A New Zealand golf course design has beaten top Scotland courses, including one owned by United States President Donald Trump and the prestigious St Andrews where the game was founded.

American monthly publication Golf Digest released its list of the world's best non-US courses, naming Tara Iti Golf Course at Te Arai, between Pakiri and Mangawhai north of Auckland, as the world's second-best outside the US.

Trump's course Trump Turnberry in Scotland was ranked 10th best. He bought the hotel and golf courses from Leisurecorp in 2014 for $60 million, and the resort was renamed Trump Turnberry. Trump remains the owner of Golf Recreation Scotland, which in turn owns SLC Turnberry

Northern Ireland course, Royal County Down Golf Course, which opened in 1889, was named the world's best non-US course.

The course fronts the beach. Photo / Greg Bowker
The course fronts the beach. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Kiwi course was re-rated from last year's sixth-place to this year's second place.

But the January 6 publication said that Northern Ireland course "is being challenged by Tara Iti in New Zealand, a dazzling Tom Doak design from 2015 that made its debut at number six in 2018 and jumps to no 2 on this survey".

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The invitation-only private members' Tara Iti was founded by billionaire Ric Kayne of Los Angeles-headquartered Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors. He is a New Zealand resident who spent an estimated $100m establishing that course with luxury house sites surrounding it.

Jim Rohrstaff, a Tara Iti director, said today: "Scotland's Old Course at St Andrews is really the home of golf because the game was founded there centuries ago. That course was ranked six and we've moved from sixth place last year to second which is stunning. I would not look at it as us versus Trump Turnberry or any other Trump courses because we don't look at it that way. We let others compare us. We're not list makers. Every day we strive to be better and better."

The course 90 minutes north of Auckland is said to have a six-figure membership fee, a strict "no assholes" policy and to be New Zealand's first American-style private golf club with the emphasis on private.

Kayne now plans to spend a further $50m-plus developing two new public courses nearby.

This shows Tara Iti's complexity. Photo / Golf Digest
This shows Tara Iti's complexity. Photo / Golf Digest

In March last year, Kayne told the Herald he plans to build two new beachfront links-style courses on land adjacent to and south of Tara Iti, on part of a 764ha block of land he wants state consent to lease for more than a century from the Ngāti Manuhiri iwi.

Ric Kayne at Tara Iti last March. Photo / Michael Craig
Ric Kayne at Tara Iti last March. Photo / Michael Craig

He proposes that 200ha goes to Auckland Council to extend existing reserve areas, having already gifted 200ha of land at Tara Iti as a reserve.

Kayne also wants to create visitor accommodation, a clubhouse, 60 new lots for homes, public camping ground near the beach and a retail centre for food and surfing shops and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has backed the plans.


• 1. Royal County Down, Northern Ireland
• 2. Tara Iti, Mangawhai, New Zealand
• 3. Muirfield, Gullane, Scotland
• 4. Royal Dornoch, Scotland
• 5. Royal Melbourne, Black Rock, Australia
• 6. The Old Course at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
• 7. Morfontaine, France
• 8. Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland
• 9. South Cape Owners Club, South Korea
• 10. Trump Turnberry, Scotland

The Golf Digest ranking put the Kiwi beachfront course ahead of others in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Spain, England, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and France. It even hinted that next year, Tara Iti could be number one.

Tara Iti was praised as
Tara Iti was praised as "dazzling". Photo / file

"If Tara Iti has a chance to someday replace Royal County Down at the top, it's because Doak's design reflects the same sort of strategies and features that have made Royal County Down so admired and feared over the centuries," the publication said.

Doak was praised for letting nature dictate Tara Iti's course design, furthered by the ability to use technology to enhance topography. Doak has been involved in designing 11 of the top 100 courses.

Barack Obama and Sir John Key at the course last year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Barack Obama and Sir John Key at the course last year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Last March, former United States President Barack Obama played former Prime Minister Sir John Key at Tara Iti, the course named after the endangered fairy tern.

The east coast land where the course was built was previously planted in pine trees and the course is more links-like than New Zealand's other coastal courses.

Doak and design associate Brian Slawnik spent more than two years resculpting the sandy soil into hummocks, punchbowls and sand dunes to make them appear to have been formed by wind with natural vegetation, the publication noted last year.

"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," it said last year.