White sand beaches, translucent blue water and a pair of exceptional golf courses; no wonder New Caledonia is fast becoming a favourite destination for golfers eyeing off the South Pacific.
And for us Australians, this idyllic slice of France can be reached in as little as two hours.
New Caledonia is the third largest island in the Pacific Ocean – after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand – and was discovered by Britain in 1774 before being claimed by the French in 1853. And while the mining industry has long driven its economy, tourism is beginning to catch up, thanks in large part to two of its golf clubs – Tina Golf Club and Exclusiv Golf Deva.
Tina is just a 10-minute drive from the city of Noumea and boasts an undulating layout that is split into two contrasting nines. The opening set of holes meanders its way through hills and mangroves, while the closing holes play alongside the world’s largest lagoon.
The 1st hole at Tina provides an excellent insight into what lies ahead, prior to making the turn. At 296 metres (from the tips), this par-4 plays severely downhill and doglegs slightly right. A well-struck hybrid or long iron will open up the hole and leave a relatively simple approach shot.
Alternatively, take out the big stick and challenge the large green that’s hidden by a collection of Columnar Pines; native only to New Caledonia. This was the weapon of choice for most during the recent South Pacific Classic played on the Australian Legends Tour.
The topography at Tina allows for panoramic views of the mountainside, lagoon and town, but it also provides a real challenge when it comes to calculating correct distances. A number of greens also remain unsighted until your final approach due to the slopes or sharp doglegs.
So although there might be more scenic holes than the 6th, you will struggle to find a more intriguing one. The 288-metre par-4 is the straightest on the property – but it also plays uphill and is extremely tight. The fairway has steep run-offs on both sides that will punish anything hit with too much side spin, so club selection off the tee is imperative here. The short stuff must be found in order to walk away with par.
With the front nine now behind you, the walk to the 15th is a terrific opportunity to take out your camera. The 285-metre par-4 is the signature hole and provides extensive views of the lagoon. Tall palm trees protect the green from ambitious shots across the water, while bunkers will catch anything too long on the more preservative playing line to the right.
Before leaving Tina, make sure you visit the Tjibaou Cultural Centre – located within walking distance – to learn about the indigenous Kanak people.
Two hours further north of Noumea is Exclusiv Golf Deva, which lies alongside dry forest and that picturesque lagoon. Designed by Cynthia Dye McGarey – niece of the legendary Pete Dye – Deva is part of the Sheraton Resort and opened for play in 2015. So while it may be the new kid on the block, it’s already flexing its muscles and challenging Tina for bragging rights as the country’s number one course.
“We’re only in our third year,” said club professional Kevin Bosio. “So the course will only continue to get better and better.”
It’s no secret Dye-designed courses are notoriously difficult, but Deva provides a range of tees for all levels, and its playing surfaces are expansive. In saying that, the rough bordering the pristine fairways is thick, and the course is littered with bunkers – some that run the entire length of the hole. The par-4 9th is emblematic of that, with sand running along its left flank.
So, too, is the par-3 17th signature hole. This 180-metre one-shotter plays into the prevailing wind and offers brilliant views of the Pacific as a backdrop. An intimidating waste bunker lines its left side and protects a large green. Par is a great score here, especially if your first shot doesn’t find the putting surface.
Once you’ve signed your card, take a glass-bottom boat over the world’s second-longest reef. Large turtles, colourful fish and vibrant coral will cap off any trip to New Caledonia – a golfer’s paradise.
For more information on New Caledonia visit www.newcaledonia.travel/au
The international airline of New Caledonia, Aircalin, operates twelve flights per week non-stop from Australia to Noumea, New Caledonia. Flights take just over two hours from Brisbane, less than three hours from Sydney and under four hours from Melbourne. Sydney flights operate six times a week, whilst Brisbane and Melbourne flights depart three times per week. For reservations call 1300 655 737 or visit www.aircalin.com
Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa & Golf Resort
The Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort & Spa combines Melanesian tradition and traditional French influence. Located in Bourail, in the central west coast of New Caledonia, this 180-room resort offers 60 bungalows, an 18-hole golf course, a health club and spa and a complimentary kid's club. To book visit www.sheratonnewcaledoniadeva.com or call (687) 265 000
Eclusiv Golf Deva
Exclusiv Golf Deva is an 18-hole international championship course located at Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Spa & Golf Resort. Featuring a 30-box driving range plus a 6,677 metre-long, 72 par course, players have access to multilingual French PGA golf pros, individual and group lessons, family packages for all levels and skills and multi-duration packages. There is also a Pro Shop on-site and golf clubs, carts, trolleys and caddies are available for hire. For more information, visit: http://www.sheratonnewcaledoniadeva.com/golf call (687) 207 016 or email email@example.com
Glass bottom boat tour
Discover the rich underwater marine life of Poe’s lagoon with the unique glass bottom boat. A 1.5 hour trip will showcase the UNESCO-listed World Heritage coral reef 2kms off the beach and provide guests with a 30-minute swim and snorkel session. Departure is opposite the Alizée snack bar and goes out to the UNESCO-listed World Heritage coral reef, 2kms from the beach, with informative and interesting commentary from the boat’s captain throughout. For more information call (687) 776 059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Le Méridien Nouméa
Le Méridien Nouméa is a unique blend of French sophistication and warm Pacific island ambience. Located on the beachfront overlooking Anse Vata bay, it is nestled in the heart of the tropical landscaped gardens with direct access to the beach, in front of the Grand Casino, and only 10 minutes from the city centre, the unique Tjibaou Cultural Centre and Tina golf course. To book visit www.lemeridiennoumea.com or call (687) 265 000.
Located just 10 minutes away from the Nouméa city centre in an 80-hectare park, Tina Golf Course is a 5,600 metre-long, par 72 course that uses the varied local geography to maximum advantage. After playing the first 9 holes in the midst of a dry deciduous forest, golfers are welcomes with beautiful views, playing the other 9 holes on the edge of the mangroves and New Caledonian lagoon. For more information call (687) 438 283 or email email@example.com