Are you considering a trip to Hawaii’s garden isle, Kauai and do you like to play golf? If so, you have an opportunity of a lifetime awaiting you. Kauai is, without a doubt, one of the most scenic and idyllic locales on earth. The Hawaiian Islands are all wonderful, but you have not seen Hawaii in all of its splendor until you have visited Kauai.
With only 4 percent of the island developed, you are truly in a natural paradise. From the sunny south shore to the lush north shore and Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, to the Napali coast, you have hit the jackpot of natural wonders in Kauai. The weather here is as close to perfect as you will find. An abundance of sunshine is nearly always present; the most weather you may encounter is tropical breezes and brief rain showers.
The island of Kauai offers some picturesque, but challenging courses. Some of the leading golf course architects in the world have made their mark in Kauai, from Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to Jack Nicklaus. Opportunities exist to play in many regions of the island.
On the south shore, Poipu Bay golf course is the most famous course on Kauai, home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 1994 until 2006. The Grand Slam event brought together the winners of each year’s four major PGA tournaments-the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship-for a two-day golf competition. On the east shore, Kauai Lagoons and Puakea golf courses offer tremendous tracks for memorable golf experiences. On the north shore, Princeville Resort boasts the Prince and Makai golf courses.
While it may be tempting to allow your geographic location determine where you choose to play, you should strongly consider visiting all of these golf meccas. In the space of less than 50 miles, you can travel between all of these courses. For those with families, each of these areas offer many family-friendly diversions while you are teeing it up, so don’t be afraid to explore!
The first course we chose to explore was the Poipu Bay golf course, located adjacent to the magnificent Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa. There you can imagine yourself teeing up against worthy opponents such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Freddie Couples. See how close you can come to Phil’s course record of 59.
The course plays 7123 yards from the gold tees, 6612 yards from the blues, 6127 yards from the whites and 5372 yards from the red tees. This course provides a fair test for golfers of all abilities, while providing the opportunity to have fun and enjoy your environment. You would be strongly encouraged to spend some quality time on the driving range, as ball striking is at a premium with the prevailing tropical breezes. You would definitely want to be able to play the ball on a low trajectory for many of the holes play into the wind.
The front nine tends to be on the inland side of the course and starts by wrapping around the driving range for holes 1, 2 and 3. These holes afford an opportunity to get warmed up for the challenges ahead. Holes 4 and 5 offer your first taste of playing into the teeth of the prevailing wind, and both play significantly longer than the scorecard would indicate. Hole 6 is a downwind par 5, which is reachable for long hitters. Hole 7 is a downwind par 3 with water along the right side. The front nine finishes with 2 more upwind par 4s. At this point, you have had an opportunity to soak in the beauty of Poipu Bay and hopefully you have scored well, because you just finished the easy nine.
The back nine starts with a long par 4 into the wind, followed by the par 3, 11th hole. Holes 12 and 13 are some of the few holes that do not play straight up or down wind, so take advantage here. The 13th does have water down the right side, with the wind tending to push errant shots (like my approach) into the drink.
As I stood on the 13th tee I realized I had just taken 59 strokes to get to this point. With no chance for me to match Phil’s record, I was determined to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
The 14th hole is the last upwind hole, and you will be thankful for that. The 14th green is on the eastern most point on the course with incredible ocean views. Holes 15 through 18 are all straight downwind and all located on the edge of cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. If you are still holding your own at this point, you will be severely challenged, if not completely distracted by the sheer beauty of the scenery. Sea turtles, dolphins and whales can be seen cavorting in the ocean below. Try not to be too drawn to the ocean views, or you may find your golf ball drawing to that same fate.
All in all, Poipu Bay golf course offers a rare opportunity to play golf on one of the planets greatest locations. The course is challenging but fair, without an abundance of punishment for the occasional stray shot. Your main concern will be displaying skill playing in wind conditions, but the wind is very predictable here.
After your round, stop in the clubhouse for the 19th hole which is always one of my favorite activities. You can enjoy a full bar as well as good food served at the Poipu Bay Grill & Bar. You can also stroll through a pictorial history reviewing some of the champions who played here in the Grand Slam. Finally, if you are not lucky enough to be staying at the Grand Hyatt resort, pay a visit. The pool and lagoon are absolutely the best family-friendly swimming you will ever see. Regardless of your score this is one day of golf you will never regret!
What & Where:
Poipu Bay Golf Course (2250 Ainako St, Koloa; 808-742-8711; poipubaygolf.com)