By John Pearson
Kaua’i is a magical place.
Lush in the extreme, less than 3 percent of this Hawaiian island is developed. Sandy beaches tucked around the shimmering blue ocean, a vast array of after-golf activities and courses designed by some of the sport’s finest architects combine to make this a true golfer’s paradise.
At the heart of Kauai are five acclaimed resorts and golf clubs – Princeville, Poipu Bay, Kaua’i Lagoons, Kiahuna and Puakea – which offer 135 inspired golf holes set on some of the most scenic terrain in the world.
The destination has long been known to avid travelers and island aficionados for its tropical beach ambiance and romantic setting, luxurious weather, and virtually untouched natural beauty.
And many discerning golfers are well aware that Kaua’i is home to some of the world’s greatest golf courses designed by renowned architects such as Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones II, and that its courses host the annual PGA TOUR Grand Slam of Golf and regularly garner “best-of” rankings from national media.
“Kaua’i’s resorts and golf courses offer tremendous rates and experiences when considering the golf quality and the island’s many other options and allure,” says Sue Kanoho, Executive Director of the KVB. “Many Kaua’i courses are so close together and our daylight hours are long enough that golfers can easily play 36 in a day and still have time for family and other activities.”
Ms. Kanoho’s comments are supported by the high regard each of the Kaua’i golf properties enjoy.
Take Poipu Bay Golf Course (www.poipubaygolf.com, 800.858.6300) for example.
Located at Kauai’s southern tip, Poipu Bay was rated by Golf Magazine as one of the top courses in America. Nestled along the contours of scenic Poipu Bay, it has been the home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf since 1994.
The Grand Slam event brings 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. Only a best-of-the-best course is worthy to host to such a prestigious event.
Poipu Bay’s signature hole is the 501-yard, par-4 16th, which poses a variety of challenges. A small lake and two fairway bunkers are positioned on the right; a sheer, red sea cliff drops to the ocean on the left; and a dogleg left is created by an ancient rock wall and heiau (ancient place of worship).
Poipu Bay’s Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa is a luxurious resting place following golf. This amenity-laden lady was rated No. 32 in Golf Digest’s “Sublime 75: America’s Greatest Golf Resorts/2004-05.”
Speaking of high rankings, Princeville at Hanalei (www.princeville.com, 800-826-1105) is equally esteemed by national golf publication ranking panelists. The Prince Course headlines the resort’s 45 golf holes, and it is Golf Digest’s No. 63 rated course in “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses/2005-06.”
The 27-hole Makai nines – Ocean, Lakes and Woods – join the 18-hole Prince to round out the golf experience at Princeville, which overlooks exquisitely beautiful Hanalei Bay on Kauai’s North Coast. All 45 holes were designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Puakea Golf Course (www.puakeagolf.com, 866.773.5554) plays around deep ravines and streams fed by fresh mountain rainwater. Located in Lihue conveniently near the island’s primary airport, Puakea sits at the foot of Mount Haupu and is Kauai’s newest 18-hole course, enjoying its first full season in 2004.
Owned by AOL Founder Steve Case, Puakea is adjacent to the lush site where Steven Spielberg filmed “Jurassic Park.” It was designed by Robin Nelson, who is known in golf architect circles as “Mr. Hawaii” for having designed or redesigned roughly one-third of the state’s nearly 90 golf courses.
Less than five minutes away from Puakea in Lihue is the soul-stirring Kaua’i Lagoons Golf Club (www.kauailagoonsgolf.com, 800.634.6400) and Kauai Marriott Resort & Spa.
Kaua’i Lagoons boasts two Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole courses – Kiele and Mokihana – with Kiele Course being ranked No. 90 in Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses/2005-06.”
The Kiele course weaves along imposing ocean cliffs, lush valleys and 40 acres of freshwater lagoons. The course is demanding and requires several shots over ravines. The Mokihana Course is a Scottish-style links course that offers open fairways and well-guarded greens.
Kiahuna Golf Club (www.kiahunagolf.com, 808.742.9595) is another Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and it features a meandering creek, lava formations, rock gardens and ocean views. But perhaps Kiahuna’s most compelling hook is the Hawaii history it presents via its preserved ancient village.
One should not get distracted by the opportunity at hand while playing Kiahuna, however, because this 6,400-yard, par-70 course with an abundance of water hazards and the ever-present trade winds make for a fun and challenging test.
As great as its golf is, Kaua’i offers a fabulous collection of after-golf activities. And combined with the abundance of sunshine hours here and luxury resorts ready to pamper and cater to every need, the destination has something for everyone – from avid golfers and beach-lovers to families and adventure sports enthusiasts.
“Kaua’i is one of very few places where you can do so many things in one day,” says Paul Ito, Director of Golf at Puakea Golf Course. “Plus, it tries harder, which we call our Kauai-style hospitality. Once people visit, they keep coming back.”
After-golf options on Kauai feature its history, heritage and culture, along with boat tours, beaches, zip lines, ATV Tours, botanical gardens, helicopter tours, snorkeling and scuba-diving, kayaking, hiking and much more. For more information about “Kaua’i: Discover Golf’s Ultimate Island Green,” visit www.kauaidiscovery.com/activities/golfing/ or call 800-262-1400.