New Zealand – Part One

New Zealand – Part One

Starting at the Top

Our epic golf trip began when we landed in Auckland on February 4. In spite of the flight delay out of Los Angeles, missed connection on Qantas, and due to the kindness of strangers when Kevin and I were hopelessly lost, we were able to make our tee time at Kauri Cliffs on February 5.

Nothing like starting at the top—in more ways than one. Our first golf adventure took us to the northernmost region on the North Island. We were heading to Kauri Cliffs, which is currently ranked #37 by Golf Digest Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the World.

When we traversed the long, winding road to our destination we pulled into the carpark at the same time as another couple, we decided to join up with them. Michael and Lindsay Forgash were from Philadelphia and happened to be members of Merion and also mad keen Eagles fans.


Reading about and seeing mouth-watering photographs in glossy magazines is not the same as being there. Enthralling? Yes!

The David Harman layout thrilled and challenged at every turn. We were grateful to have carts to get around this “muscular” course. No shortage of jaw-dropping beauty. Creating 18 holes in this mountainous, heavily forested region had to tax every resource of the architect, shapers, and the visionary developer, Julian Robertson.

There is no shortage of golf nuts like us willing to travel a world away to score another exotic golf experience.


Here you can read New Zealand Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

New Zealand – Part Two

New Zealand – Part Two

Te Arai Links

We have barely begun to adjust to our new exotic environment of New Zealand and we are on our way to Te Arai Links. If I did not know this course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw I could have worked it out. The fact that it is so walkable, the excellent routing, the short distance from green to next tee, maximizing the beauty and all the natural features of the site — all their hallmarks are present.

The local Māori meaning of Te Arai is “the other side of the veil” and the terrain of trees, sand dunes and coastal views are all unveiled as we play our round. Coore and Crenshaw use the heaving sand ridge landforms and meandering valleys to create drama. Like a symphony, there are soft passages and then crescendos of beauty unfolding like when we see the stunning, white sand surf beaches. We also took the time to view their handsomely-appointed on-site suites. It would certainly be great to stay there when the new North Course, designed by Tom Doak, opens in October 2023. There is great fun to be had at Jim’s Folly, the 2.5 acre putting green.

You might have heard of Tara Iti Golf Club, opened in 2015, and also designed by Tom Doak. We saw a steady stream of helicopters, possibly from Tara Iti, shuttling golfers and perhaps prospective buyers to look at the exclusive housing lots being released on the Te Arai property. Quite a busy corner of Mangawhai.


Lake Taupo — our restful home for a couple of nights

We loved being around this gigantic crater lake, created by a massive volcanic eruption that occurred about 25,000 years ago. The lake is obviously a popular holiday spot, especially for trout fishing. In the town of Taupo I also discovered a French themed salon called Creme Brulee, where in the capable hands of Cheyenne (her Kiwi mom just loved the name), I could tidy up my disheveled hair.

We found great eateries like Victoria’s Cafe Kitchen Bar, serving all day breakfast/brunch and the Thai Delight Restaurant where we indulged in Prawn Cakes (minced prawn and pork with plum sauce) for a starter. They also had excellent wine choices like the Brookfields Sauvignon Blanc from Hawke’s Bay, which we found had a high evaporation rate!

From our base by Lake Taupo Kevin and I zipped over to The Kinloch Club. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, and opened in 2007, we were amused by the “Irish drop rule” printed on the scorecard: Any lost ball can be treated as lost in a water hazard. One shot penalty at point of entry. Very handy for me on this difficult course, where I often noted on my card: “Very tough hole.” No problem for Kevin though, who plays off a 6 handicap and relished the stern test.

Tom Long, the Director of Golf, PGA Golf Professional, graciously met us on his day off to provide the essential Course Guide and point us in the direction of the first tee. Other than the grounds crew, we had the place to ourselves. The gorgeous scenery included distant views of the deep blue lake. It was fun to learn that Tom is a fellow writer and contributor to a New Zealand-based magazine called THE CUT GOLF.

Harrie Geraerts, Manager of Kinloch Manor & Villas showed us around the luxurious accommodations, which were fully booked months in advance. The main building, modern with eccentric touches here and there, featured a comfortable great room with magnificent views, a quirky bar area and a spacious dining room. Abundant vegetable gardens graced the lower ground, framed by heaving hills where cattle grazed.

At The Kinloch Club, we also learned about Treetops, a sister property, that is a Wilderness Retreat, nestled in the rural hills of Rotorua. It sounds like a fabulous place to unwind and restore.


Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary

Although we did not play a round at Wairakei, we enjoyed learning about the bird sanctuary that is part of this property outside of Taupo. The ambitious project is the brainchild of owner Gary Lane. The course is immersed inside a wildlife sanctuary, where around 25,000 native trees and five thousand exotics have been planted to encourage bird life and further improve the park-like surroundings.

Pheasants, guinea fowl, and fallow deer have also been released on to the property. Wairakei has become home to many kiwi chicks now that there is a kiwi egg incubation facility at the sanctuary.

There has been a noticeable increase in insect life, tree seedlings and native birds like the tui, with its distinctive white throat tuft, which is part of the Wairakei emblem.The sanctuary eagerly awaits the two kārearea (New Zealand falcon) that return annually to nest.



Here you can read New Zealand Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4

New Zealand – Part Three

New Zealand – Part Three

New Zealand: Extraordinary Natural Beauty, Heavenly Wineries, and World-Class Golf

After traveling through miles and miles of natural beauty and ancient rainforests, we settled ourselves for a couple of nights in the coastal town of Napier.

After a massive earthquake (registering 7.9 on the Richter scale) in 1931 Napier was rebuilt with many buildings designed in an Art Deco style with unique Maori motifs.

Considering Napier was completely leveled by New Zealand’s deadliest disaster, it is now a thriving place in the renowned wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay.

We enjoyed our time strolling along the waterfront promenade called the Marine Parade. We discovered an excellent Indian restaurant — Rasoi — where we were lucky to get a table.

Kevin mainly picked this spot for two reasons — the first so we could be close to Craggy Range. Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region and has over 200 vineyards, 76 wineries and 38 cellar doors. It could have been a tough decision where to go, but not for us.

Our wine adventure at Craggy Range was an exceptional highlight of our trip. This family-owned winery produces iconic wines from grapes grown on estates in Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough and Marlborough. Before (and after) our sumptuous lunch of Eye Filet Steak for Two, prepared by Head Chef Casey McDonald, while strolling around the grounds, I discovered the stunning bronze sculptures of a Charolais family — a bull, cow and calf — by Paul Day.

I was blown away. Some of you know about our darling next door neighbors in Liscannor — they are Charolais cows — and I have written lots of stories about their spirited conversations. Yep, they talk (to me).

But here, with the stunning Te Mata Peak framing the whole property, were these monumental cattle. They were commissioned by Terry and Mary Peabody, owners of Craggy Range Vineyards, and created by Paul Day. Day, who lives in Dijon, the capital city of the historical Burgundy region, drew his inspiration where he is surrounded by these magnificent creatures.

The second reason for staying in Napier was to be close to Cape Kidnappers. Owned by Robertson Lodges, the same family behind the Bay of Islands’ Kauri Cliffs Lodge & Golf Course, Cape Kidnappers is the second working farm started by Julian Robertson.

The Cape figures in Maori mythology and its name immortalizes the first visit by Captain Cook in 1770. It is seaside golf but not links. But oh, is it grand. What a canvas Tom Doak was given to work with. And boy, did he deliver. Only if you enjoy playing heroic shots played over challenging and beautiful terrain, that is. Somehow, this intoxicating blend of New Zealand golf ingredients combined to produce my best round of our entire trip. It was, without a doubt, my favorite.

But one more enchanting occurrence made it so — just as we reached the carpark we stumbled upon a couple of blokes who were tracking some of the 70 Kiwis that nest in this spectacular corner of New Zealand. Although we did not get to see the iconic, flightless bird in its natural habitat, there was a well-preserved, shaggy example encased in a display case in the pro-shop!

 We had one more segment of our itinerary to experience. We traveled to the capital city of Wellington, situated on the southernmost point on the Cook Strait.

Here we were ensconced in the thoroughly modern and luxurious Bolton Hotel. From our perch in this very sophisticated high-rise we had quite a view of the bustling city that was originally established by British settlers in 1839.

Other than positioning ourselves here so we could fly to the South Island, we had booked a round at the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Kevin described it as “an old-fashioned members-club.”

From the very first tee shot I was often wondering “where am I going?” It was the closest thing to playing a course like Lahinch in Ireland where there are lots of blind shots. I didn’t learn until much later that the course was designed in 1949 by Alex Russell, Paraparaumu hosted 12 New Zealand Opens, won by such notable players as Peter Thomson, Corey Pavin and Michael Campbell.

Kevin and I played as a twosome behind another twosome who were obviously members. They did not need to consult the modest tri-fold course guide like us.

On the back nine, when we came to a halt behind the guys ahead of us and had time for a friendly exchange, that is when we learned that this was the only course Tiger Woods ever played in New Zealand. One factor was his longtime caddie, Steve Williams, grew up learning to play golf here. And he made his professional caddying debut at 13 years old, carrying Peter Thomson’s bag in the New Zealand Open.

But in 2002, the world number one, at age 26, struggled on the course and almost missed the cut. By the end of the tournament, Woods only managed a share of sixth, while Australian Craig Parry claimed the title.

From Wellington we’ll be flying to Queenstown on the South Island. This puts us in proximity of winemaker Andrew Keenleyside, who is profiled in the Terroir of Golf chapter called “Winemakers Talk Terroir.” Then we will also be able to visit The Hills — featured in the “Golf Clubs Around the World with a Strong Wine Culture.”

The Hills came to my attention long before I began writing this book. I had heard of this extraordinary place that is essentially a sculpture park, while it was originally conceived of as a private members club by Sir Michael Hill.

Young Michael created his first golf course at age 11 on the lawn of his family’s house at Whangarei. He mowed little circles for greens and used baked bean tins for holes.


Here you can read New Zealand Part 1Part 2 and Part 4

New Zealand – Part Four

New Zealand – Part Four

The South Island

Were we ever lucky. Months ago, when we scheduled our flight from Wellington to Queenstown on the South Island, we had no idea we would board our flight just ahead of a cyclone. States of emergency were declared when Cyclone Gabrielle hit Auckland and many other areas of the North Island. This extreme weather event wrecked more havoc as the country already had to deal with heavy rain, destructive flooding and high winds in January.

We were delighted to be checking into the Hilton Hotel Resort on the banks of Lake Wakatipu for four fabulous nights. Our suite was spacious and luxurious. We had a relaxing afternoon before a casual dinner in the lakeside Stacks pub. Blessed with gorgeous sunshine, we headed out early to The Hills Golf Club in Arrowtown for our 9.30 am tee time. Kevin and I wanted to savor every moment of this extraordinary experience, starting with the best breakfast sandwich and smoothie I have ever tasted, bar none.

We were welcomed warmly by Craig Palmer the GM/Director of Golf, who handed us our scorecards, and rang up my purchases, which included a wide brim hat to shield me on this blue sky day. As I said in Part Three, I knew about this place before I wrote the The Hills profile for Terroir of Golf, A Golf Book for Wine Lovers. I was astonished to learn that Sir Michael Hill was a passionate art lover and he created not only a world-class club and course but a magical sculpture park to boot!

It’s one thing to see pictures of three-dimensional artwork in a book or online and an entirely different experience to get up close to these monumental works of art. Once out on the course it’s not long before you are confronted with Sean Henry’s bronze titled “Seated Figure.” Who is this bearded traveler that appears deeply lost in thought? I loved Mark Hill’s work titled “Elegance” and I was especially enchanted with the “Dragon Flies” over the pond by the 6th fairway/green. Then, immediately following is the dramatic display of 5 Clydesdale horses on the 7th fairway — titled “The Frolic and The Fancy” by Max Patte.

But without a doubt, my favorite piece was “Solace in the Wind.” This cast iron work, sited on the bridge at the 10th hole, is also by Max Patte.

The figure is arching back and leans precariously into the wind, exuding a spiritual or even metaphysical quality. It speaks to me. You can read more about The Hills experience and the many sculptures in the Terroir book.

From our base at the Hilton Resort, we wound our way to Terra Sancta to meet up with winemaker, Andrew Keenleyside. Andrew is also featured in Terroir of Golf in the chapter called “Winemakers Talk Terroir.” And boy, does he ever. He speaks so poetically about the rumble-jumble of the terrain characterized by schist, I could listen to him for hours. He talks of the shingle, river gravel and limestone and how all that minerality creates such flavorful wines.

There is simply nothing like tasting wine with the winemaker himself. The cellar door at Terra Sancta is so warm and welcoming. The whole vibe of the property, surrounded by vineyards on all sides, is magical. When I asked Andrew about the stunning wine bottle labels, I was mesmerized by his eloquent descriptions of all the images that illustrated the story of this special place, the founders and the product itself.

Andrew also explained another reason the vines are so happy is because of the Babydoll Sheep! Thanks to their flock of these gentle creatures, they have such a good yield of manure they don’t have to fertilize now!

You’ll find colorful names like Miro, the vineyard dog (he’s even got his own block that produces Riesling), Crocodelia, and Bad Bunny. You’ll see a rendering of the Kawarau River and the luscious pinot noir grapes that the Central Otago Valley is known for. If you can make the journey yourself you can learn about the “Mysterious Diggings.” OK, I’ll give away a little bit of the lore — it has to do with the gold sluicings from the 19th century gold rush.

We made our way back to Queenstown, where we ventured for dinner at Paddy Gaddy on the main street, called The Mall. You might not guess that the food is Asian Fusion. But our favorite meal was at the Flame Bar and Grill. Fabulous seafood, ribs, burgers and views.

I’d say hands down, Kevin’s favorite was the ice cream at the Patagonia Creamery and Chocolaterie. Now this is a place with a story! It was founded by Argentinians Alex Jimenez and Lorena Giallonardo. The dream to create the exquisite chocolate of their homeland led to five cafes located in the Southern Lakes of New Zealand where they roast their own coffee and offer a dizzying array of exotic ice cream flavors along with gorgeous boxed gift sets of their delicacies.

Alas, it was time to fly to Australia to continue the epic adventure.


Here you can read New Zealand Part 1Part 2, and Part 3