Reflecting upon my recent golf journey to New Zealand
Lying awake at 4 a.m. the past two nights, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect upon my recent golf trip to New Zealand.
The 17-hour time change between Michigan and New Zealand has left my body befuddled. I’m wide awake at 1 a.m. and dead tired 12 hours later in the middle of the afternoon. I can’t wait for my body to adjust back to the real world.
The question that New Zealand asks travelers over and over again is a simple one: Am I worth it? Am I worth spending all that money to visit? Am I worth the 12-hour flight from L.A. on Air New Zealand? (Read about the experience here.) Am I worth all the time-change inconveniences? After all, there are perfectly fabulous golf destinations within our own continent.
Yes and yes and yes and yes again. New Zealand is pure magic. I’ve always touted Ireland as my favorite place in the world to play golf. Like college basketball, I’ve got a new No. 1. As one American golfer alluded to while I interviewed him during my trip, New Zealand is like Ireland with warmer weather. For Americans, it’s the world’s premier golf destination in winter. I had to put on sunscreen twice a day to fend off the searing sun.
I’ve always cherished the great golf and even friendlier people in Ireland. New Zealand’s warm hospitality can match the Irish and go a step further with better food and wine (but not better beer, obviously). The exclusive Huka Lodge near Lake Taupo in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island served maybe the best meal of my life (see photo below).
New Zealand’s best golf experiences match up well with Ireland’s. The Kauri Cliffs Golf Club serves up a palate prettier than Royal County Down (read my RCD review here). The cliffs at Cape Kidnappers aren’t as dramatic as Old Head Golf Links, but they’re similar. Read my review of Old Head here.
My favorite Irish links is Tralee, an underrated player on the world stage, an affliction similar to the plight of the stunning Jack’s Point near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. If Jack’s Point (see photo above) were on the North Island more accessible to raters and other golfers of influence, I could easily see it being a world top 100 course.
I made the journey not understanding how marvelous The Remarkables Mountains and the surrounding peaks really are. Check out the photo of Skippers Canyon below. These alpine behemoths give tourists in Queenstown endless pursuits to enjoy: Skiing, golfing, hiking, helicopter rides, horseback riding, back-country jeep tours, bungee-jumping, jet-boating, sky diving, panning for gold and more.
New Zealand traditionally sits squarely behind Scotland and Ireland on many a golfer’s bucket list. It’s now on par in my book. Sitting up at 4 a.m. isn’t so bad when you’re reminiscing about such a cool place. I’ll be writing more about New Zealand in the near future, but if you can’t wait, visit www.newzealand.com for more.
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Your columns confirm that New Zealand will be on my bucket list of golf travel destinations. I have thoroughly enjoyed previous trips to Ireland and Scotland but your reviews of New Zealand confirm it is a remarkable place for golf.