James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Riskiest golf shots in the world...

Cape Kidnappers course among most perilous but at least there are no crocs

The cliff-edged Pirate's Plank hole at Cape Kidnappers golf course is not for the faint-hearted. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The cliff-edged Pirate's Plank hole at Cape Kidnappers golf course is not for the faint-hearted. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It's known for its tranquil settings and world-class layout but Cape Kidnappers golf course has now found itself ranked among the world's most precarious places to play the game.

A survey of the world's "top 10 hazardous golf courses" says the par 71, 6509m Hawkes Bay course offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and kilometres of coastline.

But it's not for vertigo sufferers - six of its holes are along the edge of a 183m sheer drop into the sea.

"Steel yourself in particular for the 15th hole, known as the Pirate's Plank," the survey says.

"Here you walk an increasingly narrow fairway down to the 18m-wide green - featuring a plunging drop with no protection."

Cape Kidnappers director of golf Ryan Brandeburg said the course had won many awards in its history and was currently ranked the 33rd best golf course in the world by Golf magazine.

But the ranking in the cheapflights.com.au survey, which identified some of the world's more peculiar golfing experiences, was "certainly one of the most unique".

"Ultimately, this award confirms that Cape Kidnappers is one of the most awe-inspiring golf courses in the world," said Mr Brandeburg.

He said the 594m, par 5 15th hole that had a drop of more than 140m running along the left side of the fairway was one of the major components that has factored into the course being called one of the "great modern marvels of golf course architecture".

"Course architect Tom Doak ... did a wonderful job at Cape Kidnappers, but ultimately it is the rugged Hawkes Bay landscape that makes the golf course so special," said Mr Brandeburg.

If the dangers of Cape Kidnappers appeal, there's also the Lost City Golf Course in Sun City, South Africa where golfers are advised to take a drop on the 13th hole if their ball goes into the water hazard - home to about 40 Nile crocodiles.

If golfing near a demilitarised zone is more your thing, Camp Bonifas in Panmunjom, South Korea, might fit the bill - the single hole, par-3 golf course abutts the most-heavily fortified border in the world.

"The 175m hole is lined by a 5.5m security fence and unexploded mines that can be triggered by errant shots," the survey says.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Island Country Club, Singapore, has seen a number of wild animal encounters, including one where in 1982 pro Jim Stewart killed a 3m cobra only to watch as another snake emerged from its mouth. The course rules state that any area damaged by digging by wild boars, monkeys or other non-burrowing animals may be considered "ground under repair".

The top 10 hazardous golf courses (in no particular order)

1 Prison View Golf Course, Angola, Louisiana, USA

The Louisiana State Penitentiary is the largest maximum-security prison in the United States and it also has a 9-hole golf course, complete with practice facilities and a clubhouse, for use by the public for $10. Golfers must allow 48 hours for a background check before scheduling a tee time and be willing to submit to searches.

2 Singapore Island Country Club, Singapore

Members are advised to "walk calmly away" when crossing paths with wild boars.

3 Lost City Golf Course, Sun City, South Africa

The course showcases the desert, mountains, parklands, 28,000sq m of water features - and Nile crocodiles. Players are cautioned to bring extra balls and take a drop rather than venture after a shot in or near a crocodile pit on the 13th.

4 Merapi Golf Course, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

An awe-inspiring round, especially when you realise the mountain overshadowing the course is Mount Merapi, a volcano that last erupted less than two years ago.

5 Camp Bonifas, Panmunjom, South Korea

The camp, the base for the United Nations Command, is 400m south of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that serves as a buffer between North and South Korea. Errant shots can trigger unexploded land mines and players have reported wild animal encounters, including brushes with local "vampire deer" and a creature described as a "man-bear-pig".

6 World Ice Golf Championship, Uummannaq, Greenland

Each March (climate permitting) the 9-hole course is laid out across a field of fjords and icebergs. Players then face off against each other in a 36-hole tournament - the only one played in the Arctic Circle.

With ice as the green, golfers play with red balls, otherwise it's a regular round of golf, if you don't mind -50C, periodic shifts in the course as you play it and the potential for crossing paths with a polar bear.

7 The Ocean Course Golf Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA

Built above the sand dunes at the farthest point of the island, the course is exposed to gusty or even whipping ocean winds that stretch a typical round to five-and-a-half or even six hours.

The course is also home to alligators, copperheads, rattlesnakes and water moccasins.

8 La Jenny Golf Course, France

One of the few places in the world where you don't have to worry about a dress code.

In fact, the fewer clothes the better on Europe's only naturist golf course.

9 Skukuza Golf Course, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Backs up to Kruger National Park with lions, elephants, leopards, warthogs, buffalo and more wandering on to the course. An indemnity form you are required to complete warns golfers not to run when encountering any of them. And stay clear of the water; it's ripe with hippopotami that are not scared of you or your golf club.

10 Cape Kidnappers Golf Course, Hawkes Bay, NZ

This cliff-top course offers a 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean. Six of the holes walk the edge of a 183m sheer drop into the sea. Don't walk backwards lining up that putt!


- NZ Herald

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