Cape Kidnappers Golf Course

High atop a windswept plateau, this former farmland is now a championship style course and boutique resort. With the Pacific Ocean and famed gannet colony the 5,000-acre property allows guests to experience true Kiwi rugged and rural luxury.

"Enjoy your game, and enjoy the setting. You will never play golf somewhere like this again." - Tom Doak

Funded with capital infused by an American billionaire, designed by one of the most sought after golf architects and located on a cliff-side location in Hawke's Bay, Cape Kidnappers has rightly earned honors as a top course in the world from every major golf publication possible. This former sheep station turned golf course follows a sense of minimalism, with as little earth moved as possible.

The Cape is not true links terrain; instead the land tilts toward the sea as a series of ridges which jut outward toward the edge of the cliffs. The result is seaside golf at its finest.

The surface is firm and fast, and the conditions can be windy so players who can control the trajectory will master the course. Shots will be played over treetops and cautiously along the edges of deep ravines. Every hole has a view of Hawke's Bay, and a favorite of some guests is to tee into the ocean and count the hang time (almost 10 seconds) to reach the ocean 500 feet below.

Players at Cape Kidnappers may attack the pin due to generous fairways but attention should paid to the wind in order to arrive at the most advantageous angles. The magic of Tom Doak's design, and a characteristic of all good golf architecture, is the ability to make a course look harder than it plays. Suiting design to both the high handicapper while providing rewards for perfectly placed shots is what Cape Kidnappers is all about... in addition to the astounding views of course.

Found in many Doak designs are bunkers to one side of the green or another. This provides a choice for the player: play to the safe side or go for the pin and risk the traps.

  • For the high handicapper, the choice should be to play to the safe side. Directing the ball on to the green is the reward.
  • For the mid-handicapper, the temptation will be to shoot closer to the pin but common sense dictates to play to the safe side as well. However, when lining the shot be sure to truly aim to the safe side and not look at the pin at the last second. It's a visual trap used in golf architecture to test one's ego.
  • For the low-handicapper the choice is simple: stick the shot to the pin and you are rewarded with a birdie attempt while the alternative is a much tougher up and down for par or potential bogey.

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Awards and Accolades

  • 2012 Environmental Leaders in Golf Award - Golf Digest
  • #40 "Top 100 courses in the World 2015" - Golf Magazine, 2015
  • #16 "World's 100 Greatest Courses" - Golf Digest, 2016
  • #17 "World's 100 Greatest Courses" - Golf Digest, 2018
  • #3 in New Zealand - Golf Digest, 2018

Course information

  • Location: Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
  • Plays: 7147 yards, Par 71
  • Club Pro: Jon McCord
  • Architect: Tom Doak, 2004
  • Pricing: Super Luxury

Play Info and Signature Holes

4th: The tee shot on this hole is scary- especially to those who play the course for the first time because it is blind. This is perhaps a hark back to historical British links design by Doak, and a characteristic often not employed in modern golf design.

6th: Par-3. Playing over a deep ravine to a broad fairway, this hole has pot bunkers up the left side, gullies, and is lined by rough grass. Hitting the ball into the grass will lose it and on most days a the strong north west wind can force balls into these hazards. Cutting the ball is a nice skill to have.

12th: A great hole to demonstrate the "signature" of Cape Kidnappers itself is the infinity green on the 12th. This approach shot is toward the water and visually looks as if an errant shot long will fall off of the back of the green and over the cliff. In reality the 13th green is beyond the green and it makes sense to hit with confidence rather than contend with the gentle slope off of the front side of the green.

13th: Par-3. Plays along the edge of the cliff side and players contend with 5 bunkers for a shot to a raised green, which looks like it disappears into the abyss off the far side.

14th: Jon McCord, PGA Professional at Cape Kidnappers says, “14 is called pimple. It's a short Par 4 that, if the wind is out of the right direction, you can have a chance at knocking it up near the green. That is of course more easily said than done, as once you get close the green is its main defense. It has this very deep pot bunker in the front and this little pimple of sorts, hence its name, on the green. So you have a false front on the right with a green that is very tough."

Tip for those without the distance on this hole to hit within 10 yards of the pin lay back and leave yourself a full shot to where you can create some spin. The green runs away a little bit even in its flatter sections.

15th: You would not be the first person to tee up as you look out over the cliff and blast a drive into the ocean... just to count the number of seconds it takes to reach the water.

Customer reviews

My wife and I, along with Sandy and George, arrived home about two weeks ago from a trip to New Zealand that you facilitated. The four of us have been traveling together for 47 years after meeting in a small Bed & Breakfast in London in 1971.  We have traveled extensively in Europe, Canada, United States, and South America.

New Zealand was a distant stretch for us, and then we asked Julie for help on the recommendation of friends and she took us to you.  And that was our lucky day!

The five weeks we spent in New Zealand were possibly the most seamless, best organized trip we have ever experienced.  The accommodations were outstanding, everyone of them. The accommodations fit very well with the itinerary that we gave to you. Each and everyone exceeded our expectations from Auckland to Invercargill.  The people we met in the B&Bs were very accommodating and attentive to all of our needs. We did not consider them as hosts but rather New Zealand friends.  The food was excellent.  Tour suggested excursions were always right on target.

I believe the only thing that would have made the trip better was to stay longer.  This was meant to be a onetime experience, but already there has been suggestions of a return.

Thank you for your part of this fantastic adventure!

—Carol and Bob P., PA, USA

We had a spectacular time on our trip after leaving Port Douglas and all the arrangements that you made for us came off without a hitch. All flights and transportation that you arranged were on time and we were well taken care of at all the places we went to.

The Boatshed was incredible. We met Johnathan and had a small dinner with him on our second night. We were the only guests at the hotel and he and his staff just made us feel right at home. Jack and Jen, Johnathan’s staff, took us out to a couple of wineries and we had lunch together. When we got back Johnathan treated us to dinner prepared by his own self. Fantastic.

Next up was Napier/Hastings and the Craggy Range cottage. Excellent choice for us. We were close enough to Havelock North to be able to easily drive into the town and wander around. We went and played Cape Kidnapers as well. The course was wet so no carts were allowed out. Craggy Range winery was great to us and we had dinner at Terroire. Great staff and good eats to be sure. On to Queenstown.

What a wonderfully European feel Queenstown had. Small intimate streets and people all over the place. The Spire was perfect for us. Florence greeted us and was superlative in her suggestions and ideas for us to do. We did take a plane ride out to Milford Sound and the cruise. We went wine tasting and went to Amisfield for lunch where there was a spectacular sunset. It was so good that the staff came outside to take pictures. Simply wonderful. We took the gondola ride up the hill and enjoyed a glass of champagne while we took in the view. That was our last day and really enjoyable. We left the next day and flew back home.

Again, all the arrangements you made of us came off without a hitch. I even drove on the left side of the road without incident. It’s not so bad once you figure out the roundabouts. Thanks to you and your team for setting this up. Will highly recommend this service to our friends should they need to journey down under.

—​Bob E & Sharyn B, San Francisco