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Review of the Month - January 2023

27 February, 2023
Ryan Book

The purpose of the Review of The Month feature is twofold. Top100GolfCourses has always aimed to salute and encourage those who are putting admirable effort into reviewing the world’s great golf courses. Moving forward, we are also looking to learn from these experts! We’ll be chatting with the month’s star authors and discussing topics such as golf in their area, what they like to see in a strong course review, and of course dig a little deeper into their own winning review.

January 2023’s Review of The Month comes from Matt Wallbank, who takes us to Jack’s Point in his native New Zealand, and discusses the awe-striking scenery in both that course and that country.

You alluded to this yourself, referring to it as "Lord of The Rings golf"...there's a fascination with the glorious landscape of New Zealand. Does this prove an advantage for the nation's most esteemed courses?

I think naturally people gravitate to New Zealand golf courses because of the diversity in our stunning scenery, and who could blame them? Kiwi golf courses are routed across some of the most incredible landscapes you will find anywhere in the world, and they certainly do benefit from it! Sure, there are a few examples where it probably disguises some pretty ordinary architecture, but there are plenty of examples where designers have integrated some excellent architecture, which blends into the landscapes. Everyone loves something nice to look at, and it makes for some pretty special walks.

Photo credit: Gary Lisbon

On the flip side, does the severity of sites such as Jack's Point stymie the potential at all?

As we all know, sometimes the most dramatic sites with the greatest land movement can cause issues with architects having to use a number of “connecting” holes to navigate the terrain. This can definitely result in some weaker and more awkward holes, which is definitely a factor at Jack's Point, where the first stretch of holes all play uphill to reach the apex of the golf course. Uphill approaches certainly aren't golfers' favourite but they do a reasonable job of making them enjoyable, and the three holes which follow this stretch make it all worth it!

Photo credit: Gary Lisbon

This is one of the few course designs between John Darby and Brett Thomson, all of which are in New Zealand. Have you had the opportunity to visit their other work?

On the same trip I had the opportunity to play Millbrook Remarkables (Not my favourite) and I was lucky enough to play at The Hills, which is a fairly exclusive club in Arrowtown. A pretty special experience with some excellent land, and thrilling holes. Brett Thomson also had a hand in the newly opened Tieke Golf Estate in Hamilton, which is an excellent and unique sandy site which is routed through a former riverbed. Some fantastic variety and green complexes.

Jack's Point is the best known of Queenstown's courses. Are there any local gems you'd recommend for those who've already booked a tee time at Jack's?

Arrowtown is the obvious one, which has been documented pretty well on the website. It's short, quirky, firm and fast without a single bunker. It plays through and over a collection of narrow valleys with plenty of exposed rock. The green complexes and surrounds make the course, with some of the best run-offs and kickers I've seen. It's exactly what golf should be: plenty of variety and quirk, fast conditions and endless options in playing the course. Just so many fun shots to hit!

Now that you're a celebrated "Review of The Month" winner, let us know what factors you appreciate in a strong golf course review!

I definitely want any talk of the clubhouse, locker rooms, food, customer service and conditioning to be kept to a minimum! I love a review that tells me what makes the golf course fun, what makes it interesting (or not) and why people should or shouldn't play it based on the architecture, the land, and a little bit on the scenery if it truly adds to the experience!

What's one course that you're excited to write a review for in the upcoming year?

Definitely pretty fizzed up to get across Barnbougle Dunes. Bit of a magical spot by all accounts, and one I can't wait to spend a few days at!


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