When Jim Rohrstaff moved to New Zealand in 2014 to help Ric Kayne manage and start his private golf club, Tara Iti, he didn’t know what the future held. Mr. Rohrstaff, who has spent decades working in golf, had no idea that he would one day end up helping to envision and create what he describes as a new “17-mile drive of the Southern Hemisphere.”
That stretch of coastline — along the edge of the Monterey Peninsula on the Central Coast of California — frames the way that Mr. Rohrstaff views Te Arai Links. Te Arai sits on the same stretch of Pacific coastline as Tara Iti, on New Zealand’s North Island, and is home to two public golf courses. Mr. Rohrstaff and Mr. Kayne wanted to replicate the feeling of 17-mile drive there, about 60 miles north of Auckland.
New Zealand has long been known for its impressive seaside courses, such as Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers. When it opened in 2015, Tara Iti helped further cement the island nation as a top golf destination.
The course, which features stunning sandscapes and ocean views, is routinely ranked as one of the world’s top courses by Golf Digest, Golf magazine and others. Mike Keiser, the founder of Bandon Dunes resort (which, itself, has been praised for its design), said in an interview, “It’s the most beautiful course I’ve ever seen.”
All that praise for Tara Iti sparked the idea of creating a luxury resort nearby. Te Arai Links (pronounced T-R-E), opened its South Course in October last year, and its North Course last month. Mr. Rohrstaff discussed the North Course’s opening, and how he and Mr. Kayne marry golf and waterfront real estate. The following conversation has been edited and condensed.
How do you determine where homes go without sacrificing the integrity of the golf course, but also giving homeowners ocean views?
We have always believed that golf needs to be the hero, so we worked closely with the golf course architects to ensure they were happy with the land development that sits next to golf. We are golf fanatics, as well as developers, so they go hand in hand for us.
I think that we’ve been blessed with some of the greatest land I’ve ever seen for the combination of golf and property. The golf gets the ocean front, and the homes are on rises and ridges that allow them to sit elevated above the golf and look over the course and the ocean. The land we have allows us to pull it off in the best way I’ve ever seen it.
What did you see in Tara Iti that allowed you to expand and build two public courses at Te Arai? Or was that always the plan?
We did not have Te Arai planned from the start, but after three years of Tara Iti being open, we had land to work on and, at the time, it was 60 home sites and that was it. But, obviously, we knew we had a lot of land there. With the response we had from Tara Iti, and how well it turned out, we thought, ‘Why on earth wouldn’t we build more golf here? It’s begging for it.’
We also knew that the golf courses would add a premium to the home sites and help with the velocity of sales. We really wanted to take a different approach and be able to really share the coastline between the golf and the housing.
Where are the majority of your buyers are coming from?
Our market has been dominated overseas by the United States. We have plenty of New Zealand and Australian purchasers, but the U.S. is, by far, the majority for overseas purchasers.
New Zealand is so top of mind in the U.S., it seems. That has been growing over the past decade. New Zealand provides an English-speaking, rule of law environment that seems to be a long way away from the troubles of the world. There are direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and New York, so even though it seems far, it is a direct flight from many of the largest cities in the United States.
We also provide “summer in winter.” The U.S. winter is our summer, and from December to February we get long days of light, which means more time to enjoy golf, the beach and then some great New Zealand wine with dinner.
Does Te Arai appeal to families? What if you don’t play golf?
I think we do appeal to families, because our overall vibe and attitude isn’t to be an uptight, stuffy golf club. This is a very warm, very family-friendly, come-one-come-all golf club and atmosphere. But we also have this incredible beach in front of us for kids to swim, to boogie board or learn to surf. Then there’s horseback riding on the beach, pickleball, tennis, you name it. Plus, we have a large two-acre putting green, which is for everyone from beginners to better players, and that’s all about fun.
How do you help foreign buyers navigate the home-buying process in New Zealand?
Since I am a dual citizen and was born and raised in the United States, moving to New Zealand about 10 years ago, helping U.S. buyers is very easy, as I understand the real estate business there. I can walk them through the subtle differences between the United States and New Zealand. For the Australian market, it is incredibly similar to the New Zealand market, so they feel quite comfortable coming to New Zealand to purchase property.
New Zealand has become something of a hot spot for the second home market. When creating a waterfront community in such a scenic country, what are things you’ve done to set your communities apart from the competition?
There are a few things that really stand out for us at Te Arai and Tara Iti. First, we will become one of the best golf destinations in the world with Tara Iti (strictly private) and the two new courses at Te Arai Links. Tara Iti is ranked No. 1 in New Zealand, and the first course we opened at Te Arai Links (the South Course) is one year old and is already ranked No. 2 in the country.
The North Course opened at the beginning of October, and the feedback from our members, guests and resort guests is that it is a split decision between the North and South Courses. Therefore, we may have the top three courses in the country, but certainly three of the top five. To pair with that, we sit on nearly 7.5 miles of incredible white sandy beaches with a couple of great surf breaks.
Another point that cannot be overlooked is our location. When you are on site, you feel detached from the world, however you are only a bit more than an hour from downtown Auckland via car and 25 minutes in a helicopter. So, whether you are thinking about Auckland for its shopping, dining, art galleries or medical care, we are extremely close. Many places in New Zealand are extremely remote, which has its positives, but also some drawbacks. I think Te Arai and Tara Iti have the perfect balance of being in a secluded paradise, but close to the largest city in the country.