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Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers

The experience of playing Cape Kidnappers is unique in every way. When you arrive at Cape Kidnappers golf course you are greeted by a dirt road and grey metal gate and no sign of a golf course. This is not just a show-up kind of a place.


The gate opens and you begin a 15-20 minute drive through forest and wilderness. Again, no sign of a golf course.


Eventually, you arrive at what looks to be a small, rustic cabin that is the clubhouse. Not what you are expecting from a golf course ranked in the top 20 in the world.


Yet once you get on the course you will soon marvel at Cape Kidnappers’ magnificent, breathtaking and timeless beauty.


You can discover the Cape Kidnappers golf experience on our NZ North Island golf tour →




The history of the name ‘Cape Kidnappers’ goes back to 1769 when Captain James Cook sailed through the bay. Maori folklore tells the story of locals trying to kidnap Cook’s Tahitian guide. However, the attempt came undone by a series of cannon-fire that saw the guide escape.


Fast-forward to 2004 when American architect Tom Doak built the course on what was a 5,000-acre sheep station. A year later it would rank 27th in Golf Magazine’s top 100 courses in the world.


Doak said that the fairways were ready-made for golf thanks to the sheep that grazed the field throughout the years. His only challenge was making the inland holes just as memorable as the coastal holes. Safe to say, he succeeded.








Distance (metres)



Cape Kidnappers has none of the sandy dunes that characterise true links courses – but the harsh landscape is in keeping with the game.


It is rustic, rugged and natural. While every hole has a spectacular view of the bay, some play cautiously alongside deep ravines as others intimidate golfers with deep cliff top bunkers and sheer drops off the very edge of the earth.


The opening holes are laid out across the sweeping landscape away from the coast. It is not until the 5th that you are introduced to the course’s iconic cliff-edges, where you will tee-off right beside a 140-metre drop.


The front nine is good, but the back nine is when this course comes to life. Visually stunning and challenging, each hole runs out across several fingers of land that are separated by deep gullies that fall into the sea.


The 12th hole, justly named “infinity”, seems like its green runs endlessly off the edge of the cliff. While the 18th punchbowl green is an epic ending to an epic round and will provide you with one of the most fun approaches you will ever play.




Cape Kidnappers’ 15th is the course’s signature and most interesting hole. It is known as “Pirate’s Plank”, quite fitting as it feels like you are walking the plank as you play out onto one of the cliff’s long fingers.


The hole is flat and long with wide fairways and, thankfully, no bunkers. This means you can really appreciate the dramatic surrounding without getting frustrated.




In the 2008 Kiwi Challenge, American Hunter Mahan scored 30 on the back nine here at Cape Kidnappers to take out the four-man field, which included Aussie Adam Scott.


Mahan’s golden run from the 13th to the 17th saw him score birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie to end with the course record of 65.



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