Kinloch Lodge: Stunning scenery and New Zealand's toughest golf course

When you read about wealthy Americans plotting a move to New Zealand to escape their post-Trump reality, it's possible they have somewhere like Kinloch in mind.

On the northern shores of the enormous volcanic crater that is Lake Taupo, Kinloch was a tiny settlement with a few hundred baches (holiday shacks) until a golf course designed by the legendary American golfer Jack Nicklaus opened in 2007.

Naturally enough the Kinloch Club, designed by renowned New Zealand architect Andrew Patterson, opened on the 254-hectare golf course seven years later. The 10-villa lodge is centred on a remarkable white modernist building with turrets which, as its second-hand name suggests, is intended as a modern interpretation of the Victorian-era Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum in Scotland.

Even experienced golfers will find the 18-hole links course carved out of farmland challenging – in fact it is widely regarded as New Zealand's toughest course. (Some commentators suggest it's only suited to players with a single digit handicap; either way expect to lose a good number of balls in the bleached tussock either side of the fairway.)

After being humbled on the golf course you might grab a bike from the front desk and cycle two kilometres to the shores of Lake Taupo. Roughly the size of Singapore, New Zealand's largest freshwater lake is a magnet for fishermen and boaties and the bustling tourist hub of Taupo is just 20 kilometres away. But this quieter north side of the lake is far from touristy and you're likely to find yourself completely alone on a pebbly beach looking out at bush-covered hills, languorous ducks and a vast expanse of dark, empty water.

Back at the lodge, which is positioned on a hill above the course, guests gather in the grandly named "Great Room" for drinks in time to see the sun turn the sky a vivid mix of pinks above the lake through an enormous picture window carved out of the schist walls. Designed by the New Zealand lodge industry's go-to interior designer, Virginia Fisher, the interior is masculine without being oppressive. Think lots of velvet, fur and leather contrasted against whitewashed walls and high ceilings that make it light and airy. A castle, reimagined.

While others might talk about an "estate to plate" philosophy, Kinloch literally sources much of its meat and vegetables from its sister property, the 1000-hectare Treetops Estate in Rotorua, 45 minutes' drive away.

On any given night you might be eating venison, boar or pheasant that was raised on the estate with native ingredients such as manuka dust, pico pico and horopito. There is also a market garden on site growing vegetables including native spinach (tetragonia). The service in the restaurant is attentive but it might say something about the average age of the guests that a kids' colouring book is delivered to the dinner table without any pencils to actually colour it in.

The rooms, black-stained cedar boxes angled towards the lake, are set a distance apart and inside feel more like a well-appointed holiday home. There's a deep, olive shaped bath, a fireplace and a Nespresso machine as well as kitchenette stocked with local wine and craft beer such as the "Taupo Thunder" pale ale from local brewer Lakeman.


Gazing out across the yellows and greens of the golf course, this feels like New Zealand but somewhere else, somewhere international, at the same time. All of which might just suit a certain kind of American refugee looking to escape to the end of the earth.




Junior Suite accommodation including pre-dinner cocktails, five-course dinner and full gourmet breakfast from $NZ1162 a couple per night, including GST.


Air New Zealand and Qantas have direct flights to Auckland from Sydney and Melbourne. Air New Zealand offers connecting flights to Taupo. Alternatively Kinloch is a three-hour drive from Auckland.

Lauren Quaintance was a guest of Kinloch Lodge.