Te Arai Links just weeks away from opening North course

  • Te Arai
    Ricky Robinson

    The new Tom Doak-designed North Course at Te Arai Links in New Zealand will open in October

  • Te Arai
    Ricky Robinson

    The par-three second is 242 yards from the back tee

  • Te Arai
    Ricky Robinson

    Doak had great natural dunes and topography along the coastline to work with, according to developer Jim Rohrstaff

  • Te Arai
    Te Arai Links

    The routing of the North course

  • Te Arai
    Te Arai Links

    Doak’s course is laid out among a pine forest

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

The Tom Doak-designed North course at Te Arai Links in New Zealand will open for public play on 2 October 2023.

The new layout joins the Coore and Crenshaw South course, which officially opened in October 2022.

“The site that Tom – and Bill and Ben – had to work with is a dream with great natural dunes and topography laid out along the coastline,” said Jim Rohrstaff, a partner in Te Arai Links, who led the development with Tara Iti owner Ric Kayne. “With sand as its base, these architects did not force, but instead worked with the terrain they were given to make the best courses possible.

“As we cleared the pine trees throughout the site – which are non-native – we were able to restore the dunes to what they were prior to the property being converted to a forestry operation. It is a wonderful thing for golf and for the environment to re-establish the natural dunes and dunescape.”

Doak worked alongside his team of Brian Slawnik, Angela Moser and Clyde Johnson. He was able to spend nine weeks on site during the Covid pandemic, allowing him to closely oversee progress. Doak spoke about the Te Arai project when describing his new way of working in the October 2022 issue of Golf Course Architecture.

The North course has many of the same project team as the highly regarded Tara Iti course, including owner, architect and superintendents. The superintendents are Brian Palmer, who now oversees both Tara Iti and Te Arai Links in his role as director of courses, and Nick O’Brien.

Palmer said: “The two courses are very different. The North course is a great journey. You start along the ocean with an awe-inspiring view of Te Arai Point and then the third tee shot directs you into the forest for four holes. The eighth tee brings you back towards the sea before returning to the forest for another six holes, and then finally revisiting the sea for the finish.

“The inland holes on the North course are separated from the sea by a massive ridge. These holes have a very different feel than the others and occupy the best land for golf at Te Arai Links. At Tara Iti, you are always aware that the sea is close. In contrast, there are two stretches of holes on the North course where it is possible to forget that the Pacific Ocean is less than a kilometre away. The greens and surrounds on the North course are very bold, while Tara Iti possesses some of the tamest greens that I have seen from Renaissance Golf Design.”

Doak’s routing – which can be played from around 5,000 to 6,931 yards – starts off next to the ocean with a driveable par four followed by a par three that is 242 yards from the back tee. The back tee of the third hole is right above the beach with a view of Te Arai Point to the north. Holes four, five, six and seven play through wild dunes.

“The eighth takes you back to the ocean momentarily as you hit down towards Little Barrier Island,” said Rohrstaff. “The ninth – our version of the Road hole – plays over an internal road on your second shot on this par five and guides you back inland through to the fifteenth.

“From 15, you have a walk back over the road from the ninth to three stunning holes to finish… as long as you can keep your concentration with the ocean and island views! The course has a great rhythm and flow. The green complexes are fantastic – there is such boldness and variation to them. You will certainly get ‘Doaked’ a few times when you miss on the wrong side. They are enjoyable, fun and make you want to come play it again.”

Watch: flyover videos of the opening five holes.

O’Brien also highlights the land and the rhythm of Doak’s routing. “It is easy to see why much of the natural land movement was kept intact,” he said. “In its prior life, the North course was a pine forest without much native vegetation. The staff have planted over 100,000 native plants consisting of 10 species that thrive in this area. Once they mature, the vegetation will blend with the New Zealand coastal palette. The inland holes have a couple species, like Sand Kanuka, that are difficult to grow along the foredune. They will give the inland holes a distinct feel.”

Rohrstaff added: “Pre, during and post construction, we also were able to do a large amount of pest eradication, which is great for the native New Zealand wildlife as the pests typically prey on the birds and their nests. We’ve been amazed watching the birdlife thrive at Tara Iti in the past and will now enjoy seeing the growth of our shorebirds here at Te Arai Links.”