Balls, yes balls, are what you're going to need, if you are anything like me, when you step on to the mounds of the majestic Cape Kidnappers Golf Course in Hawke's Bay this spring.

You see, just having passion or love for golf isn't going to do justice to this 6530m man-made Garden of Eden. That's because it commands respect in all its splendour.

When you're checking your golf bag to see if you have enough tees, balls, and pencils it'll pay to make sure you have stuffed a healthy dose of attitude in one of those compact pockets.

So if you are going to try to cut the dog-leg corner of the 338m par-4 No 1 hole, aptly named First, and the yawning gully swallows the dimpled titanium, don't despair.


That's because the 18-hole world-class course, which Tom Doak designed in 2004, offers a total package, as it were, that transcends many levels of accomplishment from the tricky tee-off mounds to the frisky fairways and pristine but elusive greens.

The experience must evoke myriad emotions for the most sophisticated of golfers down to social hackers such as me.

About now it's an opportune time to confess I only carded two pars on three-par holes - the 114m Wee Three and the 110m No 13 Al's Ace. (The latter was named after the son of owner and American tycoon Julian Robertson's son, Alex, who sunk a hole in one days before the course was opened to the public).

The overriding desire to show you have what it takes to tame this 2428ha of rolling pasture property is understandable but it's fair to say you will come away feeling humbled.

Bunkers make sure of that - fairway, greenside, deep-pot, front, back and every other imaginable variety lurks around corners - but that also comes with the territory because it is, after all, a one-sided warfare. It's a battle of mere mortals versus mother nature and no points for guessing who wins most times.

The golfing gods, it seems, had sensed my vulnerability and teed up a relatively breathless, sunbathed day on Tuesday.

The affable staff at the rustic clubhouse greet you at the foyer before head professional Jon McCord offers you a handsome yardage booklet that serves the purpose of a caddy of sorts.

A valet drove my modest Hyundai to the nearby carpark from the entranceway after I slipped on my shoes.

As a 50-something, I didn't find walking the course daunting at all because I had done it four times before as a privileged spectator when I had the best seat in the house following Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Brandt Snedekar, Camilo Villegas, Adam Scott and Sean O'Hair in 2008 and 2009 when they competed in the $2.6 million Kiwi Challenge.

Because of a wet winter, parts of the fairways were still soft so carts weren't permitted.

Wired for sound on my portable MP3 player, I pulled out the old horse and drove off one tee after another although I turned the music off to take in the sounds of waves lapping the cliffs and the noises land and sea birds made as they popped their heads up to see people trudge past them.

If your spouse or partner doesn't play golf, there's nothing stopping them from slipping a pair of sensible shoes to take in the 180-degree views of the ocean while doing "stepping classes" in a natural habitat.

There's also the option of a massage. Be pampered while waiting for him to finish and then tucking into a sumptuous three-course lunch.

In a realm where many duffers take mulligans (a second chance to play a shot without penalty, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder) or apply "winter rules" to help themselves out of difficulties, playing alone can be a bliss.

Those liberties include gimme putts on the green and improved lies with the excuse of cleaning balls when clumps of sod are clinging to them but eventually picking up a ball to tee it on the fairway after every shot.

Oh, yes, I took full liberty.

That's simply because the scores on the card were always going to become a distant memory, bar one hole. I can proudly say I walked the No 15 par-5, 468m Pirates Plank for a bogey on a green perched on a 140m cliff without knowing what it feels like to hear a 10-second hang time before the ball splashes into the water.

The 340m No 18 "IPU", which I had the the luxury of a kart ride on to meet lunch deadlines, concluded with a punchbowl green.

The thing is, the palatial playground has a propensity to reduce us to wide-eyed children grappling with choices of which flavour to lick in an icecream parlour.

It's pointless sweating the small stuff. I lost eight shiny balls that would normally have destroyed my day on any course any other day but not on Tuesday.

You can't lose sleep over something like that when you've just had a taste of paradise.