Visiting the majestic Te-Arai Links in New Zealand
Te Arai Links is located on the east coast of the North Island, about a 90 minute drive from Auckland. We have had this destination on our radar for sometime now and as soon as the date was set for the North Course to open we booked our trip over to see what all the fuss was about for ourselves.
Consisting of two golf courses, the South and the North. The South Course designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, opened in 2022 and is currently ranked 85th in the world top 100. The North Course designed by Tom Doak, who also designed nearby Tara Iti, has recently opened up to the public in the beginning of October and is not currently ranked due to it being a new course.
Te Arai Links is known for its stunning coastal location and upon arriving we found ourselves in another world – surrounded by trees, sand dunes and coastal views over one of the country’s most stunning, white sand and surf beaches. The accommodation harmoniously complements its exquisite surroundings, offering luxurious and spacious yet refined accommodation that seamlessly integrates with the natural environment.
The Golf Courses
The South Course: Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, world-renowned golf architects who designed Barnbougle’s Lost Farm in Tasmania, Streamsong Red in Florida, the Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley in Wisconsin.
The South Course is pure links golf; a par 72 golf course with 16 of the holes featuring ocean views and eight holes border directly on the sea. Providing golfers with breathtaking views of the ocean, dunes, and surrounding areas. The course really takes advantage of the natural beauty of the landscape, comprised of sand dunes, pine trees and fast fescue turf.
The course starts off with four hilly inland holes framed by huge pine trees. The fourth is where you get your first taste of those magic views, as the fairway sweeps down towards the ocean reviling a small undulating green. The short par 3, 5th hole is where the course really opens up introducing a string of strong links holes right along the coastline. As you cross over onto the back 9, the 10th is framed by big pine trees and the 11th opens up out of the trees to an elevated green with views of the ocean behind.
The next stretch of 7 holes, continue along the coastline, with breathtaking views of Forestry Beach. There is a clever mix of shorter par 4’s that meander in amongst the natural dune landscape and a challenging par 3 17th that is only short, but on a slightly breezy day brings big challengers to your final stretch of holes.
The North Course: Construction began in 2022 for Te Arai’s second 18-hole golf course. Designed by Tom Doak, The North Course recently opened on the 2nd of October. Doak has designed some of the world’s top courses including neighbouring Tara Iti, Bandon Dunes’ Pacific Dunes, Barnbougle Dunes and Cape Kidnappers near Hawke’s Bay.
The North Course starts and finishes near the ocean and features an inland stretch that utilises natural landforms including large cliffs, cavernous natural bunkers and towering pine trees. The fairways consist of huge undulating fairways that shape in amongst the Pine trees and cavernous natural bunkers. Rarely will you encounter a level lie when striking from the fairway. The greens pose an equally challenging test, seamlessly integrated with the natural landscape of expansive dunes strategically employed to amplify the difficulty, so leaning into your creativity with your putter is a must.
Nestled inland, the course at Te Arai unfolds its unique character. The par-4 5th hole’s green sits proudly on a ridge near an ancient Māori Pa, built from the largest dune. Shared among the dunes, the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 9th greens create a serene golfing harmony.
The 11th and 13th holes steal the spotlight, offering dramatic challenges. The 11th, a long par-5, features an elevated green with a perilous ‘whirlpool’ hazard to the right, seven meters below. The 13th, a formidable par-4, echoes Pine Valley in New Jersey, with its green perched at the edge of a vast natural bunker, demanding skilful shots over the sand or a strategic play around to the left. The finishing stretch of holes take you back towards the ocean with the 17th par 3 short yet challenging especially if the wind picks up and the 18th runs along the ocean taking you back towards the clubhouse.
The entire experience of visiting Te Arai, from the exceptional accommodation to playing two of the finest courses we’ve encountered to date, is unparalleled and deserves a spot on your bucket list of must-visit destinations.
Best time to visit: November-April
Best non-golf amenities: Tennis and kayaking.
Insider Tip: Nearby Mangawhai Head’s is a beautiful coastal town with plenty of good coffee spots, cool restaurants and the local track in town is great track to play.