We had read that the drive into Cape Kidnappers is one of the greatest entries in all of golf. And so, it felt like Christmas morning when exited off State Highway 51 and drove our JUCY Campervan down the lengthy 8 km (5 mile) dirt gravel road. Our anticipation only grew as we made our way up and down and around the hills of a drive that runs through a sheep farm.
Once we finally arrived, we were positively spinning with excitement! Designed by Tom Doak, Cape Kidnappers ranks number 16 in the 2016 edition of Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses (the list we are carrying in our golf bags). And it deserves its prominent ranking.
We made our way to the nondescript practice area if a driving range can be described as such, after checking in and were smitten from our first step.
Before you come, let us give you some words of advice. Do NOT underestimate the time that it takes to travel to the golf course from Napier. Also, be sure to plan enough time to include a stop in Clive at the Clive Café and Bakery to enjoy a steak and bacon pie!
Out, the Front Nine at Cape Kidnappers
For us, the fun of Cape Kidnappers really began on the 584-yard par 5 fourth hole. The Rise, as it is named, is one of the only blind tee shots on the golf course. Depending upon which tees you select, be sure to check the yardage guidebook for the right line off the tee. Each tee box also has a small directional marker placed about 2 yards in front of the tees. There is a bunker on the right side of the fairway that needs to be considered as you way your options for your second shot. I stayed well left of that bunker, which left a crisp wedge in.
The only safe shot on Gulley, the 225-yard par 3 sixth, is the green. Left is in the ocean, short is in the namesake, and right is protected by grassy tussocks. Good luck!
Another of our favorites on the front, which might not be on many others’ lists, was the 453-yard par 4 seventh, 14 Flags. I hit a good tee shot which reached the peak of the fairway on my intended left side. Menekse hit hers down the right side which makes the hole play a little shorter. I was left with a downhill shot that unfortunately flew hot out of the short rough. It landed on, but didn’t hold, and trickled down the short embankment on the right side of the green, which led to my first bogey of the day. Menekse landed short, but just missed her par putt on the high side.
We Like Tap Ins Because it Sounds Like Beer
To say that the greens at Cape Kidnappers were quick would be a considerable understatement. Even though it was early spring, and the weather we experienced in New Zealand had been quite wet, the greens were in incredible shape. Not only were the greens quick, but they were also big! And some you could say were enormous! With fast huge greens, your scorecard is bound to have a three-putt or two, and our card was no exception.
It was somewhere on the front nine that we started to notice that the greens seemed to be really fast near the hole. It seemed as though the closer the ball came to the hole, the faster it went. We even wondered if the greens could possibly be faster once the ball went past the cup! It required all our effort just to get them somewhat close to tap-in range. I fell over laughing when Menekse said that she likes tap-ins because it sounds like beer!! Cheers to that!
In, the Back Nine at Cape Kidnappers
Once you play it, you will never forget Infinity, the 460-yard par 4 twelfth hole. A wide-open fairway invites you to rip it; which is exactly what Menekse did as her ball sailed past mine off the tee. With incredible views of Hawke’s Bay, the hole plays a little shorter than the markers.
Al’s Ace, the 130-yard par 3 thirteenth is the shortest hole on the course and is set out alone on the cliffs. In-between clubs, checking the yardage book I noticed the bunkers were short of the green and opted for the longer club. While neither of us was able to match Al’s accomplishment, we both happily walked away with threes on the card!
Tom Doak’s Brillance
At only 348-yards, Pimple, the par 4 fourteenth is the shortest par 4 on the golf course. With a tee shot that must carry almost everything, I hit driver safely down the left side of the fairway, and Menekse outdrove me again!
The fun begins when you have a look at your approach shot. You won’t be able to ignore seeing the one small lonely pot bunker that occupies the left side of the green. While small in stature, much of the surrounding area funnels towards it, making it play much bigger than its size. For us, the fourteenth represents all the brilliance that is Mr. Doak.
The fifteenth is one hell of a par 5. At 650-yards (yes, 650!) from the blue tees and 600-yards (yes, 600!) from the white tees, standing on the tee box you will wonder why the hole is named Pirate’s Plank, but no other name could more accurately describe what is about to happen. The task here is simple- take out the lumber, aim towards Santiago, Chile, and just rip it!
The long huge fairway begins to narrow at about 300 yards out. Menekse smartly hit another great tee shot down the right side of the fairway, while I hit one of my best tee shots ever! After re-tying my shoes and taking the long walk down the fairway, we found my ball on the left side of the fairway where I drove it nearly to the fence. Beware Chile!
The yardage book here states “Don’t even go look over the left edge of the fairway if you are afraid of heights.” Against all advisements, and since I was there anyway, I just had to have a peek over the cliff. It was here that I came to understand where the name Pirate’s Plank came from!
Once you do make it to the green, you will discover views that dreams are made of! Just a quick bit of advice, absolutely do not go long here!
Tin Roof Rusted
We believe that the clubhouse at Cape Kidnappers could be the greatest Clubhouse in the business! Simple in its design, the clubhouse is the coziest clubhouse we have ever been to. Made from natural materials, it effortlessly blends into the landscape. We especially liked the roof that was made from two colored corrugated metal, a style similar to many of the homes in New Zealand.
After our round, we took our time exploring the inside and found many of our favorite golf brands in the well-appointed Pro Shop. We really enjoyed chatting with Brian, who took exceptional care of us, about our travels and our journey through New Zealand. We asked him where he would play if he were playing his way through New Zealand, and to our surprise, he mentioned Waverley Golf Club! He then poured us one of the greatest-tasting coffees that we have ever had!
Another feature of the Clubhouse that we positively noticed was the women’s locker room. OK, well not “we” per se, but Menekse! In our travels, we often find that there is a large discrepancy in the quality of facilities between the men’s and women’s locker rooms. But both sets of locker rooms at Cape Kidnappers were equally superb.
If we win the lottery and build a golf course, we will model our clubhouse after Cape Kidnappers, it was that awesome. And, when that happens, you are invited!
A True Golf Bucket List Experience
Sitting high above the Pacific Ocean offering dizzying clifftop views, Cape Kidnappers is a true bucket list experience! We played it in absolutely gorgeous weather with postcard-perfect blue skies and no wind, which was ideal for golf. With the wind, this course would be a completely different golf course.
Cape Kidnappers is not an overly long golf course, but in the end, it was truly an exhausting walk. Near the end of the round, both of us were drained. With a lot of climbs, we are positive that is the reason for our bogey-bogey finish!