It’s become routine for a certain amount of hype and fanfare to accompany the debut of a new Renaissance Golf design. Since last fall, though, the first golfers have begun drifting back from Tara Iti, Tom Doak’s course on New Zealand’s North Island, many with strange, almost cultic looks on their faces. “You don’t understand,” they say. “You just gotta see it to believe it…”
Indeed you do. The executive summary: Tara Iti is a world-class true seaside links… in a gorgeous, semi-tropical setting. It’s also an exclusive private club, giving superintendent C.J. Kreuscher (imported from Bandon Dunes) the light traffic and resources to fine-tune the fescue sward and its surrounding sweeps of open sand and native plants to something close to heaven. And while the pretty pictures we see today are one thing, imagine the property in its previous state—covered in a pine forest so dense that Doak sometimes needed a flashlight to walk it. Tara Iti was routed not by sight, but through visualization.
Of course, it always comes down to the quality of the holes, and Tara Iti delivers high-spirited adventure from start to finish. The early leader in notoriety is the 7th—a very short par four with a foxy tabletop green. Beyond that, take your pick. The 3rd, with its wildly entertaining punchbowl green? The 17th, a nasty little par three that’s backdropped perfectly—to the point of distraction—by a group of islets known as the “Hen and Chicks”? There are no wrong answers.
Tara Iti is one of the great courses of the world, and even within that august group, only a few place as high a premium on playability and pure enjoyment. You just gotta see it.