Hawaiian Golf – Ko’olau Golf course

Aussie Golfer was lucky enough to find himself in Hawaii last week and knowing its reputation for golf, I couldn’t resist a game. But with limited time, which course to play?

Kapalua Plantation Course is the course everyone wants to play right now due to the PGA Tour stopping by for its opening season event. Australian’s have had a pretty good run there with Geoff Ogilvy winning this year and Stuart Appleby having the event on a string for three years. But at US$298, is it really worth it?

Confined to the island of Oahu I consulted online tee time websites for some deals. I searched GolfSigma, TeeTimesHawaii.com and GolfNow.com and I found a great deal at Ko’olau Golf Club. US$59 for an afternoon round on America’s most difficult golf course – bargain.

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Practise fairway and clubhouse at Ko’olau Golf Club

The drive to Ko’olau Golf Club on the opposite side of the road to Australian roads went smoother than expected with the only issue occurring as I entered Ko’olau an caught sight of the course. My photos don’t do the course justice but “breathtaking” is probably close to the appropriate word.

The course marshall greeted me before commencing my first drive and warned me of the possible dangers on course.

“It’s rated third hardest in summer but is the hardest over the winter period. The last hole is considered one of the hardest and memorable in American golf so it’s not over ’til it’s over. Are you from New York?”

I questioned his judgement on the course after the last statement but I left the first tee in fear of the course and with a little knowledge of some seedy establishments to frequent later in the evening if I so desired.

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View from behind the 6th green at Ko’olau

The marshall mentioned the course is a supreme test of target golf. I knew what that meant but in Australia the sort of target golf he was talking about is very rare. Playing Ko’olau I began to fully realise the difference between target golf and working your way around a course playing a series of different style of shots. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are both equally enjoyable but I can see where some golfers are now coming from when they say things like “I don’t like links golf courses”.

I vowed to not offend this mighty track and played conservatively wherever possible which resulted in a fairly decent score and I cannot recommend this course enough. Sitting in my cart behind a foursome I sat with my mouth agape at the awesome scenery. The steeply rising mountains which impose themselves on many holes are quite something to behold.

The view from the back tees at the 15th.

The difficulty of the course lies in the ravines which litter the course. Most are at least 100m across. Some mercy is given with all drop zones positioned on the other side of the ravine – again a sign of how difficult the course is despite this forgiving local rule.

Many elephants and VW Beetle’s must have been sacrificed to lie under the greens. Three-putting is a piece of cake if you’re not within 20ft of the hole but the greens (seashore paspalum) are very true and birdies can be taken if your near the hole.

I could wax lyrical forever about this course and my experiences from chasing mongoose away from my tuna sandwich, the view from the black tees on the 15th and the beautiful sight that greets you as you reach the 16th green but I’ll leave you all with a description of the last hole.

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The green at the spectacular 16th hole.

A 435m par-4 is the 18th at Ko’olau and at first glance it is possible you’re not entirely sure which direction you should be hitting. The first ravine is at least a 200m carry to a transversely lying fairway. Hit it longer than 250m however, and you’ve overshot the fairway.

Either way a superb drive means little when you take a look at the approach to the green. Again, a ravine separates the fairway from the green. It is awkward shot and one of the toughest I’ve ever been presented with.

I realised everyone should play this golf course. It is the most spectacular golf course I’ve ever played. Perhaps not quite the hardest but very, very unforgiving. It is the kind of course you could easily lose 20 balls on and still be happy. I went back and played again the next day.

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The view from the back of the 18th green at Ko’olau.

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