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New Zealand's Millennial Mulligan

Gisborne is now the regional capital of New Zealand's thriving wine-producing headquarters and the self-declared national capital of Year 2000 celebrations, starting with Bartlett's drive off the harbor at sunrise on January 1. Straddled across a low-lying alluvial plain on the far side of Poverty Bay from Young Nick's Head, the city features three photogenic bridges and several miles of beaches favored by sunbathers, swimmers, surfers and fishermen. The fertile inland areas nearby support the farming of subtropical fruits such as kiwi and avocado, as well as the Chardonnay grapes grown for houses like Montana and Corbans. Gisborne is also distinguished by a large contingent of Maori descended from the warriors who survived their initial bloody encounter with Captain Cook. Nineteenth-century tribal chieftains violently resisted Pakeha colonization and did not sign the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, intended to settle Maori land claims. Resentment still seethes over the perpetually renegotiated treaty and other political issues.

Gisborne's finest golf course is Poverty Bay Golf Club, a 6,726-yard, tree-lined parkland designed by Colonel Charles H. Redhead, the same architect who laid out the geothermally active Rotorua Golf Club. In recent years, Poverty Bay Golf Club has hosted the New Zealand Amateur and New Zealand Maori golf championships. The course's most challenging hole, the 386-yard par-four third, doglegs left between a reservoir and a lake that come into play on your tee shot, largely, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, on your approach. The prettiest hole, however, is the 345-yard par-four fourteenth, which runs straight toward the distant Dover-white cliffs of Young Nick's Head.

On January 1, 2000, Poverty Bay Golf Club plans to stage an open tournament slated to tee off at 5:46 a.m., as the sun rises over the horizon. Gisborne Park Golf Club, a 6,438-yard track favored by local Maori golfers, also plans to stage a New Year's Day tourney. Here and elsewhere, golfers who celebrate the dawning of the Year 2000 in New Zealand have an unusual opportunity. When you fly to New Zealand from the United States, you lose an entire day (plus the twelve-hour flight time) because you cross the international date line. But when you fly back from New Zealand to the U.S., you regain what you lost on the way over. After playing Paraparaumu on a Sunday afternoon, I flew from Wellington to Auckland, then departed Auckland on that same Sunday evening around 7:00 p.m. When my plane landed at 8:30 a.m., it was still Sunday morning in Los Angeles.

So consider this: You can ring in the millennium with a morning round of golf in Gisborne. If things go well, you can hang around and enjoy more golf in Kiwi country. If things don't go well, all you have to do is catch an evening flight back to the States, where you can get a fresh start on the Year 2000 by playing a second round of golf that very same morning, your second New Year's Day.

How's that for the ultimate millennial mulligan, mate?

Tip From The Pro - The Fescue Rescue Shot

Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club has two important natural hazards: the wind and the rough. Even if you learn to master the wind patterns on this links layout, you will always have the tall grass to contend with. Most golfers try to bite off more than they can chew when in Paraparaumu's rough. The neck or hosel of the club will always meet the long grass first and slow down the heel of the club while the toe carries through. The result is usually a low left golf shot that travels little distance. Go through these key points: Club up (say to a six- or seven-iron), leave the face slightly open and hit down and through as hard and as firmly as you can. Be happy to get the ball back in play.
Allan McKay, Director of Golf, Paraparaumu

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