Continuing our ‘My Top Ten’ series, we asked Kiwi designer Kristine Kerr about her favourite golf courses.
As a golf course architect, the following definition of aficionado applies to my choices of ten favourite courses. Aficionado was borrowed by the English in the early 1800s, from the past participle of the Spanish verb, aficionar, which means ‘to inspire affection’.
Ergo, my list of favourite courses comprises those courses that have brought me pleasure, that I have enjoyed playing with my mum and Milton, family and friends, and in places I have loved being. They all display fundamental design principles of challenge, strategy, variety and shotmaking abilities, but a tree does not have to say why it’s a tree.
1. Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand. As a native Northlander, I’ll start with my most proximate preferred course with a supremely breathtaking setting, a superb quality presentation, and is one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Designed by Dave Harmon, the holes are like ribbons flowing over a verdant natural landscape, with views over the spectacular Cavalli Islands. There is a fun variety of holes and gorgeous par threes. Holes I especially like for their challenge include the par-four sixth with its drive over a deep valley, and the tricky perspective of the seventh, a par three on the side of the cliff.
2. Pegasus Golf Club, New Zealand. OK, I designed it. Contrary to Frank Lloyd Wright’s advice for your first design to be far from home so you won’t have to drive past your mistakes every day, I love Pegasus. I returned from China to New Zealand especially for its design. It was transformed from flat farmland to a classic strategic course, with plenty of variety designed for residents and members with multiple ways to play a hole to keep it interesting. It hosted the NZ Ladies Open three times in its first three years.
As a youngish designer then, for budgetary reasons I didn’t manage to sway the project manager to include all the features I wanted to, and I would also put back the controversial central bunker that was removed on the eighteenth hole.
3. Bearwood Lakes, England. Designed by my great pal Guy Hockley in his time at Hawtree, I have played this idyllic woodland course many times. Steeped in history, originally in the grounds of Windsor Great Park and Bearwood Estate, the course is a halcyon golfing experience in the rejuvenating beauty of the English countryside.
4. Denarau, Fiji. Designed by Eiichi Motohashi in 1993, with coconut trees lining the fairways, it is the epitome of that era of championship course in terms of length, variety and number of tees. It initially included quirky sea-life shaped bunkers, reminiscent of a fun and exploratory time in golf course design.
Starting a round at 3pm and going around in a cart, a twosome can finish in two hours and be done in time for cocktails!
5. Natadola, Fiji. The polar opposite of the Denarau landscape, Natadola winds its way up tropical craggy ridges, down through the valleys and along the coral coastline. Politics and weather events during construction meant some subsequent construction vitalisation. It is always kept in super condition by the super superintendent, Steve Laylor.
6. Paraparaumu Golf Course, New Zealand. An awesome links course and a great test of golf.
7. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, New York. Sublime.
8. Baltusrol Golf Club, New Jersey. Well… it was some 20 years ago, and I can’t recall which course I played! Whoops! However, I treasured the experience and there’s an innate thrill to be playing at a revered historic venue.
9. New South Wales Golf Club, Australia. Sensational all around. I do enjoy the obvious rewards of holes like the fifth where a great shot over the blind hill receives a long run.
10. Surfer’s Paradise Golf Club, Australia. In the 1960s at a time when Surfer’s Paradise was becoming more than a twinkle in the eye, the course was ‘crafted’ by local landowners – including a family friend’s husband – with their bulldozers, and to this day it embodies the sunny vibe of Surfer’s Paradise and the pioneers of the time. Mum and I pop out often for a round when home on the Gold Coast. The sandy soils and run on the ball in drier weather give the course a linksy playing experience, even with the mature trees and water bodies that are home to birds and native wildlife.
The next places I want to play golf are Iceland, Hawaii and the Californian coast.
Kristine Kerr is the principal architect at Kura Golf Course Design and has been involved in projects in New Zealand, China and Italy. Read more at www.kuragolfcoursedesign.com