Tara Iti versus Royal Melbourne, what a beautiful dilemna!

parisdiaGolf1 Comment

Almost all the holes have a sea view at Tara Iti

Rated n° 2 and n°4 I note world outside the US by Golf Digest, these two courses are completely different in design and yet have in common a high quality of greens and fairways. I was very lucky to be invited by Chris Sadler, a member of both courses in NZ and in Australia, to play them on my trip down under and cannot resist telling you about the experience. One, Tara Iti, was all sweetness with moderate heat and wind, the other, Royal Melbourne, was fierce with tantalizing bunkers and impossible greens. Both were fascinating to play.

At Tara Iti, there are no bunkers so to speak, but there is sand everywhere…

I was a little nervous when teeing off at Tara Iti because the course had seemed quite daunting at sunset the day before. Sand dunes and narrow fairways with curvy greens glittered in the bright light. An excellent dinner at the club house prepared by the Belgian chef Victor Nolf, the warm welcome by the concierge team of very pretty girls (“do not wear spikes on your golf shoes”), and the superb weather with just a slight breeze, gave me the energy to play decently. The course is very gentle to ladies, with forward tees, and if you play straight and understand the excellent greens, you can score.

Caddies are mandatory and there are no buggies on the course at Tara Iti

The project conceived by the Los Angeles financier Ric Kayne and local developer John Darby, was designed by Tom Doak  with only about ten houses overlooking the course, near the islands of the Hauraki gulf. Planted with Fescue grass and only native plants, the links course has no trees on the 11 kms of beach coast line. The views are spectacular and reminded me of an Easter game at Turnberry where the light was similar. Tara Iti is only about 90 mns from Auckland by car and you can choose to stay in the guest cottages overnight. Jeremy Couvert, a Breton from Concarneau, runs the restaurant where the young staff is very sweet.

Bunkers are present on every hole at Royal Melbourne and the greens are very well designed

Royal Melbourne is typically a course where you need a good caddie and a few training days… Each hole is more treacherous than the other and I have to admit I suffered a bit. The weather was cool which was a blessing (it was 36 ° the day before) and my partners were so delightful that I stopped worrying about my game and just enjoyed the landscape. Each hole is designed with surprises around the corner, many dog-legs and endless slopes on the greens. Created by the famous Scottish architect Alister Mac Kenzie (1870-1934) in 1928, the West Course belongs to the list of amazing courses (Augusta, Cypress Point, Lahinch in Ireland) he designed. The club was founded in Caulfield, in 1891, and ladies could join as associate members as early as 1892! It moved to the suburb of Black Rock, where it is now, in the 1920’s.

One of the famous holes at royal Melbourne is the par 3 n°5

The are over 100 bunkers on the two courses and I probably visited 18… The sand is very light and white, but they are hard and you often need a practice shot to get out! The greens were impeccable but we encountered an enormous number of green keepers during our game. One was even changing the hole while we were putting! The course is famous for having hosted the first Presidents Cup played outside the US in 1998 (and twice more times since), the Canada Cup and Ballesteros won the Australian PGA in 1981, while Tom Watson won in 1984. Queen Victoria granted the club the  privilege of the Royal Prefix in 1895.

Playing was slower than at Tara Iti because there are more visitors

I was surprised by the number of visitors there were in the pro shop when we arrived and since there are 1 800 members, both courses are pretty busy all the time. What fascinated me was the size of the underground parking lot for buggies as well as for cars. It must be very precious when the heat gets too strong! Given that it is located in a densely populated suburb, the course has retained its natural beauty and silence and the trees make it very private. I enjoyed a lovely fish and chip after the game and getting back into the center of Melbourne only took about 40 mns. Both courses are private.

Share this Post


One Comment on “Tara Iti versus Royal Melbourne, what a beautiful dilemna!”

  1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed your trip to the Antipodes. It seems sometimes that every bunker at Royal Melbourne has a different consistency of sand – which a make it very difficult to comply with the Omond No 1 rule of golf (out in 1). Unlike Tara Iti, where the caddies often suggest to putt out of greenside bunkers (technically wasteland)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *