Playing Tara Iti was the best golf experience of my life. So much so that I genuinely struggled to know where to start in sitting down to write this review. The golf is unbelievable, but only a small part of what makes Tara Iti amazing.
I was lucky enough to win a round with a member, and I will be forever grateful for that. It didn’t hurt that I had a great day golfing too. But perhaps more than anything else, I will forever be surprised how comfortable I was made to feel at one of the true elite and private (almost) courses going round.
In a minute …
Located 90 mins drive from Auckland, New Zealand (most members take a quick helicopter ride), it is not hard to see why Tara Iti has quickly risen the ranks to generally be regarded as one of the world’s top 10 courses. Designed by Tom Doak and opened in 2015, Tara Iti oozes understated perfection and quite simply represents a must-play if you ever get a chance.
Is Tara Iti private?
This is an interesting question. In theory, yes. And very exclusive at that. But in addition to being invited as a member’s guest, Tara Iti also offers a ‘one time in your life’ guest pass. Pricing is unclear, but rumor has it you will drop around $5k NZ for 2 rounds of golf, your caddy, accommodation (you must stay on-site), and dining. I appreciate this price may count out many people, but after visiting the course, I actually think it could represent a fair price for a one-off trip.
One of the ways I love to judge a course is the feeling I get when I first feast my eyes on the course. Tara Iti leaves nothing to chance on this front. The course is tough to find if you are driving, but that is part of the fun. Once through the gate, you weave through daunting pine trees every so often, getting a glimpse of perfect green fairways before you emerge and get a view of the blue blue sea and white sands that frame the course. The clubhouse is not at all overstated, but everything fits together perfectly and works.
What can I say… The course is perfect. Immaculately maintained, Tara Iti offers the oddity of being covered in the sand whilst technically not having any bunkers. Sand runoffs frame all holes, but everything is considered waste. I am a sucker for links golf and the creativity it demands, and Tara Iti demands a lot. Listen to your caddy when he says to aim 15 meters right of the pin because the ball will end up next to the hole when you do. There were so many holes that I loved 9 all of them ) and I suggest watching this video to get a feel of the course. My personal favorites were :
#3 – I actually made a meal of number 3, but the punch bowl green was very impressive. From practically anywhere on the fairway, a half-decent approach could end up being amazing
#7 – A short but tricky hole. I am always a sucker for risk rewards Par 4.
#9 – A tough and long 4 with hidden green. Once again, trust your caddy and the line given to you, and you may be surprised to see your ball in a great spot.
#15 – A view to die for. A long par 3 from an elevated tee where you can see the course and all it has to offer.
Tara Iti really has thought of everything. Nothing seems out of place, from a portable halfway house to a pizza over on wheels and a 3 hole whiskey loop surrounding the clubhouse. For later in the evening there are bars, mancaves, simulators and so much more. You will not want to leave ( other than needing too not to go broke )
- Tara Iti was my first time with a real caddy. It was incredible. I was pretty nervous to start but once we started chatting I realised he was just like me. A golf lover. I can’t believe how quickly Michael tuned into my hugely inconsistent game and didnt make a bad club call all day. I over ruled him both times and I was wrong. Taking a caddy is not something I can afford to do that often in life but this experience has made me strive to do it more often.
- I remember being nervous when driving up to Tara Iti that myself and my playing partner Justin would stand out as the ‘normal’ guys we were. And that the course would not really want us on site. I could not have been more wrong. The hole team made us feel like we belonged and given we didnt have to pay the bill we were probably pretty relaxed too.
- The team behind Tara Iti are building two more courses … that will be public and just as impressive ! Te Arai Links is due to open 2022 so watch this space. The combo of all 3 could become the best resort in the Southern Hemphishere.
When I was driving out of Tara Iti, having shot a very tidy 81, I wondered whether this was as good as golf was going to get for me. Quite possibly, the answer was yes, which made me a bit sad. But to have been given the opportunity was something I will never forget. If you get a chance to play, you must. Drop whatever you are doing and go!
I would even consider changing my name to get a second ‘once-in-a-lifetime pass. It really is that special.
9.99 out of 10 (only because I’m so sad I can’t go back)