Green fees at The Hills are now $1000 per round, so not everybody will want to play here. By charging very high green fees, and correspondingly high annual memberships Hill has created a real feel of exclusivity to The Hills.
So is it worth it?
I had followed my son Tim around The Hills a number of times when he was playing events, and was somewhat familiar with the layout. But playing oneself is a different thing, and I had the pleasure of teeing off at the Hills with local tour operator Stephen Jensen (playing off 1), and Jack's Point general Manager John Griffin. John is also a teaching professional and a bit of a legend in New Zealand having coached a number of successful professionals (including Phil Tatuarangi). He was also previously the manager at The Hills. John was our host for the day.
The general terrain is quite undulating, with significant elevation change throughout the round.
As you would expect the course was in very good condition, although the greens were a tad slower than I expected. This is probably because of preparations for The Open.
Each hole demands a decent tee shot to keep you in the hole. With plenty of strategic bunkering, the tee shot nearly always has to negotiate a cluster of bunkers, a sea of browntop (long rough), or water, rocks, or all of the above. It is one thing to hit the fairway, and quite another to position oneself for the approach shot. A good number of the green sites were elevated, well protected by bunkers, and generally required a well struck approach to stay on the dance floor.
The contouring of the greens, as well as the bunkering and other protection ensured that an approach shot from the non preferred areas of the fairway required a significantly more skillful shot to hit and hold the green.
I could appreciate that in tournament conditions - a bit firmer and faster- these greens could be devilishly tricky. Hard to hit and hold, and hard to read! They have movement but with mountains all around sometimes which way the green slopes ran and thus turned was hard to pick.
We played in sunny conditions, with a light breeze making it the most pleasant of days to play. It is a gorgeous setting for golf, and never lacking for interest.
Apart from the golf, Michael Hill has introduced a number of sculptures/ statues around the course.
Bizarre was my initial impression!!
But I must admit I did warm to these artistic additions. I particularly liked the horses and concluded that all of these artefacts added a level of interest to an already interesting journey around the links.
It is a wonderful golfing experience, and if you can afford the green fee you will enjoy your day.
So how good is it?
Very good, but definitely a course for the better player.
You need length, flight and accuracy!
John Darby (& Brett Thomson) also designed nearby Jack's Point. Jack's Point is even more visually spectacular, with views of the lake, and The Remarkables as a backdrop. And it is less than half the price!
Which is better?
After only one game at The Hills I would say they are both very good, and I am sitting firmly on the fence!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Date: April 25, 2019