John Darby has undoubtedly become one of the key figures in contemporary golf course architecture in New Zealand. There are fine tracks such as Millbrook, Clearwater, and The Hills already tucked away in his portfolio, but with the unveiling of his newest creation, Jack’s Point, in late 2008, he has arguably surpassed all of his previous projects.
Jack’s Point is nestled between 2,300 vertical metres of the saw-toothed, razorback Remarkables mountain range and the majestic Lake Wakatipu to the east, Darby was blessed with some wonderful golfing land, amongst the tussock grasslands, rocky outcrops, steep bluffs, and native bush. He is purported to have followed a design principle of minimal excavation, using the integral features of the land as much as possible.
The result is a modern throwback to classic, naturalistic architecture – seemingly influenced by courses such as Sand Hills and Ballyneal, but with a clear Central Otago flavour. The Jack’s Point routing takes the golfer from wetlands to rock-infested hillside, from lakeside through native bush, skirting dry stone walls before plunging downhill towards the water-fringed closer.
Difficult as it is to single out any individual holes for praise, it is hard to ignore the eye-catching short 7th which plunges steeply downhill to an infinity green that’s backed by a drop-off down to Lake Wakatipu. The challenge for the first-time visitor is to trust that he or she has the right club in hand, with no visual references or perspective to guide them (and that’s on a still day!).
Aesthetically, the final touches at Jack’s Point are natural and rather rustic, while the surrounding scenery must be some of the best in the golfing world. But it is the design as a whole that impresses – it has hidden depth, which reveals itself to you on repeat visits and is an incredible golfing journey.
I had high expectations on playing Jack’s Point, and the experience did not disappoint for a minute.
Jack’s Point was our only course in the South Island during our AUS/NZ golf trip. It is very conveniently located a 20 min ride from the Queenstown International Airport. Golf apart, the place is a destination in itself, and we were glad to stay and catch a glimpse the next day.
All the superlatives have been used in the comments below about the site and they are well deserved. The setting is probably among the most beautiful you can find for a mountain course. It is reminiscent of Banff Springs or Jasper in Alberta, which naturally come to mind : moderately hilly grounds surrounded by majestic mountains in the backdrop.
The course starts slowly with holes 1 to 4 taking you uphill towards the Wakatipu lake that you cannot see. The stretch from hole 5 to 8 was my favourite, with fantastic views on the lake. The tee shot on the par 3 7th hole, where you aim at a downhill green with the blue waters of the Wakatipu lake in the background, is perhaps my favourite. I found the lay out does justice to the surroundings and the return nine are fun and interesting as well, with perhaps the risk-reward par 4 15th to single out. The downhill drive on 16th, with the Remarkables in the background, is another highlight.
There is a 19th hole, a par 3 close to the 17th tee box.
A must play.
This is as good as it gets.
Its difficult to find words that do justice to this setting. You're playing right at the feet of the Remarkables mountain range. This means that even on the holes that don't look out over the majestic Lake Wakatipu, its feels like you're in some sort of fantasy land. You have to see it.
The environment is so good that it seems like some 'purists' want to trick themselves into believing that the course design is average. They want to think that the course is just a nice gimmick to be played once or twice. In reality, its a great layout that forces a variety of shots and approaches among the dramatic rocky outcrops and plentiful tussock. Perhaps these people are jealous that apparently the lucky few living in the attached residential development are the only people allowed to join for roughly thousand bucks a year, and play at a fantasy course as much as they like. That's peanuts for something like this. OK, now I'm jealous too.
I note Jack's is currently ranked 6th on this site, but last year Australian Golf Digest ranked it as number two in NZ, second only to Tara Iti. And its much less of a hassle to get a game here.
All the very best lads
Jack’s Point is no doubt the most famous course in Queenstown. It is 100% all about the nature and spectacular views. The course has been set up for real-estate project and over the years I’m sure more and more houses will spring up. This hopefully explains the rather strange routing that takes you straight up a fairly steep hill then over the top to maximize lake and mountain views. The opinions are varied but the holes on the way up don’t work as well as they could for me. They act much more as connector holes as opposed to unique holes that contribute to solid architectural significance.
The main entertainment in the beginning of the course if you have nice weather is the small airport next to the course at the bottom of the hill that caters to skydivers and has a steady stream of little planes taking off and climbing rapidly creating a fair bit of noise and distraction, then you hear the screams of the skydivers as they jump out of the planes above the course. Once up on top of the hill there are 3 holes along the cliffs/waterfront that have some of the most amazing views you will be treated to on a golf course. Architecturally the holes are average resort course holes but the view is all world and that makes up for a lot. Naturally the golf is still fun, just not really special.
As if the lake and mountain views were not enough as soon as you work your way back over away from the lake you are treated to the complete awesomeness that is the Remarkables. This is the jagged mountain range rising straight up just out of Queenstown. This can be compared to something like being in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with the Grand Tetons rising straight up into the sky on the outskirts of town.
While the hole number eludes me at the moment it’s amazing to watch your ball fly with the Remarkables in the background, a well struck ball is so easy to follow with that backdrop and seems to fly forever. For me the two best holes on the course were the risk reward par 5 15th hole and their new par 3 19th hole which is located between the 16th and 17th holes. Fact is the 19th hole might be the best hole on the course and oddly enough takes on a completely different style to the rest of the course.
I realize this doesn’t sound like a great review however, there is no way you can visit Queenstown and not play Jack’s Point. It’s one of the most surreal setting you will ever golf in and that’s priceless.
Have played a couple times many years ago before the price rise ,would be great if they gave a discount for local GC members ..I would certainly like to play again on special (or if I was feeling rich)...
At the time I played to a 18 HC ....I found it much harder than it's course rating ( losing 5 balls along the way) compared to say Millbrook ..
One must use a cart unless you're extremely fit...
Condition of course nothing short of spectacular much like the views
Wouldn't bother on a high wind day as Jack's Point location gets hammered by the wind..
While the North Island has by far the superior golf, the South Island gifts us with a snow-capped mountainous landscape of Hollywood proportions. Sitting at the base of Queenstown mountain range known as “The Remarkables”, the South Island showcases some commendable golf courses too. Jack’s Point, designed by John Darby, will be the most awe-inspiring course you’ll ever play. People will look at photographs and think it’s fake, but it’s really that perfect. You’re essentially playing golf in a Lord of the Rings movie set. Your head will be on a swivel looking at the enormous mountains that tower over you and Lake Wakatipu. It’s arguably the most sensational, almost surreal, setting for a golf course. Thankfully the layout is pretty good too!
Jack's Point Golf Course is set in a valley between the Remarkable Mountains and Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. The course was designed in 2008 by Kiwi John Darby who studied golf and landscape architecture at Harvard. After seeing what he designed here, I would say he graduated magna cum laude. Darby's design philosophy is an interesting one, "look hard, play easy." Like my experience at Sand Hills, playing at Jack's Point was more than a round of golf, it changed my perspective. Jack’s Point has one of my favorite holes, the unconventional 15th which the golfer first sees when they walk over the crest of the hill. There is a hand-fitted rough-hewn stone wall, over which sits a 383-yard uphill dogleg right par-4 gem. The tee box is built above a high meadow and the golfer must hit a forced carry over it, to a long fairway set at an angle to the tee box, over a sheep paddock. The 15th is a classic risk-reward hole that dares the golfer to take an aggressive line left, with a severe penalty for missing. The South Island is other worldly and raises the human spirit, elevates your mood and leaves your yearning to come back for more. It is easy to overuse superlatives when describing top golf courses, but New Zealand’s South Island has such stunning unspoiled beauty even without any golf. The air is unimaginably pure, the water seems bluer than other water, and the natural lakes in the region look like they were airbrushed in. Jack’s Point takes advantage of its location in the midst of a mountain range—appropriately called “The Remarkables”—to a degree that is almost inconceivable, and I will take the pleasant memories of visiting with me to the grave.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
I have just played Jack's Point on a very windy day. Yes, the course has wonderful panoramas and many fine golf holes but I rate it below many other courses for enjoyment levels for mid to high handicappers. Many fairways are generously wide with nice risk-reward balances with bunkering or a stone wall (which becomes a ha-ha) or other features. The quality of the fairways is typical of the six courses played to date on the tour: excellent. The greens were quite fast and true. When the wind didn't interfere, the ball rolled very nicely. What are the downsides? It is "cart course", hence playing here is not sport but a mere pastime. With the wind up, some exposed and sloping greens were ridiculously perfidious. On some fairways, the first cut swallowed balls which then took some finding thus a slow round seemed inevitable. With some blind sections, (especially on one par five) there were no markers to indicate a target line. Hence, one hit blind or my wasting time scouting ahead twice on the hole. All of these are easily fixed. For me, Millbrook and Queenstown (Kelvin Heights) are far better fun, good exercise (good for us near 70-year olds) and fairer challenges. I am glad I played the course and I would not discourage others from doing so. Yet, I am unlikely to bother the next time. For me, the greatest yardstick course for great golf for all ages and handicaps is Royal Melbourne West in Australia. Would that all designers examined its playability, yet its difficulty.
The rest of the round has no such issues with diversity – there’s an abundance of thrilling shots to be played, but rarely the same thrill each time. A drive into a narrow tongue of land to reach a par 5 in two, a fairway wood over huge bunkers, a forced carry par-3, a stone wall providing a Cape effect off the tee, and the famous long-drop short 7th to its infinity green.
As with most places, I noticed some more subtle design features as I visited new areas of the course on my repeat visit. I gained more respect for the harmless looking short par 4 6th – in avoiding the more obviously penal drop off to the left, I learned that the opposite mistake was almost as hard to salvage,due to the greenside bunkering and right to left camber of the putting surface. I came to appreciate the tightly shaved green surrounds, and the highly taxing chipshots they presented (e.g. the 8th), and I noticed the green tilt on #14, that rewards the counterintuitive lay-up (aim WAY left).
There’s been some slight changes in course presentation, and I found them positive. The unnecessary thicker collar of rough half way up the 2nd fairway has gone, leaving a first cut that’s present purely because of the high traffic through that narrow gap. And the rough is much less penal now in certain places – most noticeable on the early holes (the wetlands around the turn still hold some extremely severe rough, marked as lateral water).
Rightly sits atop our South Island rankings, in my opinion. May stay there for some time…. Matt Richardson