Friday, May 18, 2012

Some New Zealand Golf Magic

Cape Kidnappers Golf Course
Last week my friend Mike from Minnesota came to the shores of New Zealand for the first time in almost 17 years for the purpose of spending a week with me playing some of New Zealand's - and the world's for that matter - best golf courses.

It was a bit of a risk attempting this in May as we're well into autumn and you just don't know if you'll get sunny and mild or cool and rainy. And since we'd mostly be playing seaside courses, the wind would be a big variable, too.

Our first two days were spent in Hawke's Bay playing the should-be-a-household-name Cape Kidnappers Golf Course. This amazing track is situated high on the cliffs above the ocean and makes you wonder how somebody had the idea to build something as crazy as a golf course here. "Dramatic" is the understatement of the century here.  From hole to hole the word "wow" came from my lips countless times. It's really quite breathtaking!

The Head Professional at Cape Kidnappers, Jon McCord, just moved out here last November from Minnesota and gave us quite possibly one of the best weather days of the year there.  Sunny skies, mild temps, and calm winds gave us an unbeatable introduction to this World's Top 100 course. Jon's welcoming and genuine demeanor made our time there just that much better. He's pretty great.

With our first day of golf a roaring success we figured we had to play it again the next day, and it wouldn't matter if the weather turned for the worse because we played it at its best.  Well, somehow the next day got even a little nicer and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience the course again. It makes the memory of the holes stick that much more which is great.  I just can't say enough good things about this place.

The next course on the list was Kauri Cliffs, a sister course to Cape Kidnappers and situated way up towards the top end of the North Island - so that meant some driving was on deck.  First it was an evening 5.5 hour drive in some rain from Napier to Auckland to spend the night at our place. Then it was up early the next day to make the 3.5 hour drive to Kauri Cliffs.  Yep, we're committed!

The drive up started out rainy and cloudy but by the time we arrived at the course it was warm, sunny, and calm yet again!  We have a gift, I guess.  And what's more we were literally the only two golfers on the course the whole day.  So it's a little embarrassing to say to say we took almost 5 hours BUT that was because we had our cameras and couldn't stop taking photos. :-)

Kauri Cliffs has just nearly as much drama and wow factor as Cape Kidnappers but a very different look stretched out over the immense green hills high above the sea. It's more of an "island course" feel I guess and it's hard to call it more or less beautiful that Cape Kidnappers. Just amazing, really!

The next day was a "rest" day to enjoy some sights around the Bay of Islands and the giant kauri trees along the west coast of the North Island.  Good fun.  And our last bit of golf was back in Auckland at the Alister MacKenzie designed Titirangi.  Much more of a "traditional" course and quite lovely set right in the middle of the city yet you feel like you're out in the country.  I can now see and appreciate the reason MacKenzie - the designer of Augusta National and many others - is so well thought of. And the weather? Once again nearly perfect.

Mike and I had an amazing week of golf that pretty much ranks up there as a "golf trip of a lifetime". Not to mention getting to sample lots of Kiwi cuisine, pubs, and scenery.  Sure glad Mike decided to cross the Pacific to make it happen!

Click here for some photos of our week.  Don't worry, they're not ALL golf holes. :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Janie & Steve's New Zealand Visit

Relaxing in Auckland
Janie and Steve - the intrepid aunt and uncle duo - came to visit us and a lot of New Zealand in April.  Their whirlwind 3 week tour took them across both the North and South Islands and we were able to join up with them for part of it.

We first met up with them in Wellington after they had driven all over the North Island. We all then took the Interislander ferry to Picton on the South Island.  Their lovely traveling companions Rick and Carol from Georgia were along, too.

We had a wonderful time around the Marlborough Sounds, Kaikoura, and Marlborough wine country before continuing on to other parts of the South Island with them including the Abel Tasman National Park area, Buller Gorge, and the Panacake Rocks in Paparoa National Park.  We saw so many beautiful things and the weather was all around fantastic save one rainy driving day.  So that was sweet as.

Other highlights were a personal tour and tasting at Isabel Estate winery, seeing fur seals up close on a rocky beach outside of Kaikoura, a boat ride along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park, and lots of gorgeous drives.

The Fearsome Foursome continued on down the South Island from there without us for the next week but we got to spend a couple of days in Auckland with them before they left for home.  It was great to have them see where we live and show them around a bit.  And the lovely mornings at our place were well spent sitting on the terrace overlooking the water.

We loved that they came to see us and New Zealand and we were so pleased that all of them - Janie, Steve, Rick, and Carol - all seemed quite smitten with this lovely country.  They got a great dose of pleasant weather, tasty food, and endless miles of beauty!

I'm trying out a new web gallery to display photos so that they can be viewed on mobile devices like iPads, iPhones, and Android devices.  (And of course it still works just fine on regular computers.)  It's maybe not quite as pretty but it works so I'll give it a shot.  The key tip is to tap or click the photo to get the controls and title to appear.  For mobile devices you can just swipe between photos. Let me know if it sucks. :-)

Click here to see some more photos from our time together.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recap - Mike's Visit

OK, I don't know why it took me so long to get through all the photos and put up a blog entry. Just did.

Anne's dad Mike was here in New Zealand for just over a week in March.  We spent a couple of days in Auckland but then ventured to the South Island to immerse him amongst mountains and lakes.

We were treated to some outstanding weather which was great, and we had such a good time exploring, hiking, eating, stargazing, and well just admiring the scenery.

New Zealand, of course, is such a beautiful place but going to the South Island takes it up a notch.  We spent some time around Queenstown including a scenic flight over the mountains to Milford Sound followed by a boat ride on the sound. We hiked in Aspiring National Park near Wanaka.  And we hiked and explored Mt Cook National Park with it's tall snowy mountains plus glaciers and lakes.  Pretty fantastic.  And of course there was the previously blogged about night at the observatory.

We were so glad to show Mike around and have him see a bit of where we live.  We didn't get him paragliding, though.  That'll be next time...

Click here for some tasty photos.