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Play Away: Cape Kidnappers Golf Course in New Zealand

An aerial view of the entire course perched on the cliffs at Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Want to sneak off for a quick mental round of golf in New Zealand–at the stellar Cape Kidnappers Golf Course? About a half million people get to do that today–if they read my story in the travel section of the Dallas Morning News (reg req). If you can’t get there, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:

HAWKES BAY, New Zealand — It should have been an easy chip shot, five yards to a big putting green with the Pacific Ocean right behind and the sun casting a golden glow over my left shoulder. It would have been easy except for one pesky detail: My golf ball fell off the side of the earth. Almost literally.

“There are a lot of places your golf ball can go on this course, and many of them are not good,” cautioned Ryan Brandeburg, the director of golf at a thrill ride of a course called Cape Kidnappers, on the eastern edge of New Zealand’s north island. “Especially on the cliff-side holes, where a ball can get swallowed by the ocean,” 500 feet below.

The course tilts toward the sea, tumbling along serrated ridges and over folds of wrinkled turf as unpredictable and exhilarating as anything in Wales or Ireland or Scotland. It’s Pebble Beach on steroids.

Golf course architect Tom Doak routed the golf course through rolling pastureland, then across jagged thumbs of land. His design is neither fussy nor overintellectualized; it unspools like lyrics over music.

Most of the holes face the ocean or jut into the bay. The holes unwind naturally, following the contours of the land. Three of the holes in particular — Nos. 14, 15 and 16 — seem to have been plucked out of a Peter Jackson movie. They’re epic, with sweeping views of sea and sky, and they carry monikers such as “Widows Walk” and “Pirates Plank.” Most golfers reach for their cameras. I searched for my Dramamine.

To see the rest, check out the Dallas Morning News story.