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Kauai Golf Guide

A Golfing Garden

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Kauai, the Garden Island of Hawaii, is also the Island of Discovery. The ambiance lies somewhere between the modern development of Oahu and remote, tranquil Molokai, giving the visitor the best of both worlds. Totaling 533 square miles, less than three percent of the island has been developed, almost exclusively along the coast, leaving the inland areas astonishingly beautiful and pristine. The climate is ideal with temperatures usually ranging from the mid-70’s to mid-80’s. Any rainfall generally comes late in the evening or early morning and mostly in the mountains, which is perfect for golfers. The northeast trade winds provide a refreshing breeze.

Kauai boasts three world-class beachfront resorts with on site golf, Princeville Resort & Spa, Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club and the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa. Each property is unique, with its own special features and charm. The Marriott (www.marriotthotels.com) sits in a stunning protected cove on the Pacific Ocean. The focal point of this expansive property is its massive pool, with five separate Jacuzzis. Two of the spas are accessible to walk into, while three others require a swim to reach. Temperatures vary from spa to spa and the jets are powerful and soothing. Through its Hawaiian Art and Artifact project the resort is bringing in a wide variety of authentic artifacts and artwork in order to integrate Hawaiian cultural elements into the property and enhance its beauty. A family atmosphere exists here.

Situated on fifty luscious beachfront acres in Poipu is the Hyatt Regency (www.hyatt.com). The resort is built into a hillside overlooking the spectacular Keoneloa Bay, blending into the lush mantle of rolling green mountains sloping gently down to meandering lagoons, white sand beaches and the sea. Lavishly furnished, the resort is reminiscent of Hawaii from the 1920’s and 30’s. The food and service at the restaurants is excellent and be sure to experience breakfast at Ilima Terrace. An expansive buffet including Hawaiian treats is the fare; looking out over the sea beside the waterfall soothes the soul. The Hyatt is the host site for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, sometimes referred to as the Tiger Open.

Away from what locals consider the hustle and bustle of the south, on the north shore sits Princeville Resort (www.princeville.com). This marvelous resort consists of three separate buildings that terrace down Pu’u Poa Ridge, reaching from the top plateau of Princeville to the beach of Hanalei Bay.  Guest rooms feature custom-designed furnishings, original artwork and lavish bathrooms with oversized tubs highlighted by a unique “magic” window that brings the outdoors in, then switches to opaque for privacy with the flick of a switch. For early risers, breakfast at the break of dawn on the terrace at Café Hanalei is a must. The mystical views as the sun rises over the mountains across Hanalei Bay are a sight to behold. Syndicated columnist Dave Barry wrote that Princeville is where people in heaven hope to go when they die.

 The Princeville Courses

Robert Trent Jones Jr. blended 45 holes, carved into this wonderful terrain. Since it opened in 1990, Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golfweek and Links Magazine have consistently selected the Prince Course as one of the elite golf courses in the country. This year, Golf Magazine has named it the top course in the state. This very challenging layout in an awesome setting is draped across 390 acres of rolling land traversed by tropical jungle, waterfalls, streams and ravines. From the tips it can be a beast, but multiple tee locations can accommodate even the occasional golfer.

The Makai course is really three courses in one, the Ocean, Lakes and Woods. The Ocean ventures closest to the Pacific, the Lakes winds its way around serene lakes, while the Woods nine dances through native woodlands. Golf Digest lists the Makai in its Top 50 Resort Courses while Golf Magazine has named it in its Top 100 in America. At one time it was a host site for the LPGA Kemper Open.

Kauai Lagoons

Just steps from the Marriott are the Kiele and Mokihana courses at Kauai Lagoons. The Lagoons offers 36 holes of challenging golf in a picturesque oceanfront setting. Both designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Kiele stretches above the pounding surf. The tougher of the two, Kiele is a stadium course created for championship tournament play. The signature hole is the short par-4 sixteenth. At 330-yards, it is not long, but trouble lurks, the green jutting out on a peninsula into the sea. A spectacular panoramic setting, the ocean borders the left side along steep cliffs, a small lighthouse adjacent to the green.

Mokihana, more of an open links style course, offers players of all levels shot making opportunities. Mokihana offers terrific views Mount Waialeale, the extinct volcano that created Kauai, in the background.

Poipu Bay Golf Course

My personal favorite was Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s Poipu Bay, home to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The culmination of each year, the Tiger Open pits the four Major winners competing for their share of $1,000,000. Located beside the Hyatt, I played Poipu twice and it was like playing two different courses. The second day, playing against the prevailing winds, made the finishing holes brutally difficult. At 472-yards from the blue tees (501 from the tips), the par-four 16th becomes a daunting par-five. From an elevated tee box the fairway below veers left along the rugged, sprawling coast as it rises to the green. An ancient rock wall called a heiau borders the fairway on the left.

Poipu Bay is backed by lush emerald mountains and sculpted into rolling plateau eight stories above the blue waters of the Pacific. Situated on 210 oceanfront acres, Poipu is a links style course featuring numerous water hazards, spectacular vistas and acres of colorfully landscaped tropical flowers and plants.

Water, Water Everywhere – Activities Galore

As you would expect, there is an abundance of activity in, on, under and near the Pacific Ocean and its bays and inlets. Kauai is also the only Hawaiian Island with navigable rivers. Water adventures including scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking and fishing are readily available throughout the island. Hiking, horseback riding and ATV tours are a great way to experience the natural beauty of Kauai. Our native guides were pleasant, knowledgeable and just a lot of fun to be with. With right of entry to a vast private ranch, we were able to traverse the backcountry with ease and experience coastal areas that are otherwise only accessible by boat. More than sixty major motion pictures have been filmed on Kauai and our group got to soar over and into the river on the tree rope Indiana Jones used fleeing the natives at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Kauai was the first Hawaiian Island to be formed and has a rich cultural heritage, which is expressed in many ways. Luau’s featuring Hula dancing and delicious Kahlua pig are a delightful experience. Local plants, flowers and roots are utilized in spa treatments and the Lomi Lomi massage is a more vigorous and rhythmical massage incorporating more forearm and elbow work. Taro chips are a delicious snack and a virtual cornucopia of products are available in tropical guava flavor.

The island of Kauai is a relaxing and appealing venue to experience a beautiful setting while getting away for some wonderful golf. Each of the aforementioned resorts offer a variety of great golf packages, in some cases priced less than a regular hotel room goes for by itself. Information can be obtained directly from the properties above. Further information is available by contacting the Kauai Visitors Bureau at 1-800-262-1400 or www.kauaivisitorsbureau.com.

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Leonard Finkel
Leonard Finkel is the author of The Secrets to the Game of Golf & Life and former editor in chief of Golf Journeys Magazine. His work has been featured in almost 200 publications including Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Golf Illustrated, Golf Tips and Player Magazine. He has written more than a dozen cover stories for Golf Today Magazine. He has written extensively about golf and travel and added poker to his writing repertoire and also works as a marketing and public relations consultant. Prior to his career in golf, Finkel owned a chain of retail stores and a consulting and import company based in Asia. He attended the University of Utah.

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