Photo: Ricky Robinson

Te Arai Links - North Course

New Zealand, North Island, Northland
Designer: Tom Doak
Course Opened: 2023

Developed by the founders of the ultra-private Tara Iti Golf Club, and located a short distance south of Tara Iti, the public access Te Arai Links features two modern American designed “links-style” golf courses.

The first course completed at Te Arai was the Bill Coore–designed South Course, which was built during Covid and opened for play in late 2022. The second was the North Course, which opened in October 2023 and was designed by Tom Doak and his team at Renaissance Golf Design.

From the Te Arai press release – 

Doak’s 6,931-yard, par-71 North Course opens and closes at seaside, with another sweep down to the Pacific Ocean at holes 8 and 9. Elsewhere, the unique routing explores what had been a pine forest set on dunes high above the beach. Doak spent months on site — personally shaping green complexes and fairway features behind the controls of a bulldozer. Typically, the award-winning architect jets into a project, inspects and suggests for several days, then leaves the earthmoving to his long-time associates in the Renaissance shaping and construction crews. However, because the North Course took shape during the COVID-19 pandemic, Doak traveled to New Zealand in the spring of 2022, and stayed for two full months.

I’m still not that great on the dozer, but I do love it,” Doak says. “Some of the results are pretty wild, like the greens at 7 and 4. Maybe too severe at first glance. But in the end, they looked really cool and we all agreed: Let’s keep that.

To be honest, for this course to be spoken of equally, alongside the South Course, we felt we had to do more with the golf. This is legitimately great inland terrain — pure sand and dunesy, with big undulations. But we couldn’t rely on that. We agreed that if we’re going to produce something different, we should probably be a bit edgier. The overall shaping, greens and fairways, speak to that, I think.”

The routing includes several world-class seaside holes — including the epic, par-3 17th, and a par-5 closer that tracks the shoreline all the way home. Throughout the routing, Doak and his fellow shapers Angela Moser, Clyde Johnson and lead associate Brian Slawnik (who also shaped Tara Iti) each managed to create exquisite, dramatic, flamboyant features.

When discussing the North Course, however, the inland holes are what Doak talks about first — especially those that occupy a massive valley in the middle of the routing.

Before we moved any dirt, we all identified that natural bowl and I think we used it very well. I really like how the holes in there, 4 through 7, came out. All of them. Eight plays down to the water from the edge of that bowl, and I love the way 9 comes back uphill intothe bowl. Really cool, with a blind approach — over a road! The last 150 yards of that par 5 are just awesome.”

Doak’s routing also produced a traditional, linksland staple: half-par holes: “At one point, we had the potential of five or six par 5s out there. The course will play to a par of 71, but the routing does affect difficulty. There are some very strong par 4s on this golf course. Good short ones, too — but some real beasts. The reality is, everything on the North Course remains very close to the ocean. On any given day, each of the 18 holes can play completely differently depending on wind direction. That’s what golf by the sea is all about.

We look forward to reviewing the North Course at Te Arai in the near future.



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