Located on Kauai’s spectacular north shore, the Princeville golf course is certainly a match for its locale. The Princeville golf complex contains a total of 45 holes of golf, consisting of the 18 hole Prince course and 27 holes at the Makai course.
The Prince course is currently ranked #1 golf course in Hawaii and 39th in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Greatest Courses in America. Named for Prince Albert, son of Hawaii’s King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, golf at the Prince Golf Course is truly a royal experience. Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the architect has said "In all the world, I never expect to find a more spectacularly beautiful place to build a golf course than Princeville, overlooking Hanalei Bay."
Arriving at the Princeville Prince course, you may feel as though you are sitting on top of the world. Stroll through the expansive clubhouse and stepping out onto the back deck, you will enjoy views of the mythic Bali Hai, famous from the movie "South Pacific" and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The next landfall from this direction is Alaska.
After checking in at the golf shop, take advantage of the marvelous practice facilities. The driving range affords teeing locations where you can tune up your swing from multiple locations and directions of the prevailing winds. Large putting and chipping greens allow you to get accustomed to the breaks you will experience on the course.
Spend some time discussing the course with the starter. I learned a lot about how to play the course from my visit with him, and in 15 minutes he gave me background on the course and prevailing conditions. Tips like "the ball always breaks away from the clubhouse" will no doubt help you avoid dreaded 3 putts in your match.
The Prince course features 5 sets of tees: Black Tees: 7,309 yards, Blue Tees: 6,960 yards, White Tees: 6,521 yards, Gold Tees: 6,029 yards and Red Tees: 5,346 yards. Don’t even think about playing the Blacks unless you are close to a scratch golfer. Even the Blue Tees are more of a test than an average golfer needs. Consider playing the White Tees, where you will still find plenty of golf course to challenge your game. The Prince course is a shot maker’s paradise, where errant shots are often lost and gone. Do not expect to be able to play from an adjacent fairway if your hook or slice show up, as there are no adjacent holes on this magnificent layout!
The front nine starts by heading toward the ocean on the perimeter of the course for the first 6 holes. Hole 7 is a par 3 that reminds some of a mirror image of the famous 16th hole at Cypress Point. From the tee box you can see and hear the waves breaking at Anini beach. The tee shot is all carry over a ravine, unless you choose to bail out to the right, which still requires clearing the ravine. The front finishes with 2 challenging par 4s heading into the interior of the course.
The back nine does not wait to provide you a challenge. The 10th hole is a par 5 where local course knowledge is essential. A large ravine borders the left side of the hole, and must be carried to reach the green. Placement of your shot location for your approach is crucial, and even if you choose to play it safe there are trees that can obscure your shot path across the ravine. Choose wisely how you play this hole.
Holes 12 and 13 are 2 difficult but beautiful par 4s that exploit Anini stream. The tee box on hole 12 is elevated 100 feet above the narrow landing area and your approach shot will be challenged by Anini stream on all sides. Your tee shot on hole 13 offers 2 hard choices: either lay up to a narrow landing area leaving a long approach to the green, or go for it and try to clear Anini stream leaving a short approach. Definite risk/reward time here, where you will be happy if you chose to play the forward tees. Holes 14 through 18 border the east side of the course, culminating with the number one handicap hole. Hole number 18 is a long narrow, well bunkered par 4 with an uphill approach shot to the green.
After your round, enjoy a well-earned respite at the Princeville Restaurant and Bar. The views of the course you just played and its surroundings are not to be forgotten.
Following this, explore the area around Princeville. Here you will find some of the best beaches on Kauai, from Anini beach to Hanalei Bay and beyond to the edge of the Napali coast. Here you can find snorkeling, surfing or boogie boarding to satisfy all ages.
While there are many good choices for where to stay in Kauai, certainly a top choice is to stay near Hanalei. You will find a wonderful beach town that is a nice blend of locals and tourists that will make you wish that all vacations were in such nice places.
If you are lucky enough to be staying on the north shore, the Prince course offers several discounts. You can get a multi-day pass, good for 2 or 3 rounds at significantly reduced greens fees. Kids under 17 can also play after 4PM for free and accompanying adults play for next to nothing.
What & Where:
Princeville at Hanalei Prince Golf Course (5-3900 Kuhio Hwy, Princeville; 808-826-5000; www.princeville.com)