For a sparsely populated island in the South Pacific, New Zealand has long boasted a good bit of golf—about as many courses, in fact, as Ireland. But due to obvious reasons of geography, it once was folly to call New Zealand an international golf destination. Folly, that is, until the debut of Tom Doak's jaw-dropping Cape Kidnappers.
Straddling a craggy finger of land, Cape Kidnappers is a stunning sister to the acclaimed Kauri Cliffs, 400 miles away. Both occupy dazzling clifftop sites, so comparisons are inevitable. In truth, Cape Kidnappers is to Kauri Cliffs as Pacific Dunes is to Bandon Dunes, a sequel so spectacular it eclipses the fine layout that preceded it.
Kauri Cliffs owner Julian Robertson offered Doak an eye-popping five-thousand-acre sheep station as his canvas, and the resulting 7,137-yard par-seventy-one layout is rugged and penal. The routing resides atop 480-foot oceanfront cliffsides, creating dramatic tees and greens perched on the vertiginous edges. It's a site upon which Doak, ever the minimalist, said he found "a bunch of holes just lying there."
"I played fifteen holes in 2002," Doak told T+L GOLF. "Eight are pretty much the way we played them that day, when the sheep had grazed the fairways down."
Surprisingly, it's all quite playable—as long as you're unfazed by lengthy carries over ravines. Oh, and deep bunkers. "I'm sure they're the deepest bunkers I've ever built," Doak said, "since many of them are hanging off the edges of ridgetop greens to stop balls from going farther down the hill."
All that's missing is the adjacent luxury lodge planned for 2005. Until then, the nearby spectacular Mangapapa Lodge should more than suffice.