Since first seeing the pictures of this course a few years ago, I was sure it would have to get played if the opportunity arose, and thankfully it did. This is one of the most spectacular settings for a course you will ever see and the scenery is definitely on a par with the likes of Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, albeit more of an alpine experience. NZ certainly makes visually stunning courses. The course itself does not disappoint. The opening hole is a gentle but interesting introduction of what is to come, followed by 3 holes up to the summit of the hill. Although it is a bit of a trek up there and the approaches to the par 4 2nd and 4th may feel a bit similar, they are still good golf holes in their own right, though maybe making up the weaker section of the course, in relative terms. The 5th is a lovely dogleg par 5 that exposes the fantastic views but also offers a good, risk reward opportunity for being more aggressive off the tee. The fairways are fairly generous but stray off them and you will be punished by very long grass. 6 in my view is the first world class hole, a short par 4 down to the lake that again asks the question of how aggressive you want to be off the tee. The par 3 seventh is visually stunning with its infinity green perched high above the lake, though perhaps seeing and hearing about this hole prior to playing it removed some of the wow factor that I was expecting. The 8th is strong par 5 with a tough second to an elevated and blind green past some well positioned bunkers and the 9th is just a good, long and tough golf hole ( and did remind me a bit of the 12th at Nairn as a previous post notes) I think the back 9 offers more in terms of strategic golf with positioning being key off the tee on 10 and 12. The impressive par 3 11th sandwiched between them. Looking back on the par 3s, I felt there was a good variety of shots required and actually preferred the challenges of 3, 11 and 13 to the signature 7th. My favourite hole would certainly be the 15th with the wall along the left acting as a fascinating hazard to avoid and again influences your tee shot with bunkers right taking the overly cautious bail out. A lovely interpretation of the cape style hole. The 18th, a little reminiscent of Kinloch with its lake down the left side is incredibly tough off the backs and deserving of its number 1 rating. I enjoyed it although it maybe isn’t too in keeping with the rest of the course. It’s the sort of heroic finishing hole that more modern ‘championship’ venues seem to favour these days. So overall the course is very strong and I’m sure it’s a must play if you are anywhere near Queenstown, probably the south island for that matter.. It reminded me a lot of Jack Nicklaus’s Kinloch on the North Island with its rugged bunkering and the style of some of the holes. I think its position just behind Kinloch is justified as it just lacked a few of the world class holes that the Taupo track has I feel that (like Kinloch) if it were in the USA or the UK it would be a world top 100 course, suppose it just needs more people to get there.
Date: April 18, 2014