Tara Iti is situated a hundred kilometres north of Auckland on the east coast of the North Island, close to Bream Bay. Local developer, John Darby, (who boasts an enviable track record of successful golf projects in New Zealand at Millbrook, Clearwater and Jack’s Point) in partnership with Los Angeles-based financier Ric Kayne, created the facility.
It’s here, on what was formerly a heavily forested coastal site, that architect Tom Doak was invited to lay out his thirty-fifth golf course design and the routing devised for this layout allows golfers to enjoy uninterrupted views of the nearby Little Barrier, Great Barrier, Mokohinau and Tauranga islands.
Before shaping began, acres of pine trees and wattle had to be removed (though much of the extraneous material was buried then covered up to form some of the bigger dunes on the property) and this clearance left a naturally sandy site for re-vegetation with fescue grass and native plants like spinifex.
Fescue grass covers the fairways and greens and there are no trees, water hazards or any penal rough to speak of. There’s also a lack of formal bunkering – everything is regarded as ‘through the green’ – but in place of conventional bunkers there’s an abundance of attractive, sandy waste areas to contend with.
Holes of note include the 445-yard 3rd (played blind all the way to a punchbowl green), the 460-yard 6th (the seriously rumpled fairway lies closest to Te Aria beach), the uphill, short par four 13th (with its green set on the highest point of the course) and the par five 18th, where the fairway splits to offer multiple routes to the home green.
Tari Iti operates as a private member club but for those who really want to visit there’s a one-off access option that might be worth exploring, as Jim Rohrstaff, who looks after real estate sales and club memberships, explains:
"It's a one-time visit, but that's not defined by one round and one night. If you wanted to come up and stay for a week and play 36 holes a day that's fantastic - but as a non-member-sponsored guest, it's a one-time shot.
"We are here for our members first and foremost but if we have availability and people go through the right process we would love to have them – and we will roll out the red carpet and treat them no differently to our members. We are very welcoming – but in a specific and limited manner."
So there you have it – an open invitation to play at Tara Ita, providing you send a letter of introduction from your club well in advance and are prepared to stay onsite in one of the member cottages before or after you play. With such an offer on the table, what are you waiting for?
With the backing of financial powerhouse, Ric Kayne, Tara Iti Golf Club has burst onto the golfing map with emphatic fanfare and exclusivity.
The land on which the golf course is routed was once a dense forest along the Te Arai coastline and the trees were growing over magnificent sand dunes. The most difficult aspect during construction was the removal of tens of thousands of tree stumps. The result was a wide expansive area of sand perfect for golf.
Ric Kayne commissioned Tom Doak to create the layout, which is fun for all levels of golfer. The visuals throughout the course in all directions are those of large sprawling sand areas, often negatively affected by the strength of the gusty winds. There are rippling contours with humps and bumps to ensure you have a wonderful walk.
My main gripe with the layout is that the visuals throughout the course get repetitive, leading to a lack of approach shot variety. Despite the visual intimidation and deception, it’s almost impossible to lose a ball which helps with pace of play. The ‘ground-game’ is paramount at Tara Iti as you continually use the rolling tumbling topography to navigate your ball towards the flagstick – it reminds you of The Old Course. The coastal scenery is without doubt spectacular, but the real prize is the genius of Tom Doak and his use of the land.