From the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, those fortunate enough to visit New Zealand always rave about the country’s natural beauty. Jack’s Point situated just a twenty-minute drive outside of Queenstown on the South Island is set upon surroundings that are even spectacular for New Zealand. With its lofty mountainscapes, it’s among the most spectacular inland courses you will ever witness.
And if New Zealand may be my favorite country I’ve visited, Queenstown is at the top of my list of favorite cities. It’s the adventure capital of an outdoor-oriented country. With a population of just over 15,000, Queenstown really is more of a quaint tourist village set on a hillside aside a gorgeous lake. For me, it’s more than that. Queenstown is a unique place of natural beauty that elevates my mood, raises my spirit, and has me wanting more. There are a number of truly fun and special golf courses in the immediate area, but Jack’s Point stands out. It’s a “world-class golf experience.”
Lest you assume that the maybe the facility is named for Jack Nicklaus or some other modern personality named “Jack,” you’d be mistaken. Jack’s Point was named in honor of “Maori Jack” Tewa. He was the one who first discovered gold in this region and also made a dramatic rescue of a passenger on an overturned ferry off this point of Lake Wakatipu.
While Jack’s Point is an upscale residential golf development built in 2005, the modern, minimalist New Zealand housing borders only really one small side of the course and is seldom noticed from most of the layout. You can tell that not only the golf course architect, but the developers took great lengths to preserve this magnificent landscape. In fact, the development has been internationally recognized for its preservation of the natural landscape.
Jack’s Point is as much a challenge for balancing golf concentration against your sensory delights. Along with Seven Canyons in Sedona, Arizona and perhaps Canada’s Banff Springs, Jack’s Point stands atop my list for “Most Spectacular Inland Golf Courses” of the more than four thousand I’ve played. Lakeside bluffs, tussock grasslands, rocky hillsides, wetlands, native bush, lots of elevation changes, and backdrops second to none define this classically naturalist challenge.
Harvard-educated golf course architect and developer John Darby fashioned a minimalist design on the bluffs of the expansive crystal blue waters of Lake Wakatipu moving a minimum of earth. With the majestic and often snow-topped Remarkables Mountain Range its backdrop, the site is sublime. Thoughtfully, there was also a lack of ornate, over-the-top shaping and bunkering. Make no mistake, Jack’s Point is a truly spectacular, completely exposed golf course with a great bone structure and wonderful shot values and pacing. At nearly 7,000 yards in distance with many uphill shots, deep frontal bunkers, and generous fairways guarded by long, gnarly rough, the challenge is more than sufficient, even on calm days. The challenge is beastly when the wind picks up, perhaps a bit too much for the average or novice golfer, but the scenic ambiance will nevertheless keep you engaged and smiling.
While the mountainous surrounds signal right away that Jack’s Point is special, designer Darby takes you right uphill to get you to the lake views as quickly as possible. The first few holes that climb from their prairie valley setting may have you wondering what all the fanfare is about. That all changes as you get your first glimpse of the Lake on the 5th putting surface where all sorts of magnetic vistas begin to compete for your attention.
I count the short, downhill par-four 6th with its view of Queenstown among the very best and its beauty is quickly matched by the lake as a backdrop on the par-three 7th. The 8th and 11th holes are also exhilarating to play. The long, bunkerless par-3 13th across a preserved wetland area is another memorable hole as is the meadowlands two-shot 15th played diagonally across an old-school risk-reward diagonally placed stone wall. And some will venture their favorite hole to be their Bye Hole, the 19th! John Darby was acutely aware of the backdrops as he routed the course, though the views are spectacular in any direction!
Jack’s Point is typically such an overwhelmingly spectacular surprise that critics will be “stretched” to offer much. The only negatives are some long uphill walks and shots, and long transitions between holes making walking more of a challenge.
In the engaging clubhouse you can enjoy its magnificent alpine, traditional Kiwi woolshed motif and rural setting, along with friendly service. Perhaps you may savor a hearty seafood chowder, quality seasonal food, joined by a fine wine or cold brew aside a roaring fire or on a sunny terrace adjacent to the man-made Lake Tewa. An abundance of walking and cycling trails wind all around the remote bluffs, cliffs, and wetlands. As I write, a $250-million town hub and hotel is planned. And all the allures of Queenstown as well as its international airport are but twenty minutes away.
Queenstown has so much to offer and I have a definite affection for all the area’s golf courses, but if you ever visit Queenstown, but fail to play Jack’s Point, you will have surely missed one of golf’s greatest, most stunning experiences. This is definitely a “Bucket List Golf Course!”
The safe line of play is to the right so our golfer below is okay, but the wall that cuts across diagonally across the par-four 15th has you figuring out how much you dare cut off. (Photo from Jack’s Point.)