The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs review: 48 hours at New Zealand’s premiere golf resort
Julian Robertson’s ‘The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs’ is the first golf luxury lodge in New Zealand. It has laid the way for lodges like Cape Kidnappers, Kinloch Lodge and more recently Tara Iti. My wife and I were lucky enough to enjoy a weekend here, and we thank Julian, the American Hedge Fund manager for directing his compass to the remote far north of New Zealand.
We departed from Mangawhai Heads (Tara iti), a coastal 2-hour drive from Kauri Cliffs. The approach to the lodge was rural with the only signs of civilisation a couple of kids on horseback and rolling farmland. We spotted the sign to Kauri Cliffs and our luxury weekend was underway.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs:
After a warm introduction by our lodge assistant Tatsio, we were quickly guided to the balcony with champagne in hand. Our chance to take in our home for the next 48 hours. As a Kiwi, we are accustomed to jaw-dropping scenery, but this gave a new perspective of our beautiful country. In the foreground there were pristine fairways which laid runway for a sheer cliff face, plummeting into golden beaches. A luminous cloud covered the sun that was radiating towards an Island archipelago. Two things became immediately evident, the staff are extremely attentive, and the scenery becomes your M.O for the stay.
The Lodge is in colonial style and captures the area’s rich history. In winter, large open fireplaces warmed intimate dining spaces, and a feature is a balustrade which runs around the perimeter of the building, leading out to a memorable deck for dining. Families and smaller golf groups have plenty of space indoors or are outside taking it all in. The lodge itself feels is homely, but opulent and offers superior service. However, all interactions are met with casual New Zealand charm and well-natured humour.
The weather was good, and the course was quiet. Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers is never overcrowded to maximise the golfer experience. The club pro, Ben, was happy to join me in 18, my wife preferring swap the putter out for a massage at the Spa. The course was in immaculate shape, and the greens were running at 10 on the Stimpmeter, not bad for the middle of winter.
Kauri Cliffs Golf Course
The front nine shows off the wonderful coastline and on this occasion a fair level of wind power. Armed with the skills of a 12 handicapper, meaning lack of low shots and bump and runs, I let the wind ‘guide’ my ball around the course. The fairways were wide enough, and the contours were suited to my stroke play, i.e., the ‘regular Golfer’. David Harman will give you a variety of landing pads for risk and reward.
My favourite hole on the nine was the 478 Par 5, number 4, which tapers down and towards the right, before ending at a green; sitting at the point of a cliff face and minimal margin for error if you go long.
The back nine brings a new golfing experience altogether. Holes 10-13 weave through a typical New Zealand farmland. Marsh areas border secluded greens, giving you the feeling of being the only group on course. A short traverse to the 14th makes you realise why this course is a favourite for the world’s most scenic. The next 4 holes play alongside a sheer cliff. The sparkling ocean wraps around the base of the speckling of the Cavalli islands; a view that can only be seen from Kauri Cliffs. Non-golfers join-in to appreciate this experience, and the camera takes even more precedence than your putter. Thankfully, I was playing the back 9, in calm winds, so I managed to find the fairway and greens in regulation, Kauri Cliffs is a course that rewards a good shot, allows for a slight margin of error, but punishes poor golf with your ball OB, or in one of many bunkers. The back 9 of Kauri Cliffs, maybe the most picturesque I’ve played, anywhere.
Our favourite hole
The pick of the back nine is the Par-4 16th, a 323-yard dogleg over the ravine. A tempting proposition for the risk-taker would be to take on the green, I fall into this category but feeling belittled by the surroundings and trying to save my scorecard, I decided to take it easy. Aiming right you from the tee allows a beautiful approach to a green perched in front of the horizon.
In summary, the round at Kauri Cliffs is a lot of fun and a perfect example of how a Golf Course can be used to improve a natural landscape aesthetically. Whilst presenting a challenge, I did not find the course too difficult, but I can imagine that would change when the wind is high. The conditions were immaculate, and I can see why Kauri Cliffs are comfortably sitting in the World’s Top 40 year on year.
The 19th at Kauri Cliffs
Following Golf there is plenty of time to relax in your room before dinner as time is yours at The Lodge. The suites are detached and a short stroll through the native bush from the Lodge. They are of generous size, and a feature is a romantic open fire. The bathrooms are royal, and the bathtub is the perfect place to unwind after Golf. Every suite comes equipped with a balcony that overlooks the Golf Course. The decor has a native New Zealand feel, a natural palette and wooden Wicca furnishings. Kauri Cliffs give you a present of feeling at home, with no pressure to leave your room.
The dinner at Kauri Cliffs, which is included in your stay, promotes a seasonal New Zealand and you may order a la carte or opt for a 5-course tasting menu, which we did. The aged grass-fed beef was the highlight, and the dessert selection was a great way to cap off a special meal.
Overall Kauri Cliffs had etched a sublime memory for us, and it provides a luxury oasis for anyone looking to relax and unwind. The Lodge can be enjoyed throughout the year and offers a range of Experiences to maximise your stay, including; deep-sea fishing, an epic 4WD tour, a private beach picnic etc.
Experience Golf would love to assist in your travel arrangements, from visiting the Lodge for one round of golf, a weekend away or combining it with some other Golfing Experiences.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is located 3.5 hours North of Auckland City and is best combined with Tara Iti and a couple of the local country courses, which may not be as luxurious, but offer tremendous value and character.