The Kinloch Golf Club is located in almost the geographic centre of NZ’s north island, adjacent to the northern shore of Lake Taupo, this ‘links like’ course could hardly be further from the ocean. It is the only Nicklaus design in New Zealand and opened for play in December 2007 to raves of the discerning Kiwi golfing fraternity.
Kinloch is reliably considered the most demanding course in NZ, playing 6,800 odd metres from the tips. Gratefully, there are three sets of tees and we mere mortals have the opportunity to scarper forward to white blocks, measuring a mere 5,900 metres.
The task of carving the course from this gnarled stretch of farmland is primarily the deft handiwork of shaper, Jason Garten. Virtually every design feature of the course is completely man-made and the objective of creating a links like characteristic is beautifully achieved at Kinloch. The routing meanders through a rambling, undulating valley graphically illustrated below in the par 4, 5th and akin to many of the grand British links courses, the sole flat lies you may expect are on the tees.
Like the prevailing conditions at Kauri Cliffs, the weather gods failed to shine on me once more. On arrival there was a break in the drizzly rain but the wind continued to howl off the expanse of Lake Taupo offering a nippy 8 odd degrees.
We were made most welcome by Tom Long, Director of Golf and Head Professional, and provided with a comprehensive resume of Kinloch and its antecedents.
We residents of tropical Queensland needed a toe [ as removed from a tow ] to get started and I availed myself of the superb practice facilities as ‘warming up’ was not restricted to solely to getting a swing going.
The front nine forms an interesting double loop furthest from Lake Taupo and the run home is sited on more undulating terrain to the south of the clubhouse. Full resort facilities are available at the newly opened lodge and villas from which spectacular panoramic views are to be had overlooking the course and Lake Taupo.
On playability, particularly in the conditions encountered, this course is the consummate challenge to the low marker and even from the forward tees, an extremely difficult proposition for the high or middle handicap player. A personal observation only, but I consider it bordering on ‘too hard’ for the average middle or high handicap duffer. Indicative of such is the fact that the course plays very long from the tee and I lost count at around 50, the number of bunkers in just the first five holes. And, just to compound the ‘difficulty’, many of the vast green complexes comprised literally ‘roller coaster’ undulations. I have little hesitation in saying that this is possibly the toughest course I have yet encountered.
Most holes offer a variety of options from the tee. The risk and reward factor, ever present and tempting. But beware; in the majority of cases, an errant shot is most severely punished. It is a ‘thinking’ player’s course and never a bad fairway lie encountered, if usually requiring play from an uneven stance.
The Kinloch design/routing, appears to have an in-built resistance to scoring, more so than most. Opting for the right line from the tee is an absolute priority as is negotiating the consistently uneven lies and fairway bunkering. When you get ‘the flat bat’ in your hand, you will find the green complexes generally huge and offering a frightening variety of undulations. To my dismay, I found that in two instances, a missed, relatively short putt from above the hole, finished up twenty metres past the cup, and, twenty plus metres off the green. But, reading the breaks and borrows on these outstanding green complexes provides a degree of fun.
Take your ‘A’ game with you as this is one beaut, testing track. Notwithstanding being the consummate test of all aspects of your game, a round at Kinloch is a most memorable experience. This is a course well deserved of its prominent position in the upper echelon of New Zealand courses. Now that I have played it at possibly its toughest, Kinloch is a track I would relish revisiting in more benign conditions.
Tip – to ensure a pleasurable round, don’t ‘beat yourself up’ and seriously consider the forward tees. The following is an interesting quote from an astute reviewer; “Even for ‘A’ graders, there can be cases of people’s egos writing cheques their bodies can’t cash” I suggest that this fellow is right on the money.
PS – Again, take an adequate supply of ‘ammo’ as here, the fescue grasses bordering the fairways are well nourished with errant pills.
Date: November 27, 2015