For a for few years, Te Arai Links felt like a myth.
Its ultra-exclusive and highly-acclaimed sister property, Tara Iti, had captured the imagination of the golfing world with its beauty, tranquillity and its natural wonder. This extraordinary stretch of coastline on New Zealand’s north island was no longer a secret among golfers in search of the next adventure.
Soon, murmurings and rumours began that not one but two more courses along the same meeting of land and sea might be on the way. It all felt too good to be true. But in 2019, came the announcement that golf development mogul Ric Kayne and right-hand man, Jim Rohrstaff were laying out plans and breaking ground on the new courses. Dreams, it seems, do come true.
SAME LAND, DIFFERENT AMBITIONS
With the same owners and occupying similar land as its sibling, Te Arai Links comes with different intentions. Te Arai Links is Kayne’s offering to the golfing public, with two courses spread along this stunning stretch of the east coast of the North Island. The South Course, a Coore & Crenshaw design, is already open with the Tom Doak-designed North Course set to open in October 2023. Receiving an invitation to test out the South Course only a week after its grand opening was one that was too good to pass up, and one that will be met with the same response for years to come, “Yes, please – just name the date.”
I arrived in the carpark at Te Arai Links and could hear a distant beat of music and the sound of laughter. It was time to enter The Playground; 18 flags dotted across the largest, the most undulating putting green you could ever draw up. It spread further than a football field, putts break 30 feet, and players scatter the course – cocktails in the left hand, putter in right. Children run rampant and partners look on from the terrace. Without even a glimpse of the golf course I immediately understood Te Arai Links, and it was abundantly clear that it understood New Zealand. A shorts, sandals and drinks vibe to a world-class golfing facility that had every right to be a black tie affair – but this was the Kiwi way.
At its core, Te Arai Links is a beach club disguised as a golf club, and landing at the doorstep of The Playground immediately upon arrival is no accident. An entrance like this immediately makes you feel at home, removing any of the stuffiness and preconceived notions of golf clubs. It stands as a refreshing reminder that places like this can be both fun and welcoming and the atmosphere takes absolutely nothing away from the golf course. In fact, it enhances it.
TE ARAI LINKS SPARKLES
With Coore & Crenshaw at the wheel and Kayne and Rohrstaff at the helm, the undeniable beauty and greatness of the South Course will come as no surprise to anybody in the golfing world. Visually, the course is off the charts. Your eyes will meet the sea on no less than 16 holes, while dunes roll through the property, rippled fescue fairways are crisply framed by the white sand of the Te Arai coastline, and the remnants of pines meander across the links, their shadows draped over immaculate tees and greens.
Te Arai Links is a haven, a retreat, a soothing of the senses, and with the salty sea air kissing your skin so that dirty big slice followed by a missed three-footer feels abundantly less significant. The routing of the golf course is a masterclass. On the opening three holes, I didn’t see the water, but I felt the coast and heard the waves crashing down as I wound through the pine-lined fairways, up and over the most undulating land on site. Seaside serenity is delayed by soul-stirring greenery, and scenes of Pinehurst and Bandon Dunes spring to mind. This is the art of the tease, the building of anticipation adding an element of drama to the inevitable reveal. As I walked over the crest to the 4th tee, Te Arai shows itself – white sand, tight fescue and the endless Pacific stretching the horizon. Golfer’s nirvana, surfer’s paradise, nature’s playground.
From then on, Te Arai Links was a slow dance with the ocean. Some holes play so tight to the coast that crafting shots from the beach became my reality, whilst others had me admiring the sandy expanse from a distance – opportunities presented by elevated tees and tabletop greens. These 18 unique frames encapsulated New Zealand’s ruggedly pristine beauty.
A COURSE FOR THE STRATEGIST
The South course offers absolute playability whilst maintaining its strategic examination. Wide fairways offer large landing zones for tee shots and there are limited opportunities for lost balls, however, like any links course worth its salt, scoring opportunities are presented only to approaches from the correct side of the fairway.
The course’s main defences are the green complexes and their surroundings, making it firmly a second-shot course. Subtle land movements and jaw-dropping features combined to launch my ball off line and on countless occasions I found myself stymied by greenside mounding and drastic run-offs cut sharply to the edges of the greens. Green sites are wild, bold and exciting in both size and character, changes to the pin position on even the smallest greens would completely change the hole – a testament to Te Arai’s ‘play everyday’ value. This is a proper test of links golf – embracing and massaging the land yielded the best results, whilst brute force landed me nowhere but in trouble. Te Arai Links is kind, forgiving and playable to all but the greedy – a lesson it took me too long to figure out!
Te Arai Links’ collection of par-3s will rival any in the world, and perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the course. None play longer than 155 meters or less than 110, yet they on this day they all demanded a different club, shot shape and tactic to get the ball close. The greens were all completely different and the wind hit the ball at different angles. They did however all have two things in common; visually they were sensational, and they were all incredibly fun shots to hit. All I wanted to do was grab another ball and tee it up again.
LASTING MEMORIES AT TE ARAI LINKS
The course isn’t laid out to beat you up with length or unplayable hazards, but soothe you with its surroundings and challenge you to be creative, and thinking outside the box in your approach. Every single hole offered something I loved – something visual, something physical or something thought-provoking which stirred my soul and will play on my mind for weeks to come.
There are shots that I would give anything to hit again – just for the rush – and walks that I want to take again – just for the thrill. The walk off the 18th green was a strange sensation, I didn’t feel beaten up, but re-energised. This is the magic of Te Arai Links: exceptionally enjoyable, world-class golf with and sumptuous views: it’s a bona fide showstopper of a course.
Capturing the essence of Kiwi culture in an elite golf property is a daunting task to say the least, but Te Arai and The Playground, with its relaxed beachy vibe has hit it out of the park. As I prepared to leave Te Arai Links, I was asked which had been my favourite place on the course. There was only one response that crossed my mind. With 18 holes of magic in front of you, it had to be 1st tee, and it always would be.
TE ARAI LINKS SCORECARD
TE ARAI LINKS: KEY FACTS
TE ARAI LINKS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much is a round at Te Arai Links?
For the very latest information on prices and availability, it’s worth checking the Te Arai Links website. Pricing will depend on the season and the day of the week. Visit Tearai.com/book-now/
Can I become a member at Te Arai Links?
You can become a member at Te Arai Links. The best way to make an application is to visit the website and fill out the form relating to membership at Te Arai Links and you will get a reply pretty quickly.
How much is membership at Te Arai Links?
The details of membership at Te Arai Links remain private, but if you express your interest via the club website you will be given access to membership rates and joining fees.
Is Te Arai links a public golf course?
The short answer is kind of. It is certainly more public than Tara Iti Golf Club, its sister property, but for now, you can only play if you are a member, a guest of a member or you are staying on the property. That will change in October 2023 when green fee golfers can play the courses.
Is Te Arai Links a walk only golf course?
It is, but Te Arai Links will make exceptions for those with a medical need but will require a Dr’s letter to back that up. Te Arai Links only carts to 2 per day.
Are there caddies at Te Arai Links?
Yes there are caddies at Te Arai Links, in fact taking a caddie is strongly encouraged. Caddies must be booked in advance.
Do I have to stay at Te Arai Links to play the course?
Yes, for now, the only other way to play Te Arai Links is by staying on-site. That is due to change in October 2023, when Te Arai Links will accept greens fee players.
How much are green fees at Te Arai Links?
It depends on the time of the year and when during the week you want to play. If you want to play two rounds in a day at Te Arai Links, you will receive a 50% discount on your second round. And if you manage to play a third round, you’ll get that free. Good luck!