The Kinloch Club
Located an easy 15-minute drive from beautiful Taupo on the North Island of New Zealand, it is embarrassing to admit that The Kinloch Club was not originally on our radar. But after Googling the best golf courses in New Zealand, and reading the reviews, we quickly added The Kinloch Club to our list.
Opened in 2007, The Kinloch Club is also home to the only Jack Nicklaus designed golf course in New Zealand, which means that you know that you are going to be in for something extraordinary.
With golden-colored tussock grasslands common in the plateau areas of the North Island lining many of the fairways, The Kinloch Club has a natural feel to it and it seamlessly blends into the incredibly beautiful surroundings. It is no wonder that the Lord of the Rings was filmed in the area!
After checking in with the pro-shop, we made our to the driving range to warm up. The Kinloch Club has an absolutely great practice area that allows you to work on all aspects of your game. We would have loved to have spent an entire day at the practice facilities alone!
Heketanga, which means Decent in Māori, is the apply named dogleg left 428-yard par 4 fourth hole, which doesn’t allow you a look at the green until you reach the fairway. “Somewhere down there” was the only advice we got when we arrived at the tee box as the two-some ahead of us were just walking off the tee (and the only other players we saw all day!). Unsure of what to do, I hit 3-wood off the tee and pulled it slightly, luckily avoiding the multitude of fairway bunkers that guard the left side. There is a black and white post marker that is visible from the tee, which, after playing the hole, we can advise to stay right of! Once you reach the crest of the fairway, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Taupo!
The eighth hole Köwhiringa, or Options, is a great 522-yard par 5! The name stems from the two fairway options that are available to play the hole. With the tee box left, it is possible to cut a little distance off with a well-hit tee shot down the left side, which is the route I selected. Menekse opted for the right fairway option on her second shot. Play the hole either way, but just make sure your approach shot is confidently hit because the green is surrounded by bunkers and that beautiful, but deadly, golden tussock grassland!
The Kinloch Club is definitely a difficult golf course, but it isn’t an over the top difficult adventure. Just be sure to pick the right tees for your game. If not, you could be in for a long and difficult day indeed!
Waenganui, or Halfway, should probably be called Narrows, because this is exactly what happens as you play the number one handicap 378-yard par 4 ninth hole. Splitting the bunkers that guard both sides of the fairway is paramount if you want a chance at making par here. With both of us finding the fairway, we were now ready for the uphill approach shots that faced us. Take an extra club, or two to this elevated green, else you may be playing the same shot twice!
Long is Better Than Short
There is a ton of bunkering throughout The Kinloch Club, but is absolutely stunning! The golf course is dotted with pot bunkers of all shapes and sizes, some of which really looked like something from the moon! But most of the bunker trouble on the course is located short of the greens. So, if you are between clubs on your approach shots, take the longer club to best protect par and avoid all the danger lurking short!
The entire area is volcanic based ground, which means the course plays dry and fast. This allows the course to have more links-style in both looks and in feel. We found the fairways generous in width and most holes had a good amount of fairway roll. But don’t expect to find many flat lies in those fairways. Nothing is flat here- not even a 2-foot putt!
The Kinloch Club is a real thinking player’s course. Each shot gives you more than one way to play it. This also meant that at the end of our round we were mentally drained. There are some true risk and reward holes, like Röwhiringa, Choices, the par 5 sixteenth. This means if you are feeling bold, birdies can reward you. But, with difficult greens, double bogies or worse are never far away!
On the way up to the 415-yard par 4 tenth hole Tirohia (View), there is a must-stop photo opportunity. With golf in Australia on the horizon and a dream to play Royal Melbourne in the making, we are happy to report that 3 out of the 4 locations will soon have been checked! Only August National is outstanding (can anyone out there help us out with that!!! ? )!
Once you finish taking your selfies and reach the teebox, you will be rewarded with a tirohia of Lake Taupo that is unbeatable!
Standing on the tee facing an uphill shot that is blind, you might wonder why the fourteenth Whakatika (Rise) was one of our favorites. But just wait until you get to your approach shot of this 371-yard par 4 and then try and disagree with us. With its own version of the ghost tree left, and some hungry bunkers short, trust your distance to avoid all the beautiful trouble that awaits! Coming up just short, Menekse split the bunkers on the left but was able to get up and down for her third net birdie of the back nine alone!
To say that our knees were shaking when we first saw Tüpato (Caution), the fifteenth hole, would not be an exaggeration! With a deep bunker short, this 219-yard par 3 is one of the greatest one shooter that we have ever played! If I have a miss in my bag, a pulled rescue club is certainly it. Playing into the wind, rescue was definitely the right distance. Afraid of a certainly lost ball, I decided to hit 4 iron just see what would happen. And, to my astonishment, I hit the absolute best 4-iron of my life!
Great Golf Course with a View
To be honest, you could pick any hole from thirteen through seventeen as your favorite, and you wouldn’t get any objections from us. Checking our scorecards, Menekse played this stretch of incredible golf holes at net even par. And I played them at one over. We’ve heard that there are great views with a golf course, or there are great golf courses with a view. The Kinloch Club truly falls into the second category, because it is just a great golf course first. That it offers an incredible view, well, that is just the cherry on top!