MATAURI BAY, New Zealand — Ray Geffre, the director of golf here at Kauri Cliffs GC, has a message for Australia’s estimable cohort of traveling golfers: The course options north of Auckland are wider and better than you know.
“Think Queenstown of the North, with a warmer and wider selection of golf — at seaside,” says Geffre, whose Kauri Cliffs property also announced this month a special discounted rate for Australian nationals. “We’ve always offered Kiwis a special domestic rate, but Australians deserve one of their own, to distinguish them from folks visiting from Europe, Asia and the U.S. And to better express how much we value their business here in the Northland.”
According to Geffre, international visitors to Kauri Cliffs GC will pay a green fee of 850 New Zealand dollars, while domestic fees remain at 450 NZD per golfer. The newly created green fee introduced specifically for Australian nationals: 650 NZD.
The American-born Geffre, who looks after Kauri Cliffs and its sister course some 500 km to the south, Cape Kidnappers GC, sees an entirely new golfing reality taking shape north of Auckland — that portion of the North Island that Kiwis call the Northland. The golf course at Kauri Cliffs has, of course, proved a fixture in everyone’s world top 100 list, pretty much since the day it debuted in 1999. However, it takes two points to make a line, and the opening of Te Arai Links just south of Mangawhai has helped transform the Northland into a legitimate golf destination — anchored by two marquee venues, each ranked among the top 30 courses in all of the Asia-Pacific region.
Yet Geffre and his counterpart at Te Arai Links, Jon McCord, agree that few locals, Australians included, understand just how stellar and diverse the golf in the Northland can be. If one knows whom to ask and where to go.
There are wonderful lodging options all over the top half of the New Zealand’s North Island. Yet, if one stays at Kauri Cliffs — perhaps in one of the resort’s new 4-bedroom Residences, designed specifically with the golf buddy trip in mind — Geffre eagerly recommends two nearby courses that traveling golfers should not miss: Kataia GC in Ahipara, on the way to Cape Reinga, and Waitangi GC on a gorgeous, clover-shaped peninsula just down the road from Kauri, in Paihia.
“Not many folks from away appreciate just how good the golf is at Kataia, which I like to call the Arrowtown of the North,” Geffre says. “I honestly don’t want to wear out the Queenstown analogies, but Aussies and other internationals travel there so frequently — it’s a useful reference point. And Kataia GC does serve up the same compelling brand of low-key-but-truly-excellent course design. However, unlike Arrowtown, Kataia’s an authentic links — and it’s located directly on 90-Mile Beach. The setting and the golf are out of this world.”
In case you think Geffre is engaging in a bit of local boosterism, check out what Aussie Darius Oliver had to say about Kataia on his discriminating website, Planet Golf: Nothing like playing golf on a beautiful course right next to a world famous beach… a true 18-Hole All Weather Links Course, one of the best in New Zealand, with undulating fairways and excellent greens… Magnificent views looking out over the Tasman Sea and the enormous sand dunes at Reef Point.
According to McCord, the pickings closer to Te Arai are equally tasty. His recommendations include Waipu GC and Mangawhai GC, with Waipu in particular, offering some exceptional views of the South Pacific. He also recommends South Head Golf Club, just an hour north of Auckland, where Tiger Woods caddied for Steve Williams ahead of the Kiwi’s wedding in 2006.
“South Head rightly enjoys a great reputation,” McCord says, “but my main message to Aussies or anyone else on golf safari: This part of the North Island is legitimately subtropical. Once you’ve played all that Te Arai Links has to offer, you’d be crazy not to check out the region. The golfing terrain at Mangawhai is awesome. Waipu is breathtaking, one of my personal favorites, and they just invested in a new irrigation system — which has the golf course is better shape than ever.
“I guess that’s the other takeaway: Mangawhai and Kataia and Waipu are wonderful courses but they’re so casual, fun and affordable. If you can’t fashion a great week of golf from all we have on offer in the Northland, you’re just not trying very hard.”
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