Te Arai Links New Zealand

Perfect golf is no longer a world away. With a range of US to New Zealand direct flights being added across major airlines over the past year, incredible Kiwi golf is closer than ever before.

Te Arai Links, located approximately an hour and a half north of Auckland (depending on rush hour), now features two world-class courses. The South, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, opened in October 2022, while the Tom Doak-designed North became playable in October 2023.

Upon reaching the bag drop after a scenic drive onto the Te Arai wildlife preserve, the view of the driving range through an all glass welcoming area creates an immediate feeling of ‘arrival’ at this albeit young but already celebrated soon-to-be golf Mecca.

Over four delightful nights on the property, my wife and I immersed ourselves in the elevated yet relaxed atmosphere of this player’s retreat. During this time, I had the opportunity to play both the South and North courses twice, deepening my affection and appreciation for this extraordinary golf haven.

Ric’s at the South Course

The South Course

The South Course has sixteen ocean view golf holes and eight holes bordering directly on the sea. The views are simply incredible, and the quality and condition of play are the best I’ve ever experienced. There are lengthy holes and finesse holes. There are holes with varying shapes and sizes, with character and golf strategies based upon the natural contours of the land.

Hole #1 Te Arai | South Course

Te Arai and it’s big sister Tara Iti, (private) is home to the only Caddie program in New Zealand. Both the North and South courses have been built to test golfers of all handicaps, and as such I jumped at the opportunity to have some ‘local knowledge’ walking by my side in hopes to at least play to my current less than tour-ready 12.9.

With wide enough fairways to give players like myself a fighting chance to attack most greens, the wind, abundant sand (all played as waste areas) and overall routing, offered several risk reward opportunities… each of which made me thankful for the trusted advice of my caddie.

Hole #17, South Course | Bunker Bar

With the property having opened less than 2 years ago, construction of several facilities between both South and North are still underway. One soon to be fabled on-course stop over is nearly complete, and we had the chance to take a look. The Bunker Bar is nestled discreetly along the 17th fairway, and while we weren’t able to tuck into this fully stocked and well appointed ‘rest area’, I’m convinced that simply peering through the mirrored glass provided me the sense of calm needed to sink my birdie putt and card a second round of 79.

photo credit: @golfn_around

Coming off of 18, I found myself checking my watch in disbelief. Time had seemingly dissolved as I happily trekked the absolutely gorgeous terrain of the expertly designed Coore & Crenshaw South Course with the enjoyable group of Americans and Kiwis I had the pleasure of sharing each round.

With only the radiating warmth of my newly minted New Zealand suntan against the ocean breeze telling me it was time to retire to Ric’s for lunch and a cold beverage, the golf addict within was whispering “perhaps we should play 36 today?”

After taking the first tee box let alone making the loop twice, It is no wonder why the South Course at Te Arai has made Golf Magazine’s 2023-24 Top 100 Courses

In a post-round daydream, savoring a cold glass of NZ Sauvignon Blanc while anticipating an incredibly delicious cheeseburger, my thoughts shifted to tomorrow. The prospect of the joyous work ahead filled my mind as I began gearing up for the next day’s round at the North Course.

Hole #1 Te Arai | North Course

The North Course

Designed by Tom Doak, the same architect as sister course, Tara Iti (ranked #6 in the world), and Cape Kidnapper’s (another New Zealand gem covered in an earlier posting) the North Course at Te Arai starts and finishes on the ocean, leading the golfer on an incredible routing through the ancient Māori forest of the north island. 

Turning inland | Hole #2 North Course

Club selection proved crucial throughout each round on this championship track. Having experienced both morning and evening play, a word of caution is warranted – beware of the wind.

Make it your first priority to find the fairway, as it is critical that you are able to shape approach shots if you are looking to score on this beautiful yet treacherous course.

Elevated greens, thumbprints and false fronts abound

The expansive and notably contoured green complexes on the North Course are of a different breed from any I have played. While not rolled to lighting speeds, their masterful design and strategically challenging pin placements compel players to make crucial in-the-moment decisions.

My caddie reassured me that three putts are not uncommon, a fact that provided some solace as I watched more than one ‘straightforward’ roll trickle away from the cup.

The North Course is an absolutely thrilling round, played through multiple types of terrain, offering challenges and options at every shot. 

Make the correct choice and birdie is within reach. Choose incorrectly however, and find your ball a hero’s roll away from saving bogey or worse. 

Morning, noon or night, the views simply do not stop

Much like the South, the use of fescue grass from tee to green provides for an unbelievably fluid playing experience. I found myself constantly in a state of golfer’s-bliss, providing a calm confidence at address, regardless of the perilous shot required. 

Sun-drenched sand dunes, perfectly manicured routings and a field of skilled golf professionals standing ready to assure you and your group have a great round are all hallmarks of the Te Arai experience. 

This article would not be complete without commenting on the incredibly friendly members and five-star hospitality team that breathe life into this magical property. 

The Te Arai logo is worn with pride throughout the complex, and a sense of ownership resonates from the smiling faces of everyone we met from arrival until the director of golf and pro shop staff wished us farewell and safe travels.

While boarding our flight back to Los Angeles, I found myself already checking the calendar, working to justify another visit to the incredible country of New Zealand, and this special oasis secluded just northwest Auckland.

Thank you to Jim Rohrstaff, Jonathan McCord, Craig my caddie and everyone else who made our trip so memorable. Congratulations are in order, and I’m sure the global golf community will be celebrating Te Arai for years to come. ~ Until we meet again.

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