Te Arai Links (South)
Exclusive, Isolated Excellence
The Round Up
Location: Te Arai, Northland
Green Fees: $170 (Member Guest Rate)
Kiwi Caddy’s First Tee Advice: Straight and Long!
The Good: Perfect Conditioning, Possibly the most scenic course in the world, Four outstanding par 3s, Creative green complexes and surrounds
The Bad: NOTHING
The 4th hole is a dogleg right par 4 with a partially blind tee shot playing downhill towards the water. The rippled fairway slopes towards the green with a steep drop-off on the left.
The drivable par 4 14th plays downhill towards the Pacific, to a massive, wild green protected by sand on the left and a drastic run-off on the right.
The 17th is a short par 3 playing to the ocean, with the green surrounded by sand which the ball feeds towards.
For a few years Te Arai was a bit of a myth. Murmurs and rumours of two more courses along the same coastline as the world renowned, ultra-exclusive Tara Iti did the rounds. In 2019 the rumours proved fruitful, with the announcement that billionaire golf-development mogul Ric Kayne was laying out the plans and breaking ground on the new courses. With the same owners and occupying similar land as it’s sibling, Te Arai brings different intentions.
The carpark at Te Arai Links was a confusing place to be for the very first time. There was a hum and a warm buzz sauntering through the air, a distant beat of music and the sound of laughter. Enter Ric’s Playground; 18 flags dotted across the largest, most undulated and winding putting course you could ever draw up. The course spreads further than a football field, putts break 30 feet, and players scatter the course- cocktails in left hand, putter in right. Children run rampant and partners look on from the terrace.
With Coore and Crenshaw at the wheel, and Ric Kayne at the helm, the undeniable beauty and greatness of the South Course will come as no surprise. Visually, the course is off the charts. Your eyes will meet the sea on no less than 16 holes, 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 is a haven, a retreat, a soothing of the senses.
The routing of the golf course is a masterclass. The opening three holes I didn’t see the water, but I felt the coast and heard the waves crashing as I wound through pine-framed undulations. Seaside serenity is delayed by soul-stirring greenery, scenes of Pinehurst and Bandon Trails 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 fourth 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 was a slow dance with the ocean. Some holes play so tightly 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. 18 unique frames encapsulating New Zealand’s ruggedly pristine beauty.
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 defenses 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 every day’ value. This is a proper test of links golf, embracing the land and playing the ground game yields the best results.
Te Arai’s collection of par threes will rival any set 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. 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.
Every single hole offered something that I loved. Something visual, something physical or something thought provoking that 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 rather re-energized. This is the magic of Te Arai, exceptionally enjoyable, world class golf with show-stopping and downright sumptuous views. Capturing the essence of Kiwi culture in an elite golf property is a daunting task to say the least, but Te Arai and Ric’s Playground, with its relaxed beachy vibe has hit it out of the park!
Booking a Tee Time
Te Arai is currently functioning as something of a member's club (until the North Course opens in October 2023, when it will become public), however they do offer a couple of avenues to getting a tee time. Firstly, if you know a member then you may play as their guest up to six times per year. Secondly, you are able to stay in a member's cottage for as long as you like and play as much golf as you like.
Where to Stay
Staying on site would be the elite option, and an absolute treat, however for the budget conscious the beach town of Mangawhai, 15 minutes North, is the obvious option. A popular Summer holiday destination, the beaches are pristine and there is enough to do in the area to keep you busy. There are a few motel options as well as plenty of beach home rentals available. If you're coming in the Summer months, be sure to book early!
Best Golf Within 45 Minutes:
Northland is a booming region for golf at the moment, with a number of great options on the table:
- Tara Iti
- Mangawhai Golf Club
- Waipu Golf Club
What to do in the Area
- Walk the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway
- Get to the gorgeous Mangawhai Heads Beach