Tom Hyde spent a year travelling New Zealand and playing golf - so he's well placed to recommend the country's top 100 golf holes. An avid golfer, Hyde names Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay his favourite course because of its minimalist design and dramatic site and three of its holes (the 6th - set across a deep ravine and possibly "the toughest par 3 you'll ever play" - 13th and 14th) feature in his book 100 Essential New Zealand Golf Holes. Here, Hyde offers his favourite holes - from Kauri Cliffs in the north, to Millbrook (the country's first true golf resort) in the south. It's not only exclusive clubs that get his vote though, Greymouth and Muriwai golf clubs also feature.
1 7th at Kauri Cliffs
Par 3, 201m
When this internationally acclaimed golf course and luxury lodge opened in 2000, it dramatically raised the standard of the golf holiday in New Zealand. Kauri Cliffs is a course every passionate golfer must try to play before they die. Since it opened a decade ago it has seen the likes of Michael Campbell and Fred Couples playing a match for the long-running show Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, not to mention American pop star Justin Timberlake. The seventh is a par 3 that, at 201m long, is scary but the fear comes with an extraordinary view down to the Cavalli Islands and back to Takau Bay. This puts it among the best par 3 holes in the land. Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay.
2 12th at Muriwai
Par 5, 452m
Harvey Penick's Little Red Book is especially useful to have at hand when playing the Muriwai Golf Club. The book - in which American golf pro Penick addresses each of the main technical issues, from how to grip a club to how to chip and putt - has become a staple on every dedicated golfer's bookshelf. It's his advice about how to play on - and out of - sand though, which is good to read before playing at Muriwai. There's no way to avoid the stuff here, even on fairways. The sand traps are heavy, black, west coast sand, the product of aeons of volcanic activity. Two Penick tips come to mind on this course. One: don't scoop the ball off a sandy fairway; try to pick it up clean. Two: strike the sand close to the ball for longer shots, and further back from the ball for shorter ones. With those simple thoughts in mind you may be ready for the par 5 12th at Muriwai - a hole that bends around, right to left, like a green banana. Muriwai Beach Golf Club, Muriwai.
3 13th at Titirangi
Par 5, 467m
Titirangi is the only course in New Zealand designed by Alister MacKenzie - one of the greatest golf course architects in history. And despite the many modifications that have been made since the designer was here in 1926, it retains the simplicity and naturalism he created. My favourite hole is the par 5 13th, known famously as "wrecker". It ranks among the best par 5 holes in the land. You tee off to an elevated, hidden fairway running right to left and over a gully with a pine tree rising up in the middle. A series of sand traps lie to the front right of the green. Titirangi Golf Club, Waitakere.
4 10th at Te Anau
PAR 5, 386m
Here's your chance to score an eagle on a par 5. The 10th hole at the Te Anau Golf Club is only 386m long - and that's from the back tee. Given the 21st century super-substances now used to make golf balls and clubs, there is no doubt someone out there who can reach this green in one shot. Of course, there's a catch. The raised green, a small hill with its nose cut off, drops away sharply on both sides and the back. The entry is narrow, so the chances of rolling the ball on to the green with a tee shot, or even the second shot for that matter, are small. Miss the green to the right and you can lose the ball altogether down a steep bank of tall grass. As gorgeous as this course is on a perfect day - when Lake Te Anau, the Murchison Range and Mount Luxmore, the inner edge of Fiordland National Park, can be seen from every hole - the heart-stopping beauty is often lost on those who lose their balls. Te Anau Golf Club, Te Anau.
5 17th at The Lakes
Par 5, 405m
The average player does not swing at the ball so much as chop at it, thus he or she can be called a "hack". Watching a hack is like watching someone drowning. Short par 3s frustrate the hell out of us because we have little or no ability to control our distance, even with "short irons", while par 4 holes are often too long and too narrow and have too many goddamn trees. That is why, for most of us, one of the best opportunities we have of scoring par is a short par 5 with a wide fairway. The par 5 17th at Lakes Resort, Pauanui, on the Coromandel Peninsula, is 405m long, so it is perfect for hacks. The journey along the way is utterly unique for the landscaping of the fairway and the green, the placement of bunkers, and the seemingly innocuous stream that cuts across the fairway just in front of the green. The hole calls for thoughtful club selection in order to place the ball in a certain spot off the tee and set up the best possible approach to the green. Hacks generally do not like target golf, but this is one short par 5 not to be missed, even if the fairway is not as wide as it should be. Lakes Resort, Pauanui.
6 6th at Cape Kidnappers
Par 3, 206m
Tom Doak is one of the most sought-after designers in the world, and one of his gems is Cape Kidnappers. Cape Kidnappers was a sheep station until it was bought by American billionaire Julian Robertson, who also created Kauri Cliffs. Now, as a golf course, it has captured a lot of worldwide attention with Britain's Telegraph newspaper proclaiming it number one of the world's top 10 golf courses. The sixth hole here has been described by one golf writer as "an epic par 3", justifiably so because it plays over a deep ravine from one slope to another. That it measures 206m from the back tee to the centre of the green means it's a fairway wood, if not a driver, for many players. Miss slightly left here and you will face the challenge of freeing yourself from one of three pot bunkers on the hillside. Or, if my experience is anything to go by, you will watch helplessly as your new ball disappears into a steep slope covered in tall grass that's too thick to fight. This may be the toughest par-3 hole you will ever play. But the coastal view is very nice. Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay.
7 14th at Wairakei
Par 5, 548m
As anyone familiar with Taupo will know, geothermal vents seem scattered about everywhere, even on golf courses. Drill a hole 30m down on any fairway at Wairakei International and the likely result will be a geyser of some sort. The 14th at Wairakei is a par 5 dog-leg right over a corner bunker to a fairway with a giant pine looming, like one of those ancient tree-people, the Ents, in The Lord Of The Rings. The tree rises up in the middle of the fairway, right where any normal second shot would go. It forces you to play to the right or left, although most hacks simply line up their second shot, let fly, and hope for the best, namely that the ball misses the tree, leaving them with a clear third shot to the high green. If not, c'est la vie. I've seen players hit the tree once and their ball ricochet back, only to watch them hit the tree again with their next shot. Beyond the tree is an extremely elevated green, high enough to require a longer club than the distance would normally require. To reach the green in three, the shot must be high enough and long enough to clear three deep bunkers directly in front of it. Just when you think you've struck a shot solid enough and straight enough to do that, you watch the ball land short and roll back down into one of the deep bunkers. If the monster tree and the sand traps do not stop you, the deceptive kidney-shaped, split-level green will, for a 3-putt here is common. Wairakei International, Taupo
8 16th at Terrace Downs
Par 3, 100m
After World War II, to honour the men who had put their life on the line overseas, the government handed out freehold land. Edwin Tilley won a parcel at the foot of Mt Hutt, overlooking the Rakaia Gorge. Seeing the way the land, carved out by the river, had formed terraces, he called his farm Terrace Downs. In 1990 Tilley sold the farm to a professional golfer from Japan named Shinnosuke Saito. As you might expect a professional golfer to do, Saito converted it into a golf resort which today is a fine high-country golf course like no other in New Zealand, sitting at the foot of the mighty Mt Hutt Range and looking over the Rakaia River and Gorge. And it's the gorge that makes the par 3 16th hole the star of the show. This is a short hole even by par 3 standards. Yet, because it's perched on the edge of a cliff that drops straight down to the river, scoring par here requires more steel, as in nerves of steel, than iron. There are a number of noteworthy scenic golf holes in New Zealand and many of them are par 3s, but this is one that can take your breath away. In 2007 Saito sold Terrace Downs to two New Zealand investors, who are aiming to expand it to include equestrian sports, archery and clay-pigeon shooting. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: the 16th hole will remain one of golf's most heart-stopping experiences. Terrace Downs, Windwhistle
9 8th at Greymouth
Par 4, 329m
Bob Charles has declared this 329m par 4 one of the finest holes in New Zealand. The hole is called "Ellery's" for long-time club member Neil Ellery, who once scored a 17 on it. It has a two-tiered fairway that turns sharply left. From the turn it is only 135m to the green but because there are two trees on the fairway it can require something like a trick shot in order to reach it. Take a short iron and loft the ball over them, or punch a long iron under them - it's your call. Greymouth has a rich history of well-known professionals appearing on its course - golfing greats John Lister and Simon Owen, Australian legend Roger Davis and Englishman Maurice Bembridge have all played here. Greymouth Golf Club, Greymouth
10 18th at Millbrook
Par 5, 505m
Millbrook, the first true golf resort in the country, opened to much acclaim in the early 1990s. The 18th plays downhill to a green with a stream flowing directly in front of it. It is framed by trees and a cafe and bar, making it altogether one of the most delicious and welcoming finishing holes in New Zealand. By all accounts Bill Clinton, who played here when New Zealand hosted the Apec summit in 1999, had a swell time. The weather was perfect, The Remarkables mountain range stood tall in all its glory against an azure sky, and the then- president enjoyed playing the 18th hole so much he played it twice. Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown.
* 100 Essential New Zealand Golf Holes by Tom Hyde (Awa Press, $40).