There is something quite surreal about driving over an unsealed road for several kilometres before arriving at the gates of one of the most exclusive golf courses on the planet, and yet that sums up Tara Iti to perfection. Despite the high reputation for being a billionaire’s course, it is truly a simple, understated masterpiece of golfing philosophy.
Upon arrival, your bags are whisked away to the practice range, and your car valet parked as you stroll to the very compact, yet perfectly designed clubhouse for a coffee before your round. A walk to the practice fairway where your clubs are waiting for you with a bag of balls, and you are introduced to your caddy and you prepare for the challenge ahead.
Whilst there are tee boxes as such, they are not what you would expect. The markers are just rocks, and can be placed anywhere, even away from the tee, and the caddies generally decide which distance you will play depending on your ability. The whole concept is to enjoy your golf, not be beaten up by it, as it should be. There are also no bunkers or rakes, even though there is nothing but sand everywhere. These "waste" areas, even around the greens, are ground your club if you like, and if you land in a footprint you are allowed to place. This is a fabulous idea, and one many courses should adopt.
As for the course itself, well, there is just magical routing between the dunes and waste areas, and greens complexes that give you options galore. Doak has weaved some magic here. Having recently played his Gunnamatta Course in Australia, I had a fair idea what to expect, and the philosophy of wide fairways and rolling greens was on display here, yet this was on another level. On some greens, I found myself putting from 30 meters out, or hitting a running 9 iron from 60 meters, whilst on others, lob shots of 50 meters were required. There is variety aplenty, and, even for single figure golfers like me, chipping to 15 feet was often a good result. However, this is not a brutal test, it is designed very much with the 18 handicap in mind, and if you are strategic, bogey is the very worst you should do, with the odd par and birdie thrown in. One the other hand, a scratch golfer will have to think a lot harder to play to his handicap. It is the prefect members golf.
In recent reviews, I see this course is rated higher than Royal Melbourne West, Royal Dornoch and the Old Course; the three courses I rate the highest I have played. I would find it hard to justify that, however, it does belong in the same Parthenon. This is a course that deserves all the platitudes, it has no weak holes and every hole is a standout. If you are lucky enough to be offered the chance to play, move heaven and earth to do so.
Date: February 04, 2020