Bring your 'A' game to the Kinloch Club, a Jack Nicklaus gem near Lake Taupo on New Zealand's North Island

TAUPO, New Zealand -- Jack Nicklaus fell hard for New Zealand many moons ago while playing an exhibition match. He regularly comes back, not to golf, but to fish the country's clear blue lakes and streams.

He left his design mark at the Kinloch Club, a dynamic inland links that opened in 2007 in the heart of the North Island. Golf Digest rated the course no. 76 among its top 100 courses outside of the U.S. in 2012.

Glimpses of Lake Taupo in the distance add beauty to an intoxicating amphitheater of hills surrounding the course. Nicklaus and the rugged terrain teamed up to create, arguably, the toughest track in country from the 6,734-meter tips (roughly 7,364 yards). Disaster lurks for those who don't bring their best. The shaggy bunkers look captivating, although their jagged edges can create some severe lies.

Unlike a true links, Kinloch requires an aerial game to score well. Thick fescue lines the fairways. Some greens must be approached cautiously by dodging trouble in front. Ponds protect the greens of the par-3 third hole and the par-5 18th. Aiming posts attempt to safely guide golfers on blind tee shots at no. 6 and no. 13.

The back nine serves up the always fun combination of three par 3s and three par 5s. Luxury accommodations are on site in the Dunalistair House, a modern four-bedroom home. All these pieces add up to a five-star golf getaway.

Mar 22, 2013

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.