The New Zealand golf course where former US President Barack Obama last week played former Prime Minister John Key has been ranked as one of the world's best.

Golf Digest has ranked Tara Iti, near Mangawhai north of Auckland, as the world's 11th best golf course, appearing on a list with American, Scottish, Irish and Australian courses.

Barack Obama and John Key playing a round of golf at Tara Iti last week. Photo/Brett Phibbs
Barack Obama and John Key playing a round of golf at Tara Iti last week. Photo/Brett Phibbs

Golf Digest said it had been ranking courses for more than half a century and the world's top course is Pine Valley in New Jersey, followed by Georgia's Augusta National, Northern Ireland's Royal County Down, Scotland's Royal Dornoch, Australia's Royal Melbourne, Cypress Point Club in California, Scotland's Muirfield, America's Shinnecock Hills, The Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland, Oakmount Country Club in Pennsylvania then Tara Iti.

Of Tara Iti, Golf Digest said: "Built by American designer Tom Doak from what had been a pine-covered Sahara along the eastern coast of New Zealand's North Island, it's far more links-like than the country's other coastal courses, most of which are on rock. Doak and design associate Brian Slawnik spent more than two years gently resculpting the sandy soil into hummocks, punchbowls and sand dunes that look like they were formed by wind and vegetated by nature. There's lots of sand but no bunkers. Golfers may ground the club anywhere. With holes inspired by Cypress Point, Royal Dornoch and Royal St. George's, and views everywhere of the Hauraki Gulf, this may be New Zealand's answer to Pebble Beach's Carmel Bay. The greatest meeting of land and sea is clearly up for debate."

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A Tara Iti spokesman said 11th place topped anything a New Zealand course had received.

 Tara Iti north of Auckland.
Tara Iti north of Auckland.

"This is by far the highest rating ever achieved by a New Zealand golf course. It is also the highest ranked of any recently developed golf course," the spokesman said.

"The recognition of Tara Iti in Golf Digest hopefully reinforces to the Government the quality of the asset being created and the environmental and economic benefits of these sorts of investment for regional New Zealand."

Five New Zealand courses appeared in Golf Digest's world's top 200: Cape Kidnappers was ranked 28th, Kauri Cliffs where Key last week beat Obama was ranked 75th, Jack's Point 150th and Paraparaumu Beach 151st.

Tara Iti was developed by United States-New Zealand investor Ric Kayne and his wife, Suzanne, as part of a wider plan for two coastal forests at Te Arai.

Obama and Key at Kauri Cliffs last week.
Obama and Key at Kauri Cliffs last week.

The Kaynes joined local iwi Te Uri o Hau and Ngati Manuhiri and Queenstown-headquartered John Darby's Darby Partners, to develop the course. Darby Partners is the business which developed Jack's Point.

At Tara Iti, the forests were separately purchased by the two iwi as part of their Treaty settlements. About 400ha of land is being given to Auckland Council for a coastal reserve to protect the beach frontage.

The Tara Iti spokesman said the aim was to create a network of world class golf courses and luxury visitor accommodation facilities to attract wealthy overseas visitors to Northland, Auckland, the Hawkes Bay and Queenstown.

"The Te Arai developments – which includes plans for limited housing and visitor accommodation, another sand-based golf course of similar quality to Tara Iti which will be open to the public, along with protection of the forest's coastal frontage into public reserve and large-scale planting of native trees – face an uncertain future as a result of the impact of the Government's Overseas Investment Amendment Bill's on the project's economic viability," the spokesman said.

The course beside the beach opened two years ago. Photo/Greg Bowker
The course beside the beach opened two years ago. Photo/Greg Bowker

"We understand what the Government is trying to achieve in terms of remedying serious problems in residential housing markets like the Auckland metropolitan areas," he said of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill.

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"We hope the bill can be improved – without compromising its purpose – so that integrated and balanced land use such as ours can continue to deliver the expected benefits to New Zealand, and to Te Uri o Hau and Ngati Manuhiri.

"We are very proud of what is being created at Te Arai - a new coastal regional park of 400ha, delivering significant tourism and recreational assets to the region, and considerable jobs and economic activity. These projects – and others like it – are very beneficial for New Zealand," he said.

Kayne told the select committee considering the bill that he might not expand here if the Government's foreign-buyer ban is passed.

Read more: US billionaire threatens to halt NZ expansion plans if foreign ban passes

Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors which says it manages funds of nearly US$27 billion ($37.3b), submitted: "Stemming from our initial investment purely in Tara Iti, we are wishing to expand our direct investment into the adjoining Te Arai South Precinct, alongside our friends and business partners Te Uri o Hau and Ngati Manuhiri. This includes another golf course(s) of similar quality which will be open to the public. We are also investing in other parts of New Zealand ... But the vision we have for what we would like to contribute to New Zealand is now being threatened by the provisions in the bill which impact on us personally and others like us who, having discovered this country, want to devote considerable resources to preserving, protecting and enhancing it," Kayne wrote.

Early last year, a community group from Te Arai claimed public access to a popular surf beach is under threat but developers say changes won't bar people from the beach and Auckland Council says all consents issued are legal.

Aaron McConchie, the chairman of Save Te Arai, said more than 6100 signatures were on a petition which is today going to Auckland Council opposing non-notified decisions on Pacific Rd, Mangawhai.

But a spokesman for Te Arai North rejected McConchie's claims and said a vast new public park had enhanced the public's enjoyment of the area.