I’m not going to bore you with descriptions of every shot, but I will provide a few more highlights of my go around at Tara Iti.
One of the mind-blowing revelations I had during my visit was about course set-up. Ryan told me that EVERY day, there is a dedicated course set-up artist. He walks the entire course every morning with a cup cutter and bucket of sand. He looks at the forecast for temperature, wind, precip., etc. and decides upon a fair and fun set-up that will allow for variety and interest. He moves the tees and changes the cups accordingly. Due to the incredibly stiff NO CARTS policy, he does this every day walking. What an incredible opportunity to connect with the land you help maintain and gain appreciation for the angles available. Just another reason Tara Iti is one of the fore-thinking clubs of our time. No wonder they have been met with such high acclaim in its first few years of opening!
The 4th is a short 4 that can be driveable if the course set-up and wind allow. With an uphill approach, it is imperative to play the angles game for your approach. For example, as we played to a right hole location, you would absolutely need to come in from the left side of the centerline hazard (a rather large bunker complex dividing the fairway) if you wanted to attack the pin. You could also bail 20-30 feet left of the pin and take your 4 and move on. I opted for the latter option and happily moved on to our first 5 par of the day.
What I really enjoyed about the routing of Tara Iti looking back on it is the variety of good long connecting holes. It is hard to know if there was a lot of sand moved in the routing, but I would have never guessed (as I mentioned before) that most of the site was forested. That is perhaps a sore spot for me in that a lot of trees had to be removed to create this magnificent property. Nevertheless, I thought Doak and his team did a fabulous job transitioning between the highs and lows of the property with the long holes. Each of the holes offer generous driving corridors and begs the long hitter to take on the hazards protecting each greensite. I would need to play the course more to know what strategy is most fitting to my game, but I would profess that laying up to a strategic angle would probably be the more beneficial option on most of these holes given the challenging shots from the green surrounds if you miss on the “going for it” shot. Long story short, I would say that what is best about these holes is that even after a great drive, you are left thinking about how you want to play your next shot. It is not AIRGOLF (hit it as high and far as possible). Most of the approaches into the 5 pars require a low running shot to take advantage of ground slopes that can promote your ball closer to the hole (even from shorter distances)! For a variety of golfers this approach makes the game more fun especially during matches as the situation may encourage to play a shot that you normally would not.
The 6th gave me a little deja vu of the first at Bandon Trails with an uphill approach framed by a couple dunes on either side and back. The second shot into this hole is certainly easier with the framing dunes as the view from the lower portion of the fairway is quite limited. All in all, I enjoyed playing this hole from the shorter teeing ground that allowed for more angles to get to the “upper fairway.” Wind direction and intensity will totally change strategy of this hole and there was a completely unattainable left side of the fairway that might open up the look to the approach even more.
One of my more memorable shots came next at the 7th – a short 4 par just begging you to thread the needle and run up your drive. Downwind, the hole looks like an incredibly long 3 par that you much land 40 yards short into an upslope to kill some speed and run up to the well protected SHALLOW green. Into the wind, you must bail out to the right to play a similar shot (low and well judged to the shallow green) OR with a lofted iron that is precise to within 5-10 yards of landing zone. Playing it downwind, I took out my trusty Louisville Golf persimmon 1 wood and aimed down the left side to cut 10 yards and carry the waste area down the left side. My brain visualized the ball to hit a small upslope to help take the speed off the ball and start rolling on the ground up and over the massive swale that falls gently to the green. My hope would be that the friction of the 40 yards of fairway roll might slow the ball enough to have the ball slow on the green to stop before the rear bunker. Somehow, everything happened almost as described and my ball cozied up to within 10 feet of the flag. A subtle break took my eagle try just a few inches left of the hole allowing for my 2nd birdie of the day.