- Address261 Kinloch Road, Kinloch 3377, New Zealand
The Kinloch Club is the first – and so far only – Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course to be built in New Zealand. Jack himself opened the first nine in March 2007 and the second nine opened for play in December of that year.
This is not your typical Jack Nicklaus course – you can put thoughts of Muirfield Village right out of your mind. Kinloch pays homage to the great British and Irish links courses, although it is about as far from the ocean as you can get in New Zealand. The property is a piece of farmland on volcanic terrain, flanked by craggy hills and panoramic views over majestic Lake Taupo. Nicklaus has crafted a rugged, ramshackle masterpiece into this landscape, but it will surprise some visitors to learn that most of Kinloch’s features are entirely man-made. The Kinloch aura is of a raw links, somehow blended seamlessly into age-old Kiwi sheep-farming territory (shaper Jason Garten was employed to work on the finer details).
However, some Nicklaus trademarks remain – greens are heavily guarded, with the premium on an incisive approach shot. And, like many others from his portfolio, it is demanding, measuring 7,363 yards (6,734m) from the tips and it has already built a reputation for being the country’s toughest track. The nation’s leading golf publication, The Cut, recently rated it that way, after surveying many pre-eminent Kiwi golfers. So far, it is alleged that nobody has yet broken 70 off the back tees and rising star Danny Lee is reputed to have not even come close to par on his inaugural three visits to Kinloch. The forward tees make life considerably easier at 6,519 yards (5,961m), but this is still no walk in the park.
As for the Golden Bear himself, on playing the full 18 holes for the first time, he is reported to have quietly turned to the Kinloch Head Pro and commented that this is one of his favourite Nicklaus designs.
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Jack Nicklaus will forever be associated with greatness on the golf course, but it’s his design work that should also be remembered in equal measure to his magnificent competitive achievements on the links.