The stark contrast between the rugged coastline and the lush green fairways at Tara Iti golf course in Mangawhai has been described as ‘silk on the sand’. Tara Iti is an exclusive, private club modeled after equity golf clubs that are commonly developed in the United States. Jim Rohrstaff, of Legacy Partners, manages the memberships and real estate at the club. He’s a warm, easy-to-talk-with, likeable guy with a strong American accent. So, I decided to chance my arm and ask him what it takes to become a member of this invitation-only, exclusive club.
“We want good people up here in Tara Iti. It’s not about stature or wealth. It’s people you enjoy spending time with and would like to have a beer with. Our members must treat our staff with the same respect they would treat their friends and family.”
Personally, I’ve never had much time for people who inflate their own egos by looking down on others and treating them poorly, but I’m blown away that the most expensive and exclusive golf club in the country also shares my ethos. The exact membership costs and client list are closely guarded secrets. Golf carts are not allowed on the course, so players must walk, taking in the natural beauty of the coastline. Jim says members like to decompress and relax while at Tara Iti. Some are well-known personalities with very recognisable faces, but the club staff, mostly locals, respect their privacy.
The club celebrated its two-year anniversary last month. Tara Iti is built on an 11-kilometer site and boasts eight member cottages, two luxury suites, a clubhouse, and nine independent homes currently under construction. Jim puts the rapid growth of the club down to three crucial factors: the golf course designer, Tom Doak; the Superintendent, CJ Kreuscher, who has the Midas touch in transforming ‘sand into silk’; and the dedicated staff. “Our team is amazing. They cover a wide range of roles. CJ has 17 greens-keeping staff. Some of them had never held a golf club before, but he has trained them all to create one of the best playing surfaces in the country. We also provide work for independent contractors in the area, from plumbers and builders, to over 40 caddies.”
Despite the exclusivity of a club that only takes members known and referred by existing members, the club has already reached over 50 percent of its total membership capacity. Jim says most members are from the corporate world, business people and entrepreneurs. One thing they all share, though, is a passion for golf. In local parlance, they are ‘Golf tragics’.
“We don’t do any sales or marketing. We invited a few friends, and like attracts like. We have grown a membership of good people, organically. It’s happened faster than we anticipated.” The club has some members local to Mangawhai, and it is keen to support the area. Upon completion, residents were invited to an open day. Charity tournaments raise money to help protect New Zealand’s rarest breeding bird: the fairy tern or tara-iti. The tara-iti nest on the property, and the club actively supports the DOC rangers in their conservation work. The golf club’s general manager, Matt Guzik, and his team, help fundraise for many local charities, including the Surf Life Saving Club, by hosting charity rounds. Playing a round at Tara Iti is a well-sought-after prize and comes with a hefty price tag. Graciously, all of the proceeds are gifted to local charities. It’s nice to know that an exclusive club with wealthy members from all over the world makes a concerted conservation effort, employs local residents and supports local charities. I’m betting that’s because of the policy of seeking out members that are “…good people… you’d like to have a beer with”. That delightful piece of refreshing brilliance is a hole-in-one!
71 Tara Iti Drive, Mangawhai 0975