QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand -- To call The Hills Golf Club a work of art would be understating the beauty of Sir Michael Hill's private club.
The breathtaking Remarkables Mountains overwhelm a routing good enough to host three New Zealand Opens and two New Zealand PGA Championships. Major championship winners Keegan Bradley, Hale Irwin, Michael Campbell and Sir Bob Charles headline the list of pros who have tried to conquer it.
A 12-piece sculpture park adds more visual bling. A large "weta" -- a native bug that resembles a grasshopper -- seems to emerge from the woods along the first fairway. Nothing compares to the drama unfolding along the final fairway, where a sword-wielding warrior readies for an attack against 110 life-size cast-iron wolves. It's an amazing scene, especially considering how The Hills started out as a backyard playground of just three greens, several tees and a bunker.
It took an inadvertent swipe during a charity outing -- a TV host called it a "chip-and-putt course" -- that prompted Hill to add a crude par 4. Hill later hired friend John Darby, who studied course architecture at Harvard, to design a better hole leading away from his house and one that returned. These two strong par 4s (now the fifth and sixth holes) became the backbone for today's 6,596-meter course (roughly 7,213 yards) that opened in 2007.
The Hills climaxes at the short par-4 15th hole, reachable for long hitters in tournament play, and the par-5 17th hole, home to a green tucked behind two massive rock outcroppings.
An understated clubhouse sits mostly submerged underground to blend in with the natural surroundings. Playing The Hills feels like a priceless experience, even for those non-members who pay a pricey green fee to get inside the gates.