after a long forced carry. There is a really good green at the end of this hole. The sixteenth tee has the best view of Hawk's Bay. It is magnificent.

The seventeenth is a long par 4 of 463/420. The tee shot is pretty easy to this slight dogleg right. There is an elevated well bunkered green. It is a very good hole.

The final hole is a long par 4 only from the back tee at 480 but a shorter par 4 from the blue tee at 390 hole. The green sits in a bowl like effect and is perhaps the most interesting looking green complex on the golf course. Some have criticized the green as rewarding poorly struck approach shots but I found it to be a lot of fun to watch what a ball would do. I found it to be a great finish.

I really liked Cape Kidnappers. Yes, it is a resort golf course but a very good one. The views obviously can be distracted. There is a good mixture of long and short holes, risk/reward holes and decision-making. The green complexes are all very different as the greens are placed on different types of terrain, whether raised or flat. The three infinity greens are amazing. Some might say three of the par 3's look similar but I felt they played differently and looked slightly different.

As I said, it is not in my top 100 of the 706 different golf courses I have played, but if someone were to have it on their list, I would not debate it too hard. Each hole is unique and must be thought through to play it well. And you will definitely have fun.

Date: October 15, 2019

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